Compex C-Kit 811WL and WLU11 USB adapter

By Eric Griffith

November 19, 2001

Compex has affordable products, but their inconsistencies in software and WEP setup make it difficult for anyone but experts to use them.

Model: WavePort C-Kit 811WL (consists of two WL11 CardBus adapters and one PCMCIA to PCI Converter card) -- MSRP $249.95
Plus: WavePort WLU11 USB adapter -- MSRP $129.95

Compex isn't a big name player here in the States. Their prices are good though, and hardware is nicely put together. Unfortunately, while general setup of a 802.11b wireless network using the Compex kit is easy, the inconsistencies in their software make WEP enabling difficult for anyone but the most knowledgeable of users, not to mention the significant hit in performance.

Pros:
Easy installation
SoftBridge nice alternative if you lack access point

Cons:
Inconsistent utility software along product line


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Product Stats

View a summary of WL11 CardBus adapater's capabilities.

View a summary of the WLU11 USB adapter's capabilities.

Setup & Installation

Setup couldn't be easier with either the CardBus or the USB adapters. Plug them in, let the Windows Add New Hardware Wizard look for the drivers, and you're up and running. You'll then want to install the accompanying utility software that comes with each adapter for configuring the Ad-hoc (peer-to-peer) or Infrastructure (with Access point) settings, as well as WEP.

This screen shows the suggested Ad hoc setup for the Compex wireless PC Card clients when using the included SoftBridge software access point.

Of course you'll need to set up the networking control panels on each system with IP addresses and so forth. Compex doesn't provide utilities for that step, but does go into it in the documentation. In fact, when setting up the SoftBridge access point software, the instructions are very particular because you have to make sure that TCP/IP is not bound to the Compex card on that system-only the Ethernet card connecting it to the wired network.

Big pet peeve: Compex ships all drivers and utilizes with the 811WL kit on floppy disk, which is useless if you've got a laptop with no A: drive (like me). It didn't really matter too much though, as the driver was already out of date for the PC Card: download driver version 1.29 from www.cpx.com to get going.

Wireless Features

The WavePort C-Kit 811WL has two options: set up two systems with the two included 811WL-U PC Cards using the ad hoc sharing, or set up one system as wireless only with a second using the 811WL-U PC Card along side a wired Ethernet card in a system that will bridge your wired Ethernet network to the wireless system or systems.

The second option is to setup Compex's SoftBridge software access point on a system connected to your wired network, and it will facilitate sharing between the wired nodes and the wireless nodes. However, any shares you have set up on the SoftBridge system will not be available to any other system on the wireless side of the network.

Wired clients can see the SoftBridge system's shares fine, but if WEP is enabled, the wireless clients become invisible to the wired, and vice versa. WEP is supported at 64-bit and 128-bit by all the clients, but the utility software for the USB adapter (right) does not support passphrase WEP key creation - an annoying discrepancy since the utility that comes with the PC Cards does.

Performance

The following shows testing results using Qcheck. With the Compex SoftBridge software access point set up on a laptop connected to the wired network via a 10/100 switch, we tested traffic between a Windows 2000 desktop system with the Compex USB client adapter and a Windows ME laptop with the Compex PC Cardbus adapter. This test was done using Channel 5 and with WEP encryption disabled and enabled as indicated.

Test Conditions

Firmware/Driver Version

  • Mode: Ad hoc -- Point to Point
  • WEP encryption: as indicated
  • Tx Rate: Auto
  • Channel: 5
  • Client driver: 1.29 for WL11 PC Card
  • SoftBridge release: 1.01
  • Test Description

    Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

    [1MB data size]

    Qcheck Response Time (msec)
    [10 iterations 100byte data size]

    Qcheck UDP stream 
    [10 seconds at 500Kbps]

    (Actual throughput- kbps)

    (Lost data- %)

    Client to Client - Condition 1 3.75 (No WEP)
    3.28 (w/WEP 64)
    3 (avg)
    6 (max)
    335  0%
    Client to Client - Condition 3.56 (No WEP)
    2.85 (w/WEP 64)

    4 (avg)
    7 (max)

    322 0%
    Client to Client - Condition 3 3.6 (No WEP)
    2.34 (w/WEP 64)
    3 (avg)
    5 (max)
    325 0%
    Client to Client - Condition 4 3.69 (No WEP)3.2 (w/WEP 64) 3 (avg)
    4 (max)
    328 0%

    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 811WL kit is worth a look if you've got one laptop you'd like to have mobile while sharing resources on your wired network. Otherwise, you'll want to hold out for an access point unit.

    Want to talk about it? Use the Forums.



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