Sony PCWA-C300S wireless adapter review: Sony PCWA-C300S wireless adapter

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MSRP: $99.99

The Good Top performance; quick setup; great software.

The Bad Pricey; short range; cannot be used with all notebooks; supports only Windows XP and Me; skimpy one-year warranty.

The Bottom Line This PC Card adapter's compact antenna is appealing, but Buffalo's AirStation is cheaper and offers better support.

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6.8 Overall

Sony's PCWA-C300S wireless PC Card makes a good first impression with its quick, simple installation and excellent management software. Its fast performance and compact antenna are also pluses. But an adapter this expensive should not come with such skimpy service and support. Even though Buffalo's AirStation couldn't match the PCWA-C300S in our maximum throughput tests, its superior range makes it the better value.

Installing this Type II PC Card in your notebook takes only about two minutes, assuming your machine runs Windows XP or Me; unfortunately, the PCWA-C300S doesn't support any other flavor of Windows, nor does it support the Mac OS or Unix. The included Quick Start Guide's checklist outlines the near-automatic process, but you may not even need it, since the Easy Installation wizard starts automatically when you insert the CD and walks you through the setup process. The setup is also spelled out in excruciating detail in the printed 61-page manual.

After the initial setup, you can configure the PCWA-C300S using Windows' own configuration utility. Or, just follow the adapter's illustrated configuration tutorial, which is included on the installation CD and offers screen-by-screen instructions for making changes.

Sony's configuration software, with its many useful tools, is superior to Windows' efforts. A task tray icon shows the card's signal strength at a glance; simply double-click the icon to open the tabbed Wireless Panel. The Network List tab therein shows available active LANs, and the Settings tab gives you the option of changing the tray icon to show transmission rate. The Status tab shows vital signs such as signal strength and throughput level, as well as advanced data such as frames sent and received. We really like the pop-up graph that includes thermometerlike charting of signal strength and throughput, among other statistics. You can even check on the access point's configuration (if you have a Sony PCWA-AR300, that is). While the documentation ignores these features, the CD-based manual describes them well.

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