Adaptec Ultra Wireless Access Point

By Joseph Moran

April 02, 2003

The name synonymous with SCSI also has WLAN products, but while adequate at its job, the evidence doesn't point to the Adaptec access point as a long term investment.

Model: AWN-8060
Price: $109.99
Rating: 3 out of 5
Features
Performance

If you're like me, hearing the same Adaptec conjures up images of all things SCSI. Of course, that's the company's first and best-known line of business, but they've gotten involved in a number of other areas over the years, all of them dealing data communication between computers or devices within a computer.

That being the case, it's probably not a surprise that Adaptec offers a line of wireless networking products too. The $109.99 AWN-8060 Ultra Wireless Access Point is a straight-802.11b product-- no 22 Mbps or 802.11g compatible modes here.

It goes without saying that WLAN devices are far from Adaptec's main focus, but you're reminded of it as you set up the AWN-8060. Although the Adaptec's technical support knowledge base at ask.adaptec.com gets prominent mention in the documentation and in the software itself, there are no references to any of the company's WLAN products within the database.

Also, although the product has been out for nearly five months, there are no firmware versions newer than the one that originally shipped with the unit. The company also says it doesn't plan to release an upgrade to support WPA, but it doesn't rule it out either.

Hopefully, these facts do not indicate a lack of attention by Adaptec to the product line.

Of course practically speaking, in most situations you're not likely to need technical support for a product like this, and in an age when some vendors seem to release a firmware update with each sunrise, stability in this regard is not necessarily a negative.

The physical design on the AWN-8060 facilitates either desk or wall use, but perhaps anticipating greater use in corporate environs, the unit is definitely optimized for the latter. What surface of the unit is the front and which is the back is somewhat a matter of perspective, but one thing that's certain is that unlike most WLAN access points, the AWN-8060 puts the antennae on one side of the chassis and the LAN and power jacks on the opposite side. As mentioned, this works ideally when wall mounting (antennae on the top, wiring on the bottom) but it could make for a desktop cluttered with wires unless you keep the antennae side facing front.

Getting started with the AWN-8060 requires the use of a Windows-based utility. It doesn't do much more than let you set the unit's IP address and then launch the browser on your behalf for further configuration. The major benefityou deploy numerous access points, because you can view and configure them from one place (though not en masse). The utility did successfully identify the AWN-8060 presence on my LAN even though it was set to a different IP subnet by default.

Once you get to the Web-based interface, it presents itself in a clean and organized fashion. It consists of a half-dozen administration screens encompassing various basic and advanced configuration options. Via this interface, Adaptec provides rudimentary security features like disabling the SSID beacon and filtering access by the client's MAC address.

A capability that is increasingly prevalent but that the AWN-8060 lacks is the ability to turn off or reduce the power of the radio transmitter. The AWN-8060 also cannot function as a repeater or bridge device the way some others can.

Strangely, the Web interface lets you disable the ability to perform and upgrade the unit firmware, but it does not provide a facility for actually doing the upgrade itself. For that, you go back to the Windows-based utility.

Given that the AWN-8060 is a garden-variety 802.11b product, I didn't expect earth-shattering performance. I did get performance consistent with other products in the category.

I tested the AWN-8060 against another Adaptec product; their AWN-8020 Ultra Wireless USB Adapter connected to my test laptop. The resultant throughput reached over 4.6 Mbps at close range, and it stayed right at that level all the way to 100 feet. Only at 125 feet did the AWN-8060's performance take a serious hit, dropping by more than half to 1.86 Mbps.

The AWN-8060 is a solid product, if not a particularly distinctive or noteworthy one. It does its job with a minimum of fanfare, delivering speed, easy setup, and reasonable value, and if you need to set up a number of basic 802.11 access points in an office environment, the AWN-8060 represents as good a choice as any. On the other hand, due to a lack of advanced features and things like the uncertainty of a WPA upgrade, the product's long-term utility is less certain.



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