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 , 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 for superspeedy maximum and mixed-mode throughput or the 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.
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 . The Linksys WPC300N's maximum throughput of 71.5Mbps, however, still fell short of the superfast score of 93.8Mbps.
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).