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 Intel PRO/Wireless 2011 LAN PC Card

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 3/21/2001



Model: WPC2011NA

Pros:

- Good performance
- Supports 64 and 128 bit encryption

 
Cons:

- Utilities can be confusing
- Throughput decreases with WEP enabled

 


The Basics

Indicators
  • Link/Activity

Comes with
  • printed Quick Installation Guide

  • Driver, documentation CD

Other
  • Fixed position, Integrated (non-removable) Antenna

   

Introduction and Basic features.


The Intel PRO/Wireless 2011 LAN PC Card is a rebranded Symbol Technologies Spectrum 24 card.  It's essentially the same as the 3Com AirConnect PC card I reviewed last year, but supports both 40 and 128bit WEP encryption (although the 3Com probably does by now, too!).  It's based on the Intersil PRISM II chipset and supports both 40 and 128bit WEP encryption.  The card has a non-movable "paddle" type diversity antenna permanently attached to the card.  The antenna is as flat as the card, so it won't interfere with adjacent PC card slots in your laptop.

 

Setting Up


Intel says the 2011PC supports Windows 95, 98, 2000 and NT, Linux, and Palm OSes.  The Windows drivers are on the CD that comes with the card, but other drivers are downloadable from Intel's support site, including WinCE,Me, and even WFW and Win3.1!

The printed Quick Install guide covers the installation basics and I didn't have any trouble with the install on my Win98SE Compaq 1650 laptop.  Once installed, however, I found my laptop's sound circuitry picked up more noise than from most other cards that I've tested (this is a known issue with this laptop and others).  This doesn't affect the card's performance, but it gets annoying after awhile, since you hear static when the card is transmitting or receiving data and the volume can't be controlled.

The LAN Monitor utility has a System Tray icon with a signal bar graph that's hard to read because of the little icon of the PC card that's superimposed on top of it.  Putting the mouse cursor over the tray icon shows Signal strength and connection rate.

The Utility itself is an odd mix.  On the plus side, it has a nice signal strength display and Transmission quality (ping) utility built in.  You can also set operating mode (Ad Hoc, "ESS" (Infrastructure)), ESSID, and card power mode.

 

Intel PRO 2011 PC Card WLAN Monitor - General Tab

Intel PRO 2011 PC Card WLAN Monitor - SignalTab

On the negative side, if you want to adjust any other of the card's parameters, including enabling/disabling Encryption, you either use the Network Adapter properties (see screen shots below) and suffer a reboot if you make any changes, or find the "My WLAN Places" utility, which the installer places in the Windows "My Computer" window (!)  This utility lets you define multiple profiles and switch between them on the fly.  

There's no mention of this utility in the Quick Install guide or the PDF Reference Guide.  You need to go to the PDF Lan Utilities User Guide to find out about it!  This is poor user interface design, in my opinion. If you must scatter admin functions among a number of programs, at least give the user an easy way to find them!

 

Intel PRO 2011 PC Card Network Properties- Mobile Unit Tab

Intel PRO 2011 PC Card Network Properties- Encryption Tab

   

Wireless Performance.


I ran my suite of qCheck performance tests, using an Intel PRO/Wireless 2011 Access Point  connected to a Windows PC as the test partner.  The envelope please...

Test Conditions:

- WEP encryption DISABLED
- Tx Rate: Automatic
- Power Save disabled

Firmware/Driver Versions:

AP f/w:Ver 2.00-04
PC Card driver: 2.00-04
PC Card f/w:2.00-17

Test Description

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

[1Mbyte data size]

Qcheck Response Time (msec)

[10 iterations 100byte data size]

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@500Kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

AP to Client - Condition 1

4.6 [No WEP]
3.7[w/WEP]

4 (avg)
5 (max)

499

0.0%

AP to Client - Condition 2

4.4

4 (avg)
6 (max)

499

0.0%

AP to Client - Condition 3

4.5

4 (avg)
5 (max)

499

0.0%

AP to Client - Condition 4

4.5

5 (avg)
8 (max)

499

0.0%

 

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

Comment: The 2011AP's performance was very consistent over the tested conditions.  Signal quality according to the Intel client card utility was 50 (out of 100) at Condition 4.  I even moved the laptop to a normally dead zone and still got reasonable throughput.  Client antenna position also seemed to be not as sensitive as with other products.  The only negative was the 20% drop in throughput with WEP enabled.


Summary


The 2011PC is another 802.11b PC card in a product category that is fast becoming a commodity.  Its main differentiating feature is its client utilities, which could be better documented in the Quick Install guide and tied together via the System Tray utility.


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 Opinion Summary:     76.5%   |   23.5%  |   out of 17 reviews  
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