Linksys Wireless-G Ethernet Bridge

Model: WET-54G

Price: $264 MSRP

Pros: Uses final 11g spec, supports PoE

Cons: High cost (even at $140 street), requires wired connection for configuration

By: Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

The first generation of Linksys’s 802.11g WET-54G Wireless-G Ethernet Bridge — an external Ethernet-to-wireless adapter — was good. This next generation, Version 2.0, is better.

Why? The reason is quite simple. WET-54G is using the real 802.11g, and not the draft. Along the way, Linksys, a Cisco company, has also debugged the firmware making for a smoother, faster bridge with marginally greater range.

Wi-Fi bridges have many uses. In my tests, I used a pair of WET-54Gs in two of the most common situations that call for a bridge. In the first, I used one to connect a laptop with damaged PCCard ports so it wouldn’t take conventional Wi-Fi cards. In the second, I used a WET-54G to connect a bank of low-end servers via an Ethernet router to the Local Area Network (LAN) without having to pull wire to the new server room. In both cases, the WET-54G performed like a champ.

One minor annoyance is that you must have a wired connection to the network to configure it. You simply can’t set it up over a Wi-Fi connection. Once done however, you can remotely manage the bridge wirelessly. Whether configuring via wired or wireless, you use a simple Web interface to setup and manage the device.

One of the WET-54G’s selling points is that you can use it with any device–Linux, MacOS, whatever–that has a conventional Ethernet port. That’s true, as I found out with a variety of Linux and BSD systems and even a 1991 vintage Mac IIsi, which I retrofitted with a conventional NuBus Ethernet card. But, you do have to set up the device first with a Windows system.

The box itself is about 2/3th the size of a paperback novel. It has three front panel LEDS: power, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi traffic. On the back panel, you’ll find a 100Mbps Fast Ethernet port and a medium dependent interface crossover (MDIX) switch. This switch is extremely handy so you can connect the bridge to an Ethernet hub, router or switch using a standard Ethernet cable instead of a crossover cable.

Performance wise, the WET-54G did extremely well. I was able to easily connect with decent throughput, 5Mbps, at ranges of over 200 feet and through walls and floors. Closer in, I saw normal Wi-Fi range (10 to 50 feet) real world performance in 802.11g mode of 14Mbps.

For security, the WET-54G is a little weak. It only supports 128-bit Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) security instead of the more secure, and increasingly more common, Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) standard.

If you’re going to place the WET-54G in a hard to reach place, it can run without an electrical outlet to call its own using an optional Power over Ethernet (PoE) adapter. In this configuration, power is supplied through the Ethernet cable.

All in all, I was very happy with the WET-54G, enough so that I’m buying my own for connecting the two offices and one server room in my home office. Still, at street prices of between $140 and $170, it’s not cheap. That said, when you need to put an Ethernet-based product on your WLAN, whether it’s to Wi-Fi enable older equipment or brings Wi-Fi connectivity to a hard to reach location; you usually really need this type of adapter. When you consider how well the WET-54G works, it’s worth the extra cost.

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