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Actiontec 802.11b Wireless Networking

It's been a while since we've covered wireless networking - nearly a year! In that time 802.11a has been announced. 802.11b, which is the slower sibling in this family of wireless networking, continues to soldier on. At 11 MBps we aren't talking blistering performance but it is more than enough for the average home user.

The Units
  • 802.11b standard
  • 11 MBps performance
  • Flexible and Upgradeable: Unique Two PC Card Expansion
  • Easy Web-Based Network Management
  • Built-in Firewall Included
  • Requires: Pentium 90 or Faster, 16MB of RAM, PC Card Slot available


Actiontec's Product Page PC Card $99.99 USD
Gateway $99.99 USD




First Impressions

My last 802.11b was the product from SOHOware. The Actiontec units shipped to me are decidedly different. When I opened the box I was intrigued that there were three indivual units packed in the box. The first was the Wireless-Ready Home Gateway and the other two were Wireless PC Cards. When I opened the box for the gateway I found that there was no 802.11b card included with the unit. That means that you will need to buy one card for the gateway and another for each computer in your network. The SOHOware unit's wireless hub needed no such card and integrated with my network seamlessly.

Unfortunately there was no PCI style 802.11b card included with this review sampling so I used the second card with a laptop as the cards are PCMCIA. Make sure you order a PCI adapter from Actiontec if you plan to use this network in a normal computer. Looking at the picture at the Actiontec website shows that their PCI adapter doesn't have an external antennae like the SOHOware unit. As I have had problems with that antennae being very hard to get good reception on I think this may be a better solution but without one to test with I can't be sure.

Last point before we get deep into this review. Why bother with 802.1b when 802.11a is around the corner? At this point pricing isn't readily available for 802.11a but I expect it to be similarily priced to 802.11b when it first hit the market. This means several companies will reduce the pricing of their units - and since 802.11b from one manufacturer is compatible with anothers' products you may be able to build a wireless network a little more cheaply. Also, unless you are moving large ISO files or other similar large file you may not really need 802.11a's performance.


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