TRENDnet Wireless Line

By Eric Griffith

January 17, 2002

TRENDnet's WLAN products, including adapters, an access point and a wireless print server aren't household names, but maybe they should be.

TRENDware's TRENDnet line of 802.11b Wireless LAN products has been around for almost a year, with an update of their access point arriving last summer, and based on our tests they still hold up against their fellow Wi-Fi certified competition. The adapters provide perfectly reasonable performance and the setup of the AP100plus access point, while not fancy, was straightforward and (almost) easy enough for the layman. The only thing preventing this suite from earning a complete seal of approval is the touchy print server software.

Models reviewed:

Click links above to view product stats and to leave your opinion on the products.

Pros:
- Easy setup/installation of adapters
- Trendy design

Cons:
- Print server setup


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Basic Features

The TRENDnet external products all share a similar design a la the Apple iMac, with translucent blue plastic sheathing visible innards. All seem sturdily constructed. The PC Card is the typical all metal with a black plastic end that widens for the antenna (which could block other PC Cards, so place it accordingly). TRENDware also makes a PCMCIA Card Reader for PCI Bus (TEW-PCIA, $49 MSRP, not reviewed) for use with the TEW-PC16 card and a full PCI Card adapter (TEW-PCI, $129 MSRP, not reviewed). Both can be installed internally to take a desktop into the world of wireless.

The TEW-AP100plus access point features two external antennas that rotate so you can mount the unit on the wall or keep it on a shelf. There are connectors for Ethernet to link to hub/switch, the power cord, and a tiny reset button that takes you back to the factory settings.

All of the products come with pamphlet-sited manuals that do a good job of getting you started. The included CDs have expanded documentation in Adobe Acrobat PDF format so you can get to the details.

Install and Setup

The Intersil-based TEW-PC16 PC Card wireless adapter, like most of its brethren, doesn't get much simpler. Slide it into the PCMCIA port on any laptop and the Windows Add New Hardware wizard takes over. Insert the CD-ROM and follow the prompts. Same goes for the USB adapter, which requires no separate power source. All the TRENDnet products have drivers on CD that were up to date with those available on the TRENDware.com site.

The installed drivers bring up the adapters' respective configuration utilities in the System Tray (red when no signal, green when connected, but signal strength is not indicated). Double click the icon to change settings - it's easier than going though the Network properties. However, the PC Card uses the Neesus Datacom Configuration Utility that's used by many OEMs. It's been complained about before for good reason - for example, in tests with the PC card, a switch to Ad-Hoc mode had the utility saying it couldn't recognize any other Ad-hoc cards, even though it was still connected.

The TEW-AP100plus plugs into any port on your switch with a standard Ethernet Cat5 patch cord and can be configured using the included APManager software from any PC on the wired network. It automatically found the access point without problem. Double clicking the listing opens a Web browser interface to the IP address of the access point, where you can change the name, password, set WEP, or DHCP server or client settings. The DHCP server settings worked flawlessly even s with non-TRENDware 802.11b adapters (in this case, an Intel PRO/Wireless II PC Card). Each area of the Web interface must be saved separately before moving to another, which requires a lot of back and forth to finish.

Print Serving

Using the included PS Admin program to get the TEW-PS3 print server up and running is what separates the wireless networking men from the boys (so to speak), as there are a number of complicated steps.

You must first install the software on one of the client machines and make sure that the IPX protocol and Netware client services are enabled. Once you've got the needed extras and installed PS Admin, set that client to Ad-Hoc mode and channel 11. The TEW-PS3 has a DIP switch to set it to Ad-Hoc. You reset the print server using the recessed Reset button to force it to the default of Channel 11. Then, via the PS Admin program set the print server's SSID to that of the access point. Flip the DIP switch back to infrastructure mode and you should be all set to connect the printers to the three available parallel ports (no USB printers here).

The first three times I tried to print a test page from the PS Admin software, I got nothing. I left things alone for a few days, shut everything in the office down, including the print server, clients, and printer, but left the access point powered on. Upon my return and power up of all systems, the test page popped out of the printer with no problem.

From there, setting a name and password for the print server are necessary and relatively easy if you follow the directions. PS Admin is nowhere near as intuitive as software you'll find in a wireless product geared to consumers.

For any client system to use the print server, it must have the NetBEUI protocol installed. This might be a hassle for some, but it's a good security function at least, as outside users hacking into the system will be prevented from using up your paper. Clients then setup printing through the TEW-PS3 as they normally would for any network printer. Make sure you have the printer's drivers on hand.

Wireless Performance

Our tests with Qcheck showed adequate performance, about what we've come to expect from Intersil-based 802.11b products.

Test Conditions:

Firmware/Driver Versions:

Mode: Infrastructure
WEP encryption:
Off
Tx Rate:
Auto
Channel:
11

0.29.4 for PC Card
0.51.11 for USB adapter
AP Manager 1.0.0 for access point

Test Description

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

[1Mbyte data size]

Qcheck Response Time (msec)

[10 iterations 100byte data size]

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@500Kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

AP to Client - Condition 1

4.96

4 (avg)
5 (max)

332

32%

AP to Client - Condition 2

4.88

4(avg)
5 (max)

332

32%

AP to Client - Condition 3

4.85

4 (avg)
5 (max)

332

32%

AP to Client - Condition 4

4.78

4 (avg)
5(max)

331

32%

Note on conditions:

  • Condition #1: AP and wireless client in same room, approximately 10 feet apart.
  • Condition #2: Client in upper floor room directly above AP, approximately 15 feet apart. No metal ductwork between AP and client.
  • Condition #3: Client on same floor as AP but in another room approximately 50 feet away. Walls, but no metal ductwork between the client and AP antennas.
  • Condition #4: Client on upper floor at opposite end of residence, approximately 55 feet away. Walls, floor, and probable metal ductwork between AP and client.

Summary

The suggested retail prices provided to me are in line with most street prices I found and in some cases lower than online prices, giving the feeling that TRENDware is ready to get these products out the door. I would recommend them to anyone with wireless experience, but skip the print server unless absolutely necessary.

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