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Netgear RangeMax WN511B adapter review: Netgear RangeMax WN511B adapter

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The Good The WN511B's list of attributes includes solid maximum throughput, easy setup, thorough documentation, and a full-featured configuration utility.

The Bad When it comes to mixed-mode throughput, the WN511B displays comparatively slow performance, and support for the adapter lags behind that of the competition.

The Bottom Line Though the Netgear WN511B notebook adapter is an overall decent performer, its times are still fall far short of the scorching speeds promised by the new draft-N standard. Don't jump on the draft N bandwagon just yet.

6.3 Overall
  • Setup 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6
  • Support 5

The Netgear RangeMax WN511B notebook adapter marks Netgear's entry into the Draft N adapter market. Based on the first official iteration of the long-awaited 802.11n specification, the $129 device costs a few bucks more than competitors, such as the $119 Linksys WPC300N, but it offers equally good maximum throughput and better performance at long range. That said, its scores still don't measure up to the blazing performance promised by Draft N, and the adapter's mixed-mode score is slow by any standard. We say hold your horses on the Netgear WN511B until we complete our tests of other recently announced Draft N adapters (though in general, it may be too soon to buy devices based on 802.11n at all).

For users who want a new adapter pronto, the Netgear WPNT511 provides especially fast maximum and mixed-mode throughput, while the Belkin Pre-N PC Card includes a more well-balanced mix of short- and long-range speed. (Keep in mind, though, that MIMO-based adapters that were released prior to this Draft N spec use proprietary technology and may not show such good performance when mixed with networking products from other vendors. You should be able to use the WN511B with any of the Draft N routers that were recently announced.)

From a design perspective, the RangeMax WN511B adapter is a somewhat snazzier version of Netgear's extra-plain WPNT511. The company constructed the PCMCIA card's end piece out of a smoky gray, slightly translucent plastic. This piece contains the wireless antenna and a blue status light that glows in different patterns to show when the card is connected to your laptop and to a wireless network.

Netgear offers the same easy setup process and configuration utility for the WN511B as it has with previous adapters. The hard-copy installation guide kick-starts the process, instructing you to load the included CD into your laptop's disc drive and install both the driver software and the configuration utility. The installation program will also assist you with making your initial connection to a Wi-Fi network, the details of which you can permanently store in your profiles. With these steps complete, you can rely on the comprehensive configuration utility to create more profiles and manage other aspects of your card usage. For example, the utility displays the SSID, MAC address, security capabilities, and signal strength of all the networks in your area; it also gives a graphical interpretation of your transmit/receive performance.

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