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SMC EZ Connect 2.4GHz 11 Mbps Wireless Ethernet Adapter

Model: SMC2670W
Price: $78
Rating: 2 out of 5

As wireless bridges go, the SMC EZ Connect 2.4GHz 11 Mbps Wireless Ethernet Adapter is so svelte that it could probably get lost between the cushions of a couch.

Based on standard 802.11b technology, the EZ Connect SMC2670W is capable of transforming any Ethernet-equipped device into a wireless network device. Once the bridge has been configured you only need to attach it to the unit's Ethernet port by way of a crossover cable -- a straight through Ethernet patch cord will not do. Like the D-Link DWL-810 bridge, the SMC doesn't provide an auto-sensing uplink port or a toggle switch, forcing you to use the included crossover cable. This arrangement makes us appreciate the straight through/crossover switch the Linksys' WET11 provides. However, like the other bridge products, the EZ Connect has no device drivers to load, so there are no compatibility problems to deal with.

While configuration of a Wireless device of this kind should be as easy as pie, the 2670W did give me some significant difficulties. For starters, the included application which allows initial configuration to take place was unable to locate the connected 2670W after several attempts. I got around this by manually matching my Ethernet adapter to the default subnet of the SMC.

This brings me to another problem--the Web-based configuration interface. Although its design and layout is good, it exhibited temperamental behavior. It was extremely slow to respond to input and very often froze up, necessitating a page refresh or even a restart of the browser.

One I got the unit correctly configured, it was time to do some performance testing. Unfortunately, this yielded more bad news. When compared with the two similar devices from Linksys and D-Link, the SMC 2670W displayed significantly less speed and consistency in its performance numbers. The best throughput the SMC could muster was about 3 Mbps. Moreover, the performance dropped to 2.5 Mbps at 50 feet, and at 100 ft, the unit could not communicate with the access point long enough to successfully conclude the test.

As expected, the 2670's (albeit meager) performance did not suffer at the hands of WEP encryption. However, trying to turn WEP on revealed another interface-related issue -- my initial attempt to enter an 128-bit key into the unit was rejected for being an incorrect length, even though the same key was accepted by the D-Link DI-614+ access point I was aiming to connect to.

After a few muttered profanities and a bit of trial and error, I discovered that the 2670W only accepts ASCII WEP keys, not the choice of ASCII or HEX-based keys that most SOHO WLAN products offer. The WEP section of the interface does not indicate this; it simply provides a space to type a key, and then admonishes you that the key is wrong without further information. After reconfiguring the access point to use an ASCII key, the SMC was successfully able to associate.

Clearly, the SMC 2670W leaves quite a bit to be desired in several major areas of operation. Some of this may be mitigated by the unit's extremely low price--at $78, it's around $20 cheaper than many of its competitors.

If it were just an issue of a quirky and uncooperative interface, I could get more excited about the product, but factor in the unit's weak performance and limited range, and even a low price can't make the product enticing.

Therefore, if you're in the market for a 2.4 GHz Wireless Bridge, you'd be better served by either the D-Link or Linksys offerings, or perhaps by waiting for the 2470W, a follow-on product from SMC that's due in mid-March that will support the so-called 802.11b+ that gives higher speeds when used with access points based on Texas Instrument's Wi-Fi chip.