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D-Link RangeBooster N 650 notebook adapter review: D-Link RangeBooster N 650 notebook adapter

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MSRP: $79.99

The Good The D-Link N 650 notebook adapter is simple to install and in tandem with the DIR-635 router, beat the competition in both mixed-mode and long-range throughput.

The Bad The adapter (and router) fell short on maximum throughput, and its warranty pales in comparison to those of Linksys and Belkin.

The Bottom Line While the D-Link duo performed admirably overall compared to its draft N competition, we were unimpressed with how it measured up to the promise of 802.11n.

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6.6 Overall
  • Setup 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6
  • Support 6

The D-Link DWA-645 RangeBooster N 650 Notebook Adapter is the companion card to the DIR-635 draft N router. The pair performed fairly well against its draft N competition but is still a way off from fulfilling the promise of 802.11n. At $99, the adapter is priced on a par with other notebook adapters. And as we've said in every other draft N review, it's too early to invest in 802.11n networking gear. You're better off waiting until the spec is finalized (we're hearing mid-2007) to see how the products based on that version fare.

Like most notebook adapters, installing the DWA-645 is a simple task. The included quick install guide cautions against inserting the card without first installing the drivers from the included CD. The installation wizard walks you through the process of connecting to a wireless network and configuring security settings. The quick install guide also gives a basic overview of Windows XP's wireless utility, including how to turn it off, should you opt to use D-Link's utility.

There's not a lot to be said about the design of notebook adapters. The DWA-645 is typical in that the part that sticks out of the card slot is thick, black plastic and houses two small LEDs, one to indicate a connection and the other to indicate activity.

We tested the D-Link DWA-645 in conjunction with its companion router, the DIR-635. In the maximum throughput test (at 10 feet), the duo lagged behind its draft N competition, scoring only 68.1Mbps. In the mixed-mode (at 10 feet) and long-range tests, though, they bested the others with respective scores of 58.82Mbps and 41.04Mbps. Despite coming out on top, these numbers fell far short of the performance promised by the 802.11n spec of about 200Mbps maximum throughput at short range. (200Mbps is the estimated real-world throughput; the theoretical max throughput for 802.11n is about 540Mbps.) Independent analyses have borne this out and industry analysts are cautioning consumers against jumping into the 11n fray just yet.

Throughput max
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Note: The Belkin N1 doesn't allow for single-mode operation, so it has no score in this test.
Note: Throughput in Mbps measured indoors at 200 feet

CNET Labs maximum-throughput tests with mixed 802.11b/g and Draft N clients (at 10 feet)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Note: Throughput in Mbps

CNET Labs long-range tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
* The Belkin N1 was tested in mixed mode at 200 feet.
Note: Throughput in Mbps measured indoors at 200 feet

D-Link backs the DWA-645 notebook adapter with a standard one-year warranty, short of Linksys's three-year policy and Belkin's incomparable lifetime support. Still, phone support is available 24/7, or you can contact tech support via an online form. If the 90-page manual doesn't give you the answer you're looking for, D-Link's site has FAQs, downloadable drivers, and installation guides.

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