Model: WA739P ($359.99)
Whether you’ve got a wireless office that just needs a wireless print server
or you have a SOHO that needs a wireless access point and print server all in
one, Hawking Technology has a deal for you with their Wireless 11M 3 Port Print
Server or AP (WA739P). It works well and can handle Windows, NetWare and
Unix print jobs without missing a beat.
- Good multiple OS support
- Excellent management support
- Only B? No A, B+ or G
- No on-board storage
First things first. I like this slim hardbound book sized combination print
server and router. a lot. While I have some problems with it, they’re really
not problems as problems, they’re more things I’d like to see take a good system
and have it become a great system.
Take, for example, that it has three bi-directional parallel ports. That’s
great, but, in addition, I’d like a USB port to support USB printers. Still,
I whine too much, since competitors like Linksys’ WPS11 have
only one port or while D-Link Systems’ DP-313 is feature
comparable it also costs more on the street with prices ranging from $169 to
$219 versus Hawking’s $131 to $191 (according to CNet’s
The WA739P also currently supports 802.11b, but not a, b+ or the almost but
not quite ready for prime-time 802.11g. Mind you it does very well at supporting
b. In tests in my office, the box did a yeoman’s job as an access point delivering
data at the usual rates at the usual distances.
I’d also like to see support for Fast Ethernet on the box. As is, it only supports
Ethernet’s 10Mbps. To act as a full-scale print server, it only needs some on-board
storage for big or several simultaneous middle-sized print jobs.
Really, though, for most SOHO uses, the WA739P has all
you need. In addition, the Hawking box includes support for NetWare (both Bindery
and eDirectory), Internet Printing Protocol (IPP), AppleTalk and Unix printing,
all of which makes the WA739P a real possibility for a small-to-medium (SMB)
business use. Additional on-board storage would go a long way to making it a
first choice for SMBs. As is, this difficulty could be overcome by using printers
with additional memory.
Another big plus for SMB users is that the WA739P comes with Management Information
Base (MIB) and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). This means that you
could use such management programs from SCO or Tivoli
to make WA729Ps an important part of a serious IT department’s printing efforts.
For instance, I was able to do basic management of the box using SCO’s Volution Manager,
the best of breed Linux network management program.
Of course, if you don’t know SNMP from a hole in the ground, the simple to
use Web-based administration interface, PSAdmin, give you all the control most
home or small business users could ever need over the device. Frankly, though,
once you’ve got it setup, you probably won’t need to administrate it. It’s a
perfect install and forget print server.
As you might guess from the above, installing the WA739P is almost as easy
as falling off a log. You plug it it, plug in the printers, run the Windows
based installation package from the supplied CD-ROM, and inside of five minutes
you should be running print jobs.
It’s not completely automatic, though, even on a Windows machine. For example,
my Windows XP system had trouble finding the box at first on the Fast Ethernet
LAN, but one reboot later, the two were talking.
The installation routine isn’t completely automatic either. After installing
the software, you need to manually run the install program. Still, it’s nothing
that any competent user can’t handle. Better still, the manual includes good,
step-by-step instructions for getting the WA739P to work with NetWare and the
other slightly more exotic operating systems. Joe User might have trouble, but
then again Joe User isn’t likely to be running NetWare either.
While the overall print performance for big jobs–a pair of 3MB PhotoShop images
and a single 12MB Quark document–was slower than using my usual solution of
three separate print servers for the HP DeskJet970Cse, HP LaserJet 1200 and
HP LaserJet 6P, a single WA739P is also a lot cheaper than a trio of
servers even at today’s rock bottom PC prices. Again, I’d pay good money for
an upgraded WA739P with its own hard-drive.
But, that’s me. Most small offices with a slew of Excel spreadsheets, OpenOffice
documents and the like will never see a performance hitch.
As for its work as a access point, it did just fine. Unless your 802.11b access
point performs exceptionally well, I wouldn’t hesitate a
close to your printers with a WA739P.
This is a no-brainer; if you need a good, inexpensive wireless print server
for a SOHO, then buy the WA739P. You won’t be sorry.
If you’ve got a bigger business, you might want to encourage Hawking to come
out with a more medium sized business model, but even as it is today the WA739P
is a winner.