Belkin Wireless Adapters

Models:
USB Adapter: F5D6050
Notebook Network Card: F5D6020
PCI Adapter: F5D6000

Whether you have a desktop or a notebook, whether you don’t mind opening the
case or don’t want any part of it, Belkin offers a suitable wireless 802.11
adapter. The Belkin family of wireless adapters offers excellent performance
and features, and simple set up so you’ll have a wireless network up and running
fast.

Pros:

  • Excellent documentation
  • Supports 128-bit WEP

Cons:

  • None

Basic Features

The $109 Wireless Notebook Network Card is a standard Type II CardBus card.
Our main complaint is the design of the antenna, which is basically a full-width
extension of the card sheathed in black plastic with an unmarked amber LED for
link and network activity. Functionally it’s fine. (For those who prefer it,
Belkin also offers a $49 PCI-based adapter that works in conjunction with the
Wireless Card, or you can buy the two in a bundle for $164 direct from the company
Web site.)

The stylish $109 USB adapter doesn’t require a separate power supply since
it gets its juice from the USB port. It uses dual adjustable antennas, while
a single LED denotes both power and network activity. The unit comes with a
6-foot USB device cable.

The USB unit has sturdy rubber feet so it stays where you put it, but a nice
touch is the inclusion of screw-mount points on the underside in case you want
to attach it to a wall. Mounting hardware is not included, so you must supply
your own screws.

Both the notebook card and the USB adapter support 64- and 128-bit WEP encryption
for security. I was able to successfully use both devices, with 128-bit encryption
enabled, to connect to an 802.11b access point from another vendor.

Driver support is provided for Windows 98, Me, NT, 2000, and XP. Belkin also
furnishes all of the products with 24/7 technical support and a lifetime warranty.

Setup/Installation

I installed the Wireless Network Card and the Wireless USB Adapter into a notebook
running Windows 2000. Both devices were correctly identified upon installation,
and I was prompted to insert the CD for the drivers to be copied. The setup
utility comes next; it runs the products’ respective configuration utilities,
which appear in the Windows system tray. (Using the PCI adapter requires the
additional step of doing the physical driver installation for that device before
performing the above process.)

The configuration utility lets you change any number of 802.11 parameters,
including the mode (Ad-Hoc or Infrastructure), SSID, or the transmit rate. You
can also use the utility to set up 64- or 128-bit encryption.

Performance

I tested the performance of the Belkin Wireless Notebook PC Card against another
product in the family, the Belkin Wireless Access Point.

The performance was very good, and perhaps more importantly, speeds were stable
and consistent as well. Generally speaking, the performance did not degrade
as I put distance (and floors) between the client and the access point. Enabling
full 128-bit WEP encryption only impacted performance minimally.

TCP throughput using the Belkin Access Point averaged about 4.3Mbps throughout
our range of conditions with encryption turned off. UDP Throughput was slightly
lower, at around 3.7Mbps. When I activated 128-bit WEP, TCP Throughput maintained
its previous level without missing a beat, but the UDP Throughput scores dropped
slightly to 3.1Mbps.

Testing the adapters in Ad Hoc mode (sans access point) without WEP enabled
I got a TCP throughput of 3.8Mbps from client to client.

Summary

Considering how easy the Belkin Wireless Adapters are to set up, that’s reason
alone to consider them. However, factor in the excellent docs, support, and
performance, and the Belkin family of 802.11 wireless adapters is a worthy addition
to your network.

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