The Siemens SpeedStream 1022 wireless USB adapter makes installing a wireless adapter on a desktop as easy as plug and surf. Unfortunately, although this USB adapter lets you forget about fumbling with PCI cards and awkward external antennae, it lags on performance and range.
Thanks to its included USB adapter, six-foot cable, printed quick-start guide, and software CD (which houses an electronic manual), the SpeedStream 1022 comes ready to connect to any Wi-Fi LAN. The black plastic device is about the size of a pack of cigarettes, and it's slightly bigger than Netgear's MA101 or Linksys's WUSB 11. Two LEDs on its side indicate power and link status, which helps you monitor your connection. Although the adapter lacks an external antenna for optimizing your connection, the six-foot USB cable helps you position its integrated dipole antenna for improving reception and transmission.
To set up the SpeedStream 1022, just plug the adapter into your PC's USB port with the included CD in the system's optical drive. Two minutes later, the SpeedStream wireless LAN utility icon appears in your task tray, and the wireless USB adapter is ready for sharing data and surfing the Web. The adapter can connect to either an ad hoc (peer to peer) or an infrastructure network (via an access point or a router), and it works with Windows 98, Me, 2000, and XP PCs. Unfortunately, Siemens doesn't provide drivers or other software for Macintosh or Linux operating systems.
The SpeedStream Wireless LAN Utility includes a site survey feature.
When the adapter is connected to a wireless network, the SpeedStream Wireless LAN Utility lights up in the Windows system tray. The setup for Windows XP systems installs an abbreviated version of the SpeedStream Wireless LAN Utility, leaving you to use the Zero Configuration utility built into the XP OS to configure the adapter's more advanced settings, such as SSID (or network name), wired equivalent privacy (WEP) encryption of up to 128-bit security, and your transmission channel.
The adapter's throughput performance in CNET Labs' tests was acceptable but nothing to write home about. As its benchmark, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot 4.3 software on a console system with clients running NetIQ's version 4.4 Performance End Points. Our throughput results reflect the payload throughput of a network adapter transmitting at varying distances and at an adapter's dynamically chosen fallback rate. This allows you to see both the maximum throughput of a device as well as the decreased throughput you are likely to see with increased range. Throughput can vary widely from the bandwidth speeds vendors typically advertise and is a much better gauge of what you are likely to experience with a standard file transfer. For more details on how we test networking devices, see the CNET Labs site.
While the SpeedStream 1022 worked flawlessly under most conditions, it can't be used with a USB hub and refused to connect with our Linksys WPS-11 wireless print server. With 4.4Mbps of throughput, it lacks the high-speed punch of other 802.11b adapters and can't hold a candle to the throughput of 802.11g draft-based gear. Its bandwidth also falls off faster than others as it gets farther from the access point. At a range of just more than 75 feet, it drops its connection, while other PC Card adapters we've tested can reach to 100 feet and beyond.
With a two-year warranty, the SpeedStream 1022 provides more coverage than Linksys's typical one-year policy but less than Netgear's three-year warranty. Should something go wrong, Siemens provides 24-hour phone and e-mail support. The Web site provides the basics: drivers and several Adobe Acrobat files for troubleshooting, specs, and a quick-start guide. The 39-page manual has in-depth procedures for setup, configuration, and tweaking a wireless network, as well as step-by-step instructions for installation with all Windows operating systems that this adapter supports.