The lazy days of summer are right around the corner--all the more reason to invest in a wireless home-networking solution. With the D-Link Laptop Wireless Kit, you can roam about the yard or pool without losing your network connection. And since everything comes in one easy-to-use kit, you don't have to worry about missing cards or cables. Plus, it's affordable. Just don't roam too far: In our tests, the D-Link kit's simplicity is offset by its short range. The lazy days of summer are right around the corner--all the more reason to invest in a wireless home-networking solution. With the D-Link Laptop Wireless Kit, you can roam about the yard or pool without losing your network connection. And since everything comes in one easy-to-use kit, you don't have to worry about missing cards or cables. Plus, it's affordable. Just don't roam too far: In our tests, the D-Link kit's simplicity is offset by its short range.
The $499 D-Link DWL-905 Laptop Wireless Kit includes two $129 DWL-650 PC Card adapters and one $249 DWL-1000AP Access Point. The D-Link series of wireless products is based on the 802.11b standard and uses radio waves to transmit signals at 11mbps.The products are also Wi-Fi certified, which means they'll work with Wi-Fi products from other vendors.
Pick a card...
The PC Card plugs into your notebook's Type II slot, letting you wirelessly roam. Installing the PC Card adapter is easy: Just boot up your laptop computer, insert the included CD-ROM, and run the installation program. A wizard walks you through the process, and a detailed Quick Start poster helps you select the proper settings. The card operates in both Ad Hoc and Infrastructure modes. Ad Hoc configures the cards to talk to one another directly, while Infrastructure mode routs all communication through the DWL-1000AP Access Point.
The PC Card adapter also comes with D-Link Configuration Utility software. This utility lets you monitor signal strength, select a transmission channel, set transmission speed, and configure identification and encryption settings.
The access point is relatively small--about the size of your hand. A small antenna on its right side swivels to an angle of 90 degrees from the device. Located beneath the antenna are the power input and the Ethernet jack, for connecting a Cable/DSL modem or a residential gateway.
To configure the access point, you must run the included AP Manager software from a notebook with a wireless PC Card already installed. If your network runs DHCP, the access point will be assigned an IP address automatically. If not, manually type in the IP address, provided in the Quick Installation guide, and the MAC address, which is printed on the bottom of the device. You can then make various adjustments, including selecting an operating channel and configuring security settings.
Range, range in the home...
The biggest challenge to setting up the access point is finding a location that best exploits its limited range, while at the same time offering convenient cabled access to a power outlet and your LAN. CNET Labs tested the unit in a typical office setting consisting primarily of cubes and a few walls. We measured throughput speeds similar to those of other 802.11b solutions we've tested, with a range of about 125 feet from the access point to the client. This is at the low end of the 115-to-328-foot range that D-Link and many other vendors claim for interior spaces. We recommend you plan on an even shorter range if you use the access point in any walled environment, especially if the walls are thick or solid. If all else fails, you can always add a second access point; because they support roaming, you can move seamlessly between access points without your notebook dropping its network connection.
You can also use the access point to share a broadband Internet connection among wireless clients; to do so, however, you must connect the access point to a router. Alternatively, you could run Internet sharing software, such as WinProxy, on one of the wireless clients.
D-Link wireless products come with a lifetime warranty. Free technical support is available by phone Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT. When we called, the telephone support technicians were friendly, helpful, and very, very busy. Unless you don't mind being put on hold for as long as 40 minutes, we recommend that you call early. You can also find help at the D-Link Web site, which has the latest drivers, installation manuals, and FAQs.
The D-Link Laptop Wireless Kit gives you everything you need to extend your home network wirelessly at an affordable price. While its range was somewhat less than promised, the Laptop Wireless Kit should be more than enough for roaming around the house or lounging by the pool.
For throughput rate tests, the clients and access points were set up at short ranges, between 3 feet and 30 feet. The throughput results indicate practical transfer speeds.