Round-up: 802.11g-based USB 2.0 Adapters - Page 4

By Joseph Moran

January 20, 2004

IOGear Wireless-G to USB 2.0 Flex Adapter

Model: GWU513
Price: $79.95
Pros: No cable tether, excellent performance
Cons: Dicey and Spartan client software

If I had to pick a favorite among the "gang of five" USB adapters, it would certainly be the IOGear GWU513 by a wide margin.

It's not necessarily because it exhibited the best throughput both near and far (though it did), but more because of the unique and highly convenient physical design of the device.

The Flex Adapter is the only device in the group which connects directly to the USB port rather than using a cable. This makes it the most flexible (no pun intended) and decidedly the most useful if you're looking for a USB adapter that can be truly mobile, connecting and disconnecting from a notebook computer with a minimum of fuss.

Once you've connected the GlobespanVirata PRISM GT-based Flex Adapter to the USB port, it can fold 180 degrees away from the port. And better yet, unlike similar USB adapters I've tested in the past, the fulcrum of the Flex Adapter can twist 300 degrees (not 360, as is conspicuously labeled on the unit) around for optimal (read: vertical) positioning of the antenna (like when the USB port itself is vertical on the computer). This design feature also helps ensure the Flex Adapter can connect to notebooks with problematically placed USB ports, like those that are recessed or behind a spring-loaded door.

Clearly, IOGear's design efforts went mainly into the hardware rather than the software, as the included client configuration utility included with the Flex Adapter (which works with any version of Windows including XP) is Spartan and generic. It provides the basic features including profiles, but strangely I couldn't successfully connect to a WLAN using it and needed to fall back to XP's Wireless Zero Configuration feature.

But the IOGear doesn't seem to suffer a performance penalty due to its small size and innovative design. In fact, its throughput performance was the best of the pack, albeit by a somewhat slim margin.

At 10 feet, throughput for the Flex Adapter was 22.22 Mbps, dropping to a still healthy 16.8 Mbps by a range 125 feet. The IOGear still suffered from the ever-present WPA performance penalty though, which in this case was slightly larger than typical. Turning on WPA at 10 feet dropped throughput to 14.44 Mbps, which translates into a drop of about 33%, though the actual throughput number was more or less on a par with the other devices.

When you consider that it is about the same price as its rivals, has excellent (non-encrypted) performance, the lack of a cumbersome USB cable, and a high degree of adjustability, choosing the IOGear Flex Adapter is almost a no-brainer.

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