Product Reviews

A Day in the Wireless Playground

SMC has a full line of cards, bridges and routers.

Remember your first cell phone? It was quite the novelty. Now you can’t imagine life without one. The same thing happened with wireless networking. Once a simple tech treat, wireless is fast becoming an absolute necessity.

There are plenty of companies vying for your wireless business, and SMC has a line of products that stand out among the crowd. I took a look at five different SMC 2.4GHz products that performed rather well. Two of them are 802.11b (11 Mbps) and 3 are 802.11g (54 Mbps) with 802.11b compatibility.

The first thing I had to try was the SMC2802W PCI card with the SMC2804WBRP-G router (also called Barricade). Setup requires connecting your PC to the router with a wired card through a hub or crossover cable. Once the router’s set up you can start using the wireless card and remove the wired card altogether. This was a little frustrating at first, but it’s easy enough to get a wired card for setup. The PCI card was simple to install on my Windows 2003 Enterprise server, complete plug-n-play. Once everything was configured, it ran very well. I went to a number of Internet sites through the router and it was only nominally slower than my 10/100 wired Ethernet card.

Next up was the SMC2835W 802.11g PCMCIA laptop card. Again, it was easy to install through XP Pro—just plug it in and let it install. The card connected to the router and I was transferring files and surfing the net at the same speed as my desktop server (about 54 Mbps). The laptop and desktop were both talking to each other through the router quite well when they were right next to each other, so I decided to move around. I live in one of those old houses with lots of metal pipes and thick floors, so I thought the signal would drop for sure when I went downstairs, but I was wrong; the signal strength declined very little. The connection stayed fast and never dropped.

One of the other nice features of the router is the built-in firewall. It isn’t firewall utopia, but it holds its own and is certainly a nice perk. It also has a built-in USB print server; just plug in the printer, and anything connected to the router (wired or wireless) can print to it. And I had still more toys to play with.

SMC Barricade
Barricade can connect to an ISP in a variety of ways, including static IP and PPTP. (Click image to view larger version.)

Next, I tried out the 802.11b wireless bridge/access point with the SMC2532W-B PCMCIA card next. Although this is a slower connection than 802.11g, it still worked quite well. I connected my server and the bridge to my wired hub, then used the laptop with the card to connect through the bridge to my server and transfer files back and forth, even downstairs.

I found two small problems with the units. First, the router and bridge have DHCP servers built in, but they didn’t work very well for me. Sometimes I got an address, sometimes I didn’t. I had to configure the cards manually, but that’s easy to do. Also, all of these units are supposed to be interchangeable; 802.11b working with 802.11g and vice versa. This wasn’t the case. The units worked great together, but when I tried to use the 802.11g components with 802.11b components I got unreliable and slow connections.

If you’re in the market for wireless devices, you might want to take a serious look at SMC.

About the Author

Joseph L. Jorden, MCSE, MCT, CCNA, CCDA is Chief Technical Officer for Dugger & Associates (www.Dugger-IT.com). He was one of the first 100 people to achieve the MCSE+I and one of the first 2,000 to become an MCSE under Windows 2000. Joseph frequently contributes to books from Sybex and various periodicals.

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