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-- Actiontec 802.11g Wireless Access Point and 802.11g PC Card
-- Category: Review
-- Posted by: GideonX
-- Posted on: 2004-02-24
-- Price: ~ $130.00 USD
-- Pages: 1 [ 2 ] 3
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   Here are the laptops which will serve as our guinea pigs:

  • KDS Valiant 6380i with Windows 2000 Professional
  • Gateway Solo 3100 "FireAnt" with Windows 98SE (for testing installation of PC Card only)

   Along with the Actiontec Access Point, we will also be using my current Wireless-G Broadband Router.

Installation

   The Quick Start Guide included with the PC Card was actually very helpful. While I was used to working with computer components, I actually asked my sister (a computer n00b), to do the PC Card installation on one laptop. After nervously going over the Quick Start guide, she confidently connected the PC Card into the laptop, powered up the laptop and followed the installation prompt when Windows 2000 detected the new hardware, using the drivers CD that came with the PC Card. After a Windows restart/laptop reboot and a hearty applause from me, she was wirelessly surfing the internet. Installing the PC Card on the FireAnt (which runs Windows 98SE) went the same way, too -- smooth and painless.

Being Connected

   When you are connected to an access point or router, the visual indicator on the PC Card lights up. The green light remains steady regardless of network activity:

   By default, the PC Card was configured to find any network name (as long as it was broadcasting its SSID) and the network type: Access Point (as opposed to Peer-to-Peer). This 54Mbps PC Card had no trouble finding any available broadcasting wireless network. That being said, I was initially connected to someone else's wireless router and (to my surprise) was able to surf the internet using their broadband connection. I do not really know how far that neighbor's access point or router was from my laptop, but I do know that the signal strength and link quality were at a faint 30% and I kept dropping in-and-out of the space-time-continuum (just kidding - my connection to their WLAN was basically erratic; it kept connecting and disconnecting.) In case you are wondering, I did not do anything illegal while connected to their WLAN.... Honest!

   This was remedied by configuring the PC Card to find my WLAN, using the software provided. Instead of the defaults, I created a new profile and entered the settings of my WLAN. There's an icon on the system tray that displays your current link quality (if you place your mouse-over the icon as demonstrated below). The states of the system tray icon are Green (Connected - Excellent to Good quality); Yellow (Connected - Poor/Low); and Red (Not connected).

   To access the wireless settings window, I simply double-clicked on the icon located on the system tray and configured it accordingly.

   My only complaint about this software was the fact that I could not connect to the Access Point when WEP was enabled. I had no difficulty connecting another non-Actiontec-brand wireless adapter to the Actiontec Access Point with WEP enabled, but this PC Card did not want to connect -- despite my attempts using several settings. I ended up disabling WEP Encryption so I can complete this review!

   And so the surfing begins. For testing purposes, we will be using netIQ's Qcheck console and End-point application to measure the Response Time and Throughput. These tests will be conducted in three locations, the hallway, living room and kitchen.

   To give you an idea of the locations: The hallway is approximately 25 feet away from the router and goes through a wall which is around 6 inches thick (dry wall). The living room is located on the first floor (about 11 feet tall), directly underneath the room that has the router where the floor is approximately 12 inches thick. The kitchen is located on the first floor, approximately 100 feet from the router and goes through one floor and 3 walls.

Results

Generated by Qcheck
Hallway Settings  
  From (Endpoint 1) localhost (KDS Laptop)
  To (Endpoint 2) Systeme Leicar (My desktop)
  Protocol TCP
  Start Time 2/23/2004 8:35:58 AM
  Stop Time 2/23/2004 8:35:59 AM
     
  Response Time* Results
 
  Iterations 10
  Data Size 10000 bytes
  Minimum 7 ms
  Average 14 ms
  Maximum 21 ms
     
  Throughput** Results  
  Data Size 1000 kBytes
  Throughput 11.065 Mbps
     
Living Room Settings  
  From (Endpoint 1) localhost (KDS Laptop)
  To (Endpoint 2) Systeme Leicar (My desktop)
  Protocol TCP
  Start Time 2/23/2004 8:36:39 AM
  Stop Time 2/23/2004 8:36:40 AM
     
  Response Time* Results
 
  Iterations 10
  Data Size 10000 bytes
  Minimum 9 ms
  Average 16 ms
  Maximum 25 ms
     
  Throughput** Results  
  Data Size 1000 kBytes
  Throughput 18.824 Mbps
     
Kitchen Settings  
  From (Endpoint 1) localhost (KDS Laptop)
  To (Endpoint 2) Systeme Leicar (My desktop)
  Protocol TCP
  Start Time 2/23/2004 8:38:10 AM
  Stop Time 2/23/2004 8:38:11 AM
     
  Response Time* Results
 
  Iterations 10
  Data Size 10000 bytes
  Minimum 14 ms
  Average 16 ms
  Maximum 25 ms
     
  Throughput** Results  
  Data Size 1000 kBytes
  Throughput 3.386 Mbps
     
Response-time Measurement

The response-time measurement indicates how long it takes to send a request and receive a reply over a network. This is important for many network transactions. A browser sends a request and then waits for a reply to load a Web page. The longer the operation takes, the more impatient the user gets. Response time is a measurement that reflects the user's experience with a network. Response time for a transaction is usually described in milliseconds or seconds. The response time test summary shows the minimum, maximum, and average response times of all iterations (in our case, 10). In the displayed results, you will see Qcheck's calculation of round-trip response time. (Source: Qcheck whitepaper)

 

Throughput
Throughput numbers tell the rate at which traffic can flow through a network. A typical network transaction causes blocks of data to be exchanged over a network. A network with a higher throughput lets data be delivered in a shorter amount of time. Throughput is a measurement that reflects the capacity of a network and is usually measured in bytes or bits per second. The throughput rate is calculated as the amount of data sent and received divided by the measured transaction time. (Source: Qcheck whitepaper)
 

   As if this testing was not enough, I decided to do some good ol' manual file-transfer using the Steam install file (379MB) for Counter-Strike from my wired-rig (Systeme Leicar) to the KDS laptop. The file itself is approximately 379MB. I will be measuring that transfer using Windows explorer (screenshots below) while displaying my connection status.

Manual Results
Hallway    
 
     
 
     
  Total Transfer time 3 minutes
  Link Quailty 66%
  Signal Strength 66%
     
Living Room    
 
     
 
     
  Total Transfer time 4 minutes
  Link Quality 53%
  Signal Strength 53%
     
Kitchen    
 
     
 
     
  Total Transfer time 12 minutes
  Link Quality 40%
  Signal Strength 40%
     

   What the results mean: Surfing closest to the router gave the best results, although surfing by the hallway and in the living room was comparable (e.g., you can hardly notice the speed difference unless you were downloading something big.) You could definitely "feel" the delay in the kitchen. Overall, the connection remained stable throughout the house and at no point did it drop off (e.g., Link quality and Signal strength did not dip to 0%) as I moved from one location to another.




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