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Hawking Technology's Wireless 11M CardBus PC Card & Wireless 11M USB LAN Adapter

Models:
CardBus Card: WE120P ($99)
USB LAN Adapter: WU250 ($179)

What's that you say? You want a single brand name 802.11b network interface card (NIC) for all your laptop, PC and PDA needs? And ones that can handle USB and PCI? 32-bit CardBus or 16-bit PC Card? Well, my friend, look no further because Hawking Technology) has the cards for you.

Pros

  • Multiple platform support
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • The market lifetime for 'b' only cards is shrinking
  • Ad hoc mode on the slow side.

BASIC FEATURES

At this point in their development, one 802.11b card is pretty much like every other 802.11b card in terms of basic functionality. In these two adapters, the WE120P CardBus and WU250 USB external model, both come with full 802.11b compatibility and 64-bit Wireless Equivalent Privacy (WEP).

There is one key non-performance difference between cards: How well do they work with other company's NICs and wireless access points (WAP)s. And, here, our tests showed that Hawking Technology's cards can fly with the best.

We tested the two cards using a Hawking Technology's WA739P, 3-Port Wireless Print Server; a D-Link DI-754 AirPro Multimode router using a D-Link DWL-650+ for 802.11b compatibility and an older but still game SMC EZ Connect 802.11b 2655W WAP. Regardless of what box was slinging the data into the air, the NICs were able to keep talking.

Regardless of the WAP, Hawking's NICs did as well in terms of range as the WAP's native NICs. Still, if you have doubts about just how compatible 802.11b devices really are with each other, Hawking offers a complete family of cards for almost any modern digital device and WAPs to go with them.

The prices, while they sound high, if you just look at the list, are actually quite reasonable. You should be able to find these cards for about half list price. Unfortunately, Hawking doesn't have as wide a distribution as Linksys or D-Link, so you're more likely to find them via an online reseller than your local computer shop.

SETUP/INSTALLATION

Plug in, pop in the CD, install, go. It's really that easy. On the Windows XP machines, you'll get to see Microsoft's typical scare warning about how the adapter's drivers are unsigned and therefore might not work at all, might do terrible things to your PC, or even might cause your cow to stop giving milk. Trust Us, Hawking's cards will work. Or, at least they did on our Pentium III powered HP Pavilions and even on bottom of the line eMachines T1862 and Microtel's Sysmar 709. On the laptop side, the CardBus card worked flawlessly on a Toshiba Satellite 2805 and an IBM ThinkPad A20P, both of these are older model laptops running with 700MHz Pentium IIIs.

PERFORMANCE

802.11b has two operational modes: ad hoc (aka peer-to-peer) where wireless devices talk directly to one another, and infrastructure, where everyone connects to a WAP, which more often than not also connects you to wired network resources and the Internet. Ad hoc is usually easier to set up, but a mess to manage. There is, however, a functional difference as well.

At close range to a WAP or a NIC in ad hoc mode, the Hawking cards came in with a decent, albeit nothing to write home about 4.0 Mbps. But as we ranged out to medium range -- where your "theoretical" bandwidth drops from 11 to 5.5Mbps -- we found that with a WAP it was still getting a reasonable 3.1 Mbps but the ad hoc mode dropped to 2.4Mbps. At ranges where the WAP and NICs in combination were still crawling along at a few hundred Kbps, the ad hoc mode had given up the ghost.

None of this is surprising. A WAP's bunny ear antennas may look silly, but they're still better at omnidirectional sending and receiving than any NIC's can be. The moral of the tale is that while Hawking cards do as well as any others in ad hoc mode, to really get the most out of them you need a WAP.

Taken as a whole, the Hawking NICs performance was good but not outstanding.

SUMMARY

Hawking makes nice, solid cards. If you want to keep all your wireless devices under one brand at a reasonable price, Hawking deserve your attention -- they have everything you need for every device you own.. Our only concern is that all Hawking currently offers is 802.11b. If you want speed, you'll need to go to another vendor.