A notebook computer is all about portability, so why should your network cable keep you tethered to one place? The D-Link DWL-650 PC card Type-II 11 Mbps 802.11b wireless LAN adapter, known as the D-Link Air for short, gives you back your mobility, letting you connect to your home or office wireless network from whichever desk (or couch) you happen to be at. Plus, as wireless networks continue spreading to hotels, airports, and even coffee shops, it will help you keep connected no matter how far you travel.
The DWL-650 installed easily, as a PCMCIA card should. We just ran the setup program from the included CD and plugged the card into an empty Type-II slot on our notebook PC. Windows XP immediately recognized the card and installed the drivers. Then, using the D-Link configuration utility, we configured it for our specific LAN. Once connected to the LAN, the little green LED on the end of the card stopped blinking, telling us we were good to go. The printed manual and online help gave helpful guidance on getting the card installed and connecting to our network.
As we tested our wireless setup, we reveled in the freedom the D-Link Air gave us. Using it in a two-story house, we were able to go from room to room, never losing our Internet connection. We even could go outside on the patio and browse the Web from a chaise lounge. Of course, the card worked equally well in an office environment, letting us take our notebook from the conference room to the lunchroom without losing our network connection.
In general, we found that the construction of the walls between the wireless card and the access point had as much to do with reception quality as did distance. So, for instance, if you're separated from the access point by several thick walls, reception will be much poorer than if a glass partition is all that separates you. The manufacturer suggests a range of up to 328 feet indoors and up to 984 feet outdoors, and we found that to be a decent approximation of the maximum range you can expect. The D-Link control utility has a graphical status bar that shows the wireless signal strength, so it's easy to know when you've wandered too far.
At 11 Mbps, the speed's plenty fast for most uses, like browsing the Web, accessing a file server, updating a database, etc. You can also configure it to transmit at slower speeds, depending on your network environment. The card supports both 64-bit and 128-bit WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) encryption, a vital feature that keeps your communications secret.
The D-Link Air will keep you well-connected whether at work, at home, or through a public WiFi (wireless fidelity) network at places like an airport or coffee shop. Since it's a PCMCIA card, it's easy to swap in and out if you need to use a wired connection in some places and wireless in others. Bottom line, if you have a notebook PC and have access to wireless capabilities, you'll love the freedom of movement this little card delivers. --Ken Feinstein
- Easy installation
- Uses IEEE 802.11b standard for broad compatibility with wireless networks
- Supports 64-bit and 128-bit encryption
- Good range
- Not as fast as a 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet wired connection