A Look at ASUS WiFi@Home
The Wireless Edition bundles both a WiFi 802.11b card and an omni-directional antenna. Omni-directional simply means "in all directions", do not let the external antenna fool you. It is no stronger or weaker than your regular WiFi antenna, but does allow complete portability around your work area. The external antenna connector on the front of the PCI card is proprietary in its own, disallowing use of other third party pigtails and antennas.
Included on the installation CD is sufficient software to manage your new WiFi card and antenna. Originally we were given the impression that this wireless AP card served as a stand-alone access point for the desktop machine you set it up with. Boy, were we wrong. The WiFi-b card not only acts as an access point for an existing wireless network in your area, but can also be switched to an "AP mode" where the antenna broadcasts an inputted local cable/ADSL connection from your desktop computer. That's right, this bundle can turn your computer into a full-blown wireless router! Stand-alone 802.11b routers regularly sell from $65.00 USD to $110.00 USD - and this bundle cost us an extra twenty dollars.
Although these benefits do outweigh the minimal cost greatly, there are a few drawbacks. To begin with, you have to manually switch wireless operating modes with the provided software. What this means is, you either use the WiFi card as an access point, or you use it as a router - not both at the same time. However, when examining the technology, this doesn't come as a great surprise. Additionally, this card in router mode obviously does not function when your desktop computer is turned off; therefore forcing you to turn on your desktop whenever you want wireless access from your mobile devices (laptops, PDA's, other desktops and so forth)
Reassuringly, the router and access point modes work flawlessly. They provide and receive a signal equally as strong as similar routers and access points (100ft range indoors, 1000ft range outdoors). The included software provides a plethora of features and even includes a built in security manager, sufficiently dealing with WEP/WPA protection. All in all, this package is impressive and is more than worth the persistent media, advertising and its minimal fee. This package alone weighs in as a great influence on my total score given to this product.
The ability to station your antenna anywhere on your desktop is a great advantage as well. Upon testing ASUS's WiFi package, we noticed impressive ranges (on par with standard 802.11b routers). The software's installation was straightforward, as was the ability to switch between modes: Soft Access Point (router) and Station Mode (access point). To top it off, ASUS has included a 40-page manual outlining every possible selection and clearly demonstrating correct utilization of the ASUS WiFi package and software.
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