D-Link AirPro 2.4GHz/5GHz Multimode Wireless Access Point

Model: DWL-6000AP ($299.99)

If you’re waiting for a single wireless standard to rise up and make your WLAN
life easier–forget about it. In 2003, you’ll face choices between 802.11a,
b, b+, and various flavors of 802.11g (depending on the chips used by either
Texas Instruments, Intersil, or Broadcom, so far). No, there will be no Wi-Fi
unity in 2003, so perhaps the best thing you can do is to buy dual-radio 2.4GHz/5GHz
wireless equipment. One of the best is with D-Link’s DWL-6000AP access point with
its speedy 802.11a and 802.11b+ combination.

Pros

  • Excellent administration interface
  • Dual Ethernet/Fast Ethernet bridge
  • Two wireless standards in one Access Point

Cons

  • A few fit and polish problems

D-Link may not have been the very first with a dual-mode access point (AP)
with the DWL-6000AP, but they were darn close. Sometimes being the first means
that you’re the worse. That’s not the case here.

The only problem this AP has is that the box still says it’s just running 802.11a
and 802.11b. That was true of the first models, those built from April 2002
through August 2002, but the current generation actually have Texas Instrument-powered
22Mbps 802.11b+ for a bit more range and speed while maintaining compatibility
with your older 802.11b network interface cards (NICs).

Otherwise, though, you’d never know this is the first of a new generation of
APs. You can see it from the start with the easy as pie installation. You simply
hook the AP into a switch, a PC, or, in my case, a hub with an Ethernet cable,
pop the installation CD in, and put in the power plug. Inside of a minute, you’ll
be running the wizard installation routine. Unless you’re getting fancy with
your network, you’ll be running new PCs off your new Wi-Fi network as quickly
as you can reset their SSIDs.

Both the 2.4Ghz 802.11b+ and the 5Ghz 802.11a delivered their usual speeds–no
where close to their theoretical 22Mbps and 54Mbps respectively–but more than
fast enough for Internet browsing and light file sharing in b’s case and quick
enough to keep small office users happy when using 802.11a devices. In brief,
D-Link delivers exactly what you expect when you buy the box, solid performance
with both popular wireless standards.

Like any other high-end AP, the DWL-6000AP includes such fundamentals as a
built-in bridge between both Ethernet and Fast Ethernet 10-Base T networks with
a single integrated port. The trade paperback sized box comes with a pair of
dual 5dBi integrated antennas.

The DWL-6000AP has more than just the basics going for it. The Web-based administration
interface is a pleasure to use and, of far more importance, it gives you excellent
control over the access point.

For example, if lets you set up usage filters using Access Control Lists (ACL)s
based on Media Access Controller (MAC) addresses. It can also be used with a
static IP address, with a dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) assigned
address or act as a DHCP server on its own.

While Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), may be breakable, the DWL-6000AP makes
a would-be cracker job as hard as possible by offering user-selectable encryption
settings of up to 152-bit WEP on the 5GHz side and 256-bit WEP on the 2.4GHz
band. It’s no Fort Knox, but 152-bit WEP is more than enough to prevent casual
break-ins.

There was, however, one odd quirk. When I tried to use the 6000AP’s in-context
help feature, my Windows XP system told me that to display the help message
properly I needed to have the Chinese Traditional language pack installed. I
ignored it and the help displayed properly, but D-Link needs to do a little
cleaning up of their help files before releasing them to the typical American
user.

Those are minor blemishes. For my money, the DWL-6000AP wasn’t only one of
the first dual-mode access points on the market; it’s also the first-prize winner.

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