Both manufacturers provided us with wireless PCMCIA cards, and X-Micro provided us with a wireless PCI card for desktop systems as well. Compex does not offer a wireless PCI card. Both Compex’s and X-Micro’s 802.11g PCMCIA cards performed exactly as advertised, and we didn’t experience any unanticipated problems with any of the devices. We should note, however, that using the wireless PCI card in a desktop system did result in a generally lower Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) than observed with the PCMCIA cards. This can be a result of several factors, including physical placement (the back of a PC case on the floor is less exposed than the side of a laptop using a PCMCIA card), and interference from other devices in the system. Compex cited these as contributing reasons why it chose not to offer a PCI card. We still found the card useful, nonetheless. There are situations in which a wireless desktop is handy.
In terms of performance, all of the devices faired quite well. We’ve chosen to omit concrete performance numbers from this article, primarily because there are significant physical/environmental issues that make it difficult to create a controlled scenario in which these types of wireless devices can be directly compared, free of other influence. We can safely say, however, that having spent several weeks using all of these devices, they’re virtually indiscernible in terms of throughput performance and link stability when used in normal mode, while the X-Micro’s Turbo Mode results in a significant increase in performance if large file transfers are needed. In terms of stability and range, each of the routers and cards functioned identically, even when mixed and matched, which is, after all, the purpose of 802.11g and standards like it.
It is also noteworthy that none of the products we tested today were appreciably affected by the use of microwave ovens or cordless telephones, both of which also operate in the 2.4 GHz range, and have been known to cause interference in some cases. Though use of these devices seldom causes a total loss of connection, moving cordless telephone receivers away from 802.11b/g devices often results in an improvement in SNR, and therefore performance. Using a different wireless channel can also shift the frequency band enough to alleviate any interference-related problems in most cases. If you experience poor performance and link quality, try moving other devices which may operate in a similar frequency band (such as microwaves and cordless telephones) away from the networking hardware.
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