Edimax Wireless nLITE High Gain USB Adaptor Page: 1

 

Introduction

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:

Edimax Technology is dedicated to the design, development, manufacturing and marketing of a broad range of networking solutions. Since Edimax was founded in Taiwan in 1986, the company has grown to be among Asia's leading manufacturers of advanced network communication products. Edimax is headquartered in Taipei County, Taiwan, Republic of China, and is listed at the Taiwanese Stock Exchange since 2001. In 2006, the company's revenue reached US $78 million and its current workforce counts over 750 employees worldwide.

(taken from the Edimax website)
 

The new adaptor has generated some good sales figures since it was released, with over 3000 units being bought by resellers on just the first day of release. With it's mix of up to date features and a competitive price point, it looks like Edimax are on to a winner with their new wireless adaptor. Time to take a closer look now, and see exactly what it has to offer.


Specifications and Features

• Complies with wireless 802.11b/g standards
• Compatible with wireless 802.11n standard with data rate up to 150Mbps
• Increases wireless coverage 3 times further
• Rotatable Antenna: 90 degree of vertical angle and 180 degree of horizontal angle
• Includes multi-language EZmax setup wizard
• Supports 64/128-bit WEP, WPA , WPA2 encryption and WPS-compatible

HARDWARE INTERFACE STANDARDFREQUENCY 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)
DATA RATE INSTALLATION LED
• 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
SECURITYDIMENSION 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

Moving on, let's see what you get for your money and take a look at the packaging and contents on the next page.



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Packaging

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.
 

Edimax wireless nLITE USB adaptor - Front of Package  Edimax wireless nLITE USB adaptor - Rear of Package 

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.


Contents
 
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.

Edimax wireless nLITE USB adaptor - Contents 1  Edimax wireless nLITE USB adaptor Contents 2

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.

Edimax wireless nLITE USB adaptor  Edimax wireless nLITE USB adaptor Base

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.

Edimax wireless nLITE USB adaptor plugged into base  Edimax wireless nLITE USB adaptor and base close up 

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. 



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Installation

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:

Setup step 1  Setup step 2

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.

Setup step 3  Setup step 4

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.

Setup step 5  Setup step 6

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.

Edimax Wireless Utility Picture1  Edimax Wireless Utility Picture2

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.

The WPS button  The WPS settings page

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.



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Testing

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:

Host PC
Asus P6T onboard Realtek® 8111C PCIe Gigabit LAN controller featuring AI NET2

Wireless router
Edimax nMax Wireless 802.11n Gigabit Router

Client PC
Sony Vaio using:
 -Edimax Wireless nLITE High Gain USB Adaptor 
 -Belkin F5D7050 USB Wireless adaptor,

We will be transferring a 701MB AVI file from the host to the client PC, testing both wireless adaptors for data transfer rates. The tests will include a run at 802.11g mode to draw a direct comparison, but as the Belkin adaptor is only 802.11g compatible, we cannot perform comparisons in 802.11n mode. The results will show, however, the increased performance of 802.11n mode over 802.11g, using the Edimax adaptor.


The graph quite clearly highlights two factors that favour the Edimax adaptor. The first is the ability to utilise 802.11n mode, as it drastically reduces data transfer times. The other is that the 3db high gain antenna on the Edimax adaptor allows for quicker data transfers than the Belkin adaptor due to better wireless reception. All the tests were carried out with the laptop in exactly the same location and distance from the router. Three runs were done on each test, the results shown are an average of the three runs.


Testing for working range

We recorded the signal strength of each wireless adaptor and measured it in dBm. The values recorded show negative numbers and nearer to 0 the result is, the stronger the signal. As wireless signals are heavily affected by the environment in which they are being used, these results are not conclusive, but they do show the difference in performance quite nicely. The property in which the adaptors were tested is a 2 story victorian house, with solid brick partitioning walls, and it does put any wireless network through it's paces. As in the above tests, we could only test the Edimax adaptor in both 802.11g and 802.11n modes, as the Belkin adaptor is only 802.11g compliant.


 


The Edimax adaptor clearly has the edge over the Belkin adaptor, in terms of effective range whilst in 802.11g mode. This is due again to the antenna that the Edimax adaptor features. It can be rotated to an upright position, whereas the Belkin adaptor is similar to a USB memory stick, so the antenna is on a horizontal plane, which is the worst plane possible for a wireless antenna. The quality of the Edimax antenna itself is also much greater than the Belkin.

So now the test results are in, it's time to draw our final conclusions, over on the next page.


Edimax Wireless nLITE High Gain USB Adaptor Page: 5

Conclusions

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


The Good
+
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.

The Mediocre
* White may not be to everyones tastes, but thats a personal choice.
Not full speed 802.11n

The Bad
- Nothing to report

 

OC3D Value for Money AwardOC3D Editor's Choice 

Our thanks go to Edimax for providing us with this review sample. You can discuss this review within our forums.