Netgear 54 Mbps Wireless PC Card 32-bit CardBus
April 25, 2003
Great features, great performance and barely a quibble -- this card might be the best yet for 802.11g early adopters.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Netgear's $79 WG511 is a Cardbus WLAN NIC that supports 802.11g/b modes. (The WG511 is not to be mistaken for the WAG511, an 802.11a/b/g mode card which will be reviewed shortly.)
The silver-hued WG511 has two indicator lights, one to denote a wireless link and one for transmitting data. Because the lights are arranged away from the edge of the card, one or both might be obscured from view on a notebook with recessed PC Card slots. This is admittedly a minor nit.
Like the WG602 Access Point, the WG511 includes Netgear's GearBox, a browser-based application that offers lets technical users considerable hand-holding from initial set-up to product registration. It also includes electronic replicas of the printed manual and quick-start guide -- yes, you actually get printed documentation.The tabbed interface of the WG511's utility software is among the best I've seen. Notably, it includes a profiles feature (just like the Linksys WPC54G) to let you quickly store and retrieve wireless settings as you move between multiple networks.
It naturally lets you configure rudimentary WLAN settings like ad-hoc or infrastructure mode, SSID, WEP, and channel number. It doesn't on the other hand, let you specify a transmit rate in 11g mode.
One of the nice features of the software is the color-coded Windows system tray icon which displays green, yellow, or red to indicate a strong, weak, or non-existent signal.
The performance the Intersil Prism GT-based WG511, when paired with Netgear's WG602 802.11g access point, was within expectations. It yielded almost 20 Mbps of throughput at close range, though the drop in performance with increased distance was somewhat irregular when compared to some other 802.11g products. (See the WG602 review for detailed performance numbers.)
You also ought not to have much difficulty using the WG511 with non-Netgear devices. It associated successfully with a D-Link DWL-650+ wireless 802.11b router, (both with and without WEP enabled), as well as with several other 802.11g-based clients in ad-hoc mode.