US Robotics USR2249 22Mbps 802.11b Access Point

Model Number: USR2249 ($189.99 MSRP)

With the release of the Texas Instrument
ACX100 chipset
, 802.11b networking has doubled in speed. US Robotics (USR) has released their product suite
based on this new chipset, including the USR 2249 Access Point. It has a small
footprint and setup either via the provided application or via a Web interface.
While a standard access point in many respects, the enhanced performance from
the ACX100 seems to be worth the few extra dollars.

Pros:

  • Small footprint
  • Truly double the data transmission rate over standard 11Mbps 802.11b
  • Very easy out of the box configuration/setup

Cons:

  • Higher price tag than other 802.11b products
  • "Auto" transmit rate setting on client usually drops to 11Mbps

BASIC FEATURES

In our society’s ever growing need for "speed," the 22Mbps 802.11b
US Robotics 2249 Access Point is a step in the right direction. Backwards compatible
with 11Mbps 802.11b devices, this device provides all the same security and
features as existing products.

The access point’s small footprint is the same basic dual-antenna model as
previously offered by USR and similar to those offered by Belkin. There is no
noticeable heat output from the device as seen in several other brand access
points and only the constant "RED" LED may confuse users that there
is a problem, but it’s really only a power indicator.

This 2249 also takes the next step in WEP to 256-bit. The
included CD-ROM provides full documentation as well as the drivers and utilities
for both the Access Point as well as the PC Card and PCI card radio NICs.

SETUP/INSTALLATION

Quickly plugging the access point (AP) into the network with a standard RJ-45
connection and with the included power adapter was painless. On the CD, there
is an AP configuration application that automatically finds your new hardware
and allows you to set it up. Additionally, you can setup the unit via your Web
browser with all the same functions.

Default settings allow the AP to retrieve an IP address from your DHCP server
and shows link immediately. The Web-based setup program provides for full configuration
of the unit as a DHCP client or specified IP, authentication by MAC address
and your choice of 64, 128 or even 256-bit encryption. The MAC address validation
table can always come in handy so you can keep those nosy neighbors off your
network.

Included documentation for this preview unit was fairly basic, however it was
not really necessary at all.

PERFORMANCE

If you are reading this review, you are probably looking for confirmation of
one simple function — speed. What type of performance can you expect? Let’s
take a quick look at comparisons.

With a standard 802.11b 11MB Access Point, typical TCP throughput speeds range
from 3.4-3.6Mbps. Thankfully, the 22MB CardBus and PCI card NICs have no trouble
talking to an "older" 802.11b access point either.

When these cards are used with USR’s 22MB access point, they consistently perform
between 6.3-6.7Mbps, nearly double the rate of the "old" 11Mbps. Range
of the access point was similar to that of previous 802.11b products, with an
inside range of up to 150 feet, external up to 250 or more.

Other brands of 11Mbps PC cards were tested against the 22MB Access Point,
which worked at the same speeds of 3.4-3.6Mbps. There was no problem with the
protocol negotiation between the older interface cards and the newer access
point.

SECURITY

This new AP also includes a new 256-bit encryption mode, providing corporate
environments with even more durable data security. The standard MAC address
validation feature also provides for validation of users. None of these security
enhancements caused any noticeable speed decrease during testing.

SUMMARY

802.11b is the standard for now and the near future. The ACX100 doesn’t change
that, just enhances it a bit, and the price increase (around $25 more than other
802.11b 11Mbps access points) is worth it. Browsing internal LAN resources is
much more efficient, and the streaming video you keep on your office PC can
now be watched with much greater consistency relaxing on the patio with your
notebook. Considering that it’s slated to be compatible with the upcoming 802.11g
standard (in 2003) that will run at 54Mbps, it could also be a good investment
for the future.

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