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 D-Link PCMCIA Wireless Adapter

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 1/25/2001

Model: DWL-650


- 64 and 128 bit WEP for not a lot of $


- Windows only drivers



Review Updates

10/29/01 Reader reports that he's been using this card in a 16-bit PCMCIA slot.

6/18/01 Card requires a 32bit Cardbus slot.  Will not work in 16 bit PCMCIA slot.

4/4/01  Card is now Wi-Fi certified.


The Basics

  • Link/Activity

Comes with
  • CDROM with drivers, Client Utility, and documentation

  • Printed User's manual

  • printed Quick Install guides for Win98/98SE, 2000 & Me

  • Fixed position, Integrated (non-removable) diversity "patch" Antenna


Introduction and Basic features.

The DWL-650 (650) uses the Intersil Prism II chip set and has a non-detachable, unmovable antenna.  The antenna is flat and won't interfere with the adjacent PC card slot, either above or below it. 

There's one "Link" LED on the antenna section, which shines steadily when the card detects a signal from another 802.11b station.  It doesn't necessarily indicate a working connection, however. The LED doesn't flicker to indicate network activity.


Setting Up

D-Link includes printed Quick Install sheets for Windows 98/98SE, 2000, and Me, in addition to the printed User Manual.

The 650 comes set to the same default ESSID ("default") as the DWL1000AP Access Point, with WEP off, and set to "Infrastructure" mode.   This means you have a good chance of not having to touch any settings to establish a basic wireless network if you're using the 1000AP.  I wish all manufacturers would do this!

Tip: Other OSes are not supported, but if you want to try using the 650 with Linux, check the Tools page for links to PRISM II Linux drivers.  Using MacOS? Try this info.

You still might need help setting up, however, so if you can't figure out what to do from the D-Link documentation, see this page if you need help configuring the card to work with an Access Point, or this page if you are trying to get a card-to-card network working.

The Client utility that comes with the 650 looks very much like the commonly-used Neesus Datacom's Configuration Utility, which I've described in a few other reviews, such as the SMC 2632W's, so I won't repeat the info here.

D-Link has used a more recent version (4.06) of the utility that can be properly exited, and included on-line Help files.


Speed check!

I tested the 650 with the DWL-1000AP Access Point, but the 650's results are different than the results obtained with the DWL-120 USB Wireless:

(Tests run with:
 - WEP encryption DISABLED
- Auto Rate selected
- Power Save disabled)

Test Description

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

[1Mbyte data size]

Qcheck Response Time (msec)

[10 iterations 100byte data size]

Qcheck UDP stream 

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

AP to Client - Condition 1


3 (avg)
4 (max)



AP to Client - Condition 2


3 (avg)
5 (max)



AP to Client - Condition 3


3 (avg)
13 (max)



AP to Client - Condition 4


4 (avg)
8 (max)



(Details of how we tested can be found here.) 

Interesting differences!  The 650 had a higher speed at good signal levels than the 120 did, but fell off sharply at the range limit. The 650 also lost signal when I tried to move it to the same farther-away extra test point that I successfully used with the 120. Since I used the same Access Point for both tests, I have to attribute the difference to the 650's "patch" antenna vs. the 120's moveable dipole "stub".

Performance did not take a hit with 40bit WEP enabled!  The only way I knew WEP was working was to leave it enabled on the AP and turn it on and off on the 650.  I didn't see any differences with WEP enabled and at various distances, either.

Conclusion: Antenna design does matter!  At some point maybe we'll see manufacturers change to a cabled antenna design with a stubby dipole that can be attached to the back of a laptop screen.  Definitely looks like it would help! 


The DWL-650 is an average performing 802.11b client card, but priced aggressively, especially for a card supporting both 40/64 and 128 bit WEP encryption!  At the time of review, Buy.com was listing the cards for $111, and most other on-line retailers had them for $120.  Maybe D-Link's leading the way to the magic $99 price point?

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 Opinion Summary:     43.0%   |   57.0%  |   out of 93 reviews  
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