The humble wireless network adaptor is often something that is overlooked by it's users. As long as it does it's job, then the user is happy. After all, there isn't much to distinguish one model and brand from the other. Or is there? With this question in mind, we will be taking a close look at the Edimax Wireless nLITE High Gain USB Adaptor. Before we take a look at the new adaptor, let's find out about Edimax:
|HARDWARE INTERFACE||STANDARD||FREQUENCY BAND|
|• 1 USB 1.0/2.0 Type A |
• 3 dBi High-Gain rotatable antenna
|• IEEE802.11b, 802.11g||• 2.4000~2.4835GHz |
(Industrial Scientific Medical Band)
|• 11b: 1/2/5.5/11Mbps |
• 11g: 6/9/12/24/36/48/54Mbps
• 11n (20MHz): MCS0-7 (up to 72Mbps)
• 11n (40MHz): MCS0-7 (up to 150Mbps)
|• Multi-language EZmax Setup Wizard||• Link/Activity|
|SECURITY||DIMENSION||HUMIDITY & TEMPERATURE|
|• WEP 64/128, WPA, WPA2 |
• Cisco CCX Support
• WPS configuration
|• 15(H) x 15(W) x 155(D) mm||• Max. 95% (Non Condensing) |
• 32~104°F (0~40°C)
|SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS||OUTPUT POWER||CERTIFICATIONS|
|• Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Mac OS||• 11n: 14dBm±1dBm, |
• 11g: 14dBm±1dBm,
• 11b: 17dBm±1dBm
|• CE, FCC|
The adaptor comes in a sealed plastic affair, the type that requires scissors to be able to open. Packaging of this type is probably my least favourite as it can sometimes make products look cheap and tacky. In this case though, the package does look well presented and quite stylish. You get a sneak peek at the adaptor and it's base through the inner cardboard cutout. The inner cardboard also has the main features of the product printed on the front, with foreign translations of this on the rear.
The packaging does it's job well. All the contents were securely in place and overall, it does look quite attractive. As I mentioned, the welded plastic type of packaging is my least favourite, but that's a personal issue I have.
Upon opening the package, you will find the USB adaptor, a base unit, the software/manual CD, and a quickstart instruction leaflet. No frills, no fuss. For a product of this type, there is no call for fancy extras and everything you need is supplied.
As is the norm nowadays, the full manual is located on the CD in PDF format, along with the drivers and software for the adaptor. The quick installation manual gives clear and precise instructions, which when followed will have the adaptor up and running in no time.
The adaptor itself features a USB plug, to which the antenna is attached via a rotatable hinge. This allows you to move the antenna through 180 degrees, so as to find the optimum reception. Located on the USB plug is a single small button, and we shall discuss the purpose of this button later. There is also a single LED, which shows network activity.
The adaptor can be plugged as is straight into a spare USB port on the host computer, or it can be used with the supplied base unit. The base unit allows you to move the antenna around for best reception or to hide it out of view. There is over a metre's length of cable from the base unit. I quite like the look of the adaptor and the colour coordinated base unit. They look very clean and sleek, and the base unit is heavy enough to keep the antenna stable when it's pugged into it.
Next we shall take a look at what it takes to get this baby up and running, on the next page.
Setting up the adaptor is a breeze and you can't go wrong. It really is quite simple and it just requires a few steps in the rather funky looking EZMAX setup wizard to get the adaptor up and running:
Upon entering the CD you will be greeted with a welcome message. From there you have to select the relevant adaptor from the available choices.
Once you have selected the correct adaptor, you are asked to plug it into a USB port on your PC. It takes a few seconds to install the drivers, after which you are asked to consent to the license agreement.
After having agreed on the license, the wireless adaptor is then working and active. A list will appear, with all wireless networks in range. As you can see from the image above, my neighbours aren't too hot on wi-fi security. Once you have selected the right network you are asked to provide the security key (if the network is secured). And that's it. Once all the above steps have been completed, the wireless connection should be established. The installation process doesn't require a restart and once it is complete, the Edimax wireless Utility application opens.
The Edimax Wireless Utility
The wireless utility is quite a powerful application, which allows you to control all functions of the adaptor, from searching for new wireless networks through to security options. A first glimpse of the application could be quite daunting to those with little or limited experience, but as the connection should have been established already in the setup process, users could get away with changing very little within the wireless utility or even leaving it alone.
An interesting feature of the adaptor is the ability to use WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup), which is intended to simplify the process of securing a wireless network. Basically, both the router and the wireless adaptor need be WPS enabled, and the process of securing the connection between the two is similar to securing a wireless connection. All Wi-Fi certified equipment should be WPS enabled. If the two devices have WPS push buttons, then it would just be a case of pushing the buttons and the network would be secured. If the router did not have a WPS push button, then the nLITE High Gain USB Adaptor can also utilise the WPS PIN method, in which a PIN would be entered on both the router's config pages, and the wireless adaptor utility. I mentioned a button located on the adaptor earlier in the review, and this is the WPS button.
Having testing the WPS feature, I can say that it works well and is a quick and easy way to secure a wireless network. Configuring security features can be quite daunting to those who have little or no experience so this is a very welcome feature. There are plenty of other features within the application, allowing you to set profiles, scan for networks and show network statistics amongst other things. There should be enough options available within the utility to keep networking buffs happy, and yet it is intuitive enough for the newcomer to get to grips with. The PDF manual supplied on the CD does explain most of the major functions quite nicely.
For the purposes of testing the wireless adaptor, I will be using an Edimax nMax Wireless 802.11n Gigabit router as the access point. I will be testing and recording data transfer rates, in 802.11g and 802.11n modes, To be able to draw comparisons, I will also be using a Belkin F5D7050 USB Wireless adaptor, but only in 802.11 g mode, as this adaptor is not 802.11n compliant.
Testing of data transfer rates
Here is our test system setup:
The Edimax Wireless nLITE High Gain USB adaptor has quite surprised me to be honest. At the price point it is at, I didn't expect it to be so feature packed and give as good performance as it has. The styling of the adaptor is very Apple-esque, but that's not a criticism. I like the clean looks and honest build. Everything is there for a reason and there are no silly gimmicks. It's attractively packaged, and installation was very easy. As soon as the adaptor was installed, it picked up my network straight away without any fuss. Establishing a secure connection to the router with the WPS feature was just a case of pressing a button on the router and adaptor, this is something that I cannot praise highly enough, as some people struggle to secure their wireless networks and anything that makes the task easier is a definite bonus.
Although the Edimax adaptor touts 802.11n compliance, as the nLITE in the product name suggests, it's at the reduced rate of upto 150 Mbps, from the full rate of 300Mbps. Even so, as the test results have proven, it still massively outperforms 802.11g, and is a definite step up. Considering the price point, I don't see the fact that the adaptor does not give 300Mbps a problem in any way. The working range of the adaptor was good enough that I didn't suffer connection drop outs, both in 802.11g and 802.11n modes, anywhere within my property. I have personally used many wireless adaptors before and struggled to receive an acceptable signal strength from upstairs to down due to the house being so solidly built. The adaptor is currently available to buy from Novatech for £19.79
+ Features & software make this adaptor both simple to set up and use.
+ Styling - Simple and effective.
+ Hassle free wireless access - good data transfer rates & signal strength.
+ Very reasonably priced.
* White may not be to everyones tastes, but thats a personal choice.
* Not full speed 802.11n
- Nothing to report