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Linksys WPC300N Notebook Adapter review: Linksys WPC300N Notebook Adapter

The Linksys WPC300N Wireless-N notebook adapter gives underwhelming performance.

4 min read
Linksys WPC300N adapter
The WPC300N is among the new batch of Draft N products announced today by Linksys and available immediately through BestBuy.com. The PC Card adapter, selling for an industry-standard price of $119, is based on the first official draft of the 802.11n specification, which promises significantly faster performance and longer range than the prior-generation 802.11g standard. Tested in CNET Labs with the Linksys WRT300N router, the adapter achieved decent maximum throughput but only middling mixed-mode throughput--and its speed at long range was downright disappointing. For now, sit tight and keep your sights set on the bevy of additional Draft N adapters that are currently on our Labs' test bench. If you can't wait another day for a new adapter, go with either the Netgear WPNT511 for superspeedy maximum and mixed-mode throughput or the Belkin Pre-N PC Card for great range. (Be aware, though, that in order to get blazing-fast speeds with the Netgear or Belkin cards, you'll need to have their companion routers, too.) Also, check out News.com's story about analysts' takes on the Draft N gear.

Like most PC Card adapters, there's not much to the WPC300N. The device features the standard metal PCMCIA portion, with a black-and-blue end piece that extends outside of your laptop's PC Card slot. This piece includes the adapter's wireless antenna, along with two tiny square status lights for power and wireless activity.


Linksys WPC300N Notebook Adapter

The Good

The WPC300N has some good things going for it, including adequate maximum throughput, a painless setup process, clear documentation, an excellent configuration utility, and a long warranty.

The Bad

The WPC300N's mixed-mode performance is merely mediocre, and it's especially sluggish at long range.

The Bottom Line

Solid maximum throughput is not nearly enough to make us recommend the Draft N-based Linksys WPC300N. Sit tight to see how the other Draft N gear fares.

The WPC300N's setup process is a piece of cake, thanks to its well-organized user guide and helpful installation wizard. Both items ship on CD, which Linksys puts inside of a handy envelope. The envelope's inside flap gets you started with a directive to insert the CD; this step spurs the wizard into action, taking you through the process of installing drivers and the included configuration utility, as well as popping in the adapter. The wizard ends by helping you make your first connection to an available network in your area. From then on, you may use the excellent utility to manage the card and its connections. In addition to allowing you to store individual profiles for the networks you access most, the utility shows every pertinent detail about the network you're currently connected to, including signal strength, link quality, MAC and IP addresses, and associated security features.

Linksys asserts that the WPC300N is theoretically capable of 12 times the speed and 4 times the range displayed by 802.11g. When it comes to Wi-Fi devices, theory is always different (read: faster) than reality. But in CNET Labs' throughput tests, the adapter came nowhere even remotely close to these claims. The device made its best showing in maximum throughput, managing to earn faster times than those of most pre-N adapters we've tested, including the Belkin Pre-N PC Card. The Linksys WPC300N's maximum throughput of 71.5Mbps, however, still fell short of the Netgear WPNT511's superfast score of 93.8Mbps.

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The Linksys's performance took a turn for the worse with mixed-mode throughput: the device scored just a bit faster than Belkin's Pre-N adapter and, again, significantly trailed Netgear's unit. Finally, the WPC300N's speed at long range was simply poor compared to that of most pre-N adapters. While the WPC300N's scores are not bad in and of themselves, they certainly don't measure up to the promise of MIMO and the 802.11n spec. Keep in mind that to muster their maximum speeds, all of the pre-N adapters we've reviewed prior to this Linksys adapter must be used with their corresponding pre-N routers (part of the 802.11n specification is a mandate for interoperability, which means networking equipment from different vendors--starting with this round of Draft N announcements--should play nicely together without a drop-off in performance).

CNET Labs maximum throughput tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
TCP Protocol  
Note: Throughput in Mbps

CNET Labs maximum throughput tests with mixed 802.11b/g and MIMO clients
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
TCP Protocol  
Note: Throughput in Mbps

CNET Labs long-range tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
TCP Protocol  
Note: Throughput in Mbps measured indoors at 200 feet

Linksys bundles a long three-year warranty with the WPC300N, and 24/7 toll-free phone support is available for as long as you own the adapter. These terms are topped only by Belkin, which offers lifetime support for its adapter. Regarding online support, Linksys provides FAQs, downloads, and one of our favorite support features, live chat with a tech support rep, on its Web site.

Though the WPC300N is by no means a sluggish PC Card adapter, it did fall short of our expectations for Draft N networking gear. Its poor long-range performance dampens our enthusiasm for its impressive maximum throughput. Those looking to upgrade their home networks would do well to wait to see how the rest of the Draft N pack fares in our tests.


Linksys WPC300N Notebook Adapter

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 7Performance 5Support 7