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Review: iNexQ 54g Wireless AP and PCMCIA card

by Tarinder Sandhu on 10 November 2003, 00:00

Tags: iNexQ

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The proliferation of the sheer number of home PCs has been extraordinary. Home PCs, up until a few years' ago, were seen as a luxury rather than the present necessity. Now schools and even small libraries have up-to-date PCs connected to the big, bad internet, usually via a speedy broadband connection. Most small businesses now keep their accounts on an electronic format, and they often have a few networked PCs that can communicate via intranets.

PCs are becoming more popular and, more importantly, many, many individuals, government agencies and businesses often have more than one computer. Multiple PCs work best when communicating with one another. That's why we see a number of intranets and home networking setups. Having a wired connection is fine in a purpose-built building, but the allure of wireless networking is obvious to see. Laptops are a case in point. What better than to freely roam around your home or office without the constraint of wires ?. That's pretty much Intel's catchline with its Centrino technology; get rid of wires and enjoy practical benefits of a larger workspace.

Wireless networking, usually accomplished via the use of an access point and compliant Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) adapter, is a burgeoning industry right now. PCs are cheap, broadband connections are available in most parts of the U.K, and breaking free from the shackles of wires creates an intrinsically satisfying feeling. Up until recently, though, the main drawbacks were pinned down to speed. A new range of 802.11x equipment is available, and iNexQ were kind enough to send its 54g Wireless Access point and CardBus PCMCIA adapter.

A quick history lesson on Wi-Fi standards before we begin. An elementary grounding should help establish just what the different nomenclatures mean and how impressive iNexQ's latest Wi-Fi credentials are.

The original 802.11 standard was introduced back in 1997 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Bandwidth, via a radio signalling frequency, was limited to a maximum potential of 2Mbps. It's important to recognise that 2Mbps (Megabits per second) translates to 250 Kilobytes per second (KB/s). That was deemed a little slow for huge uptake. 802.11b was introduced and raised the maximum theoretical limit to 2Mbps (1.375MB/s), and it still retained the original's 2.4GHz radio frequency, much like cordless DECT phones today.

802.11a was introduced at the same time and had a maximum 54Mbps rating using a 5GHz frequency. However, for one reason or another, 802.11b gained in popularity. Fast forward to today and the new 802.11g standard attempts to mix and match the best parts of both the 802.11a and 802.11b standards, that is, a 54Mbps (6.75MB/s) potential throughput of 802.11a and the greater 2.4GHz radio range of 802.11b. Of course, 802.11g is compatible with the popular 802.11b format. Promises of faster transfer speeds and decent Wireless range make it an attractive proposition, especially in today's world of high-speed internet and large file sizes. 802.11g or 54g is where it's currently at.