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Buffalo AirStation 11Mbps Wireless USB Tranceiver

Model: WLI-USB-L11G -- $110 average street price

The Buffalo Technology Wireless USB adapter is a hardware clone of the ORiNOCO USB adapter.  But BuffaloTech's Client software is a different story...

Pros:
- 64 and 128 bit WEP encryption
- Good performance vs. range
- Good pricing

Cons:
- 20% throughput decrease with WEP enabled.
- Client utility not helpful with non-AirStation APs.


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Product Stats

View a summary of Buffalo AirStation's wireless capabilities.

Buffalo Tech Wireless USB adapter [Click to go to product website!]The Short Story

The adapter has the same FCCID as ORiNOCO's USB Gold adapter, which means the hardware is exactly the same.  Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the software, or more specifically, the Client Utility that Buffalo Tech provides.

Although Buffalo Tech has improved the utility (adding a Scan AP function) somewhat over the version that I looked at previously, testing the Buffalo USB with an Access Point other than an AirStation showed some weaknesses that I hadn't previously seen.

The USB did connect to my standard AP (an SMC2655W), but I found that the Buffalo Client Manager didn't give me much help in making the connection.  Here are the problems that I found:

  • The AP Scan function will show only Buffalo Airstations, even if you're successfully connected to a different manufacturer's AP!

  • The "Test Connection" function works only with AirStations.

  • Although the User Manual says that you can use "ANY" for an ESSID to connect to any AP without knowing the exact ESSID, I found that I had to either leave the ESSID blank or use my AP's exact ESSID to establish connection.

  • The System Tray indicator is confusing.  It shows signal "bars", which usually indicate connection, but they're black (although sometimes they'd show up as blue).

The upshot of these issues is that you get mixed messages as to the operating state of the client and need to test your connection in ways other than relying on the Client Manager (i.e. winipcfg/ipconfig, opening your web browser, etc.)

And, yes, I checked to see if I could get the Buffalo USB to work with the ORiNOCO drivers and Client Manager, but wasn't able to.  I suspect some editing of the .INF files would do the trick.

Performance

I did a quick check of Transfer Rate (Throughput) with the USB and AP about 6 feet apart and got results that were essentially the same as I obtained with the ORiNOCO USB Gold, both with and without WEP enabled.

Summary

Even though I found the USB priced as low as $110, vs. $140 for the ORiNOCO USB Gold, I wouldn't recommend it over the ORiNOCO unless you're an AirStation owner, or you're willing to live with the Client Manager shortcomings.

Want to talk about it? Use the Forums.