D-Link Access Point Squeezes More Speed Out of 802.11b

D-Link Systems Inc.’s five-mode DWL-900AP+ is not just another drably clothed, cheap and effective 802.11b access point. It’s also a lot faster than your average drably clothed, cheap and effective 802.11b access point.

According to D-Link, the DWL-900AP+, based on Texas Instruments’ WLAN chip set, is 20 percent faster than standard 802.11b. I found this to be true in tests: The DWL-900AP+ performed at about 22M bps, compared with 802.11b’s stated 11M-bps rate. TI’s Packet Binary Convolutional Coding (PBCC) technology enables this higher transfer rate and might delay the need to migrate from 802.11b to 802.11a or g for faster performance.

The DWL-900AP+’s radio “repeater” function increases coverage by adding a second base station without, as is normally required, hard-wiring the units together. Data picked up from an existing network is repeated over the air. Using several units in repeater mode, you could create a “mini-cellular” network with substantial coverage area.

In tests, it couldn’t have been easier to get the D-Link system up and running. I connected the unit to a router port and was on the air immediately with a new “default” wireless network. Joining an existing wireless network, or adding refinements such as Ethernet bridging and security, takes a bit more attention.

The unit is browser-configurable: Just type in the supplied IP number and, barring IP conflicts, off you go. Turns out I did run into an IP conflict during testing, but was able to overcome it by using a standard Cat.5 Ethernet cable to address the unit directly and assign a new IP address. Configuration thereafter was straightforward.

One very pleasant surprise was the great range of the DWL-900AP+, exceeding that of my Apple Airport Base station by approximately 30 percent. Furthermore, the accessible antenna connection invites the tinkerers among us to extend range even further.

D-Link offers a free, 24/7 toll-free support number that was accessible and effective during tests. During one peak-time call I waited only 11 minutes for help. An hour later, there was no wait at all. D-Link followed up by e-mailing me a helpful detailed summary of the session.

The list price of the DWL-900AP+ is $129; street price is about $90.

Russ Windman can be reached at rtw@windman.com.

Copyright © 2003 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in eWEEK.

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