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)
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)
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.