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 SMC 2652W Wireless Access Point

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 12/16/2000


Model: SMC2652W


SMC hasn't christened their 802.11b Wireless access point (AP) with a fancy name... it's just the "SMC 11Mbps Wireless Access Point". However, the plain name suits the basic functionality of the unit. It just does its job of allowing you to add Wireless clients to your Ethernet-based network without a lot of flash or snazzy features.
Pros:

- Browser based setup (on a DHCP served network)
- Supports 64 and 128 bit WEP

 
Cons:

- No LAN activity monitoring utilities
- Documentation could be better

 

 

Review Updates

6/26/01  Corrected antenna connector type to RP-TNC.

12/19/00 Various updates.


 

The Basics

Indicators
  • Power

  • Wireless Link

  • Wireless Activity

  • Ethernet Link

  • Ethernet Activity

Connectors
  • One RJ45 10BaseT Ethernet

  • One DB9M  "RS-232" port.

  • Power

Comes with
  • Driver and Documentation CDRom

  • printed Quick Installation Guide

  • Utility floppy

  • 100-120V Power supply

Other
  • One Moveable position, detachable dipole antenna, RP-TNC connector

  • Hardware reset button

   

Nothin' fancy

 

Setting up


Although the AP has both 10BaseT Ethernet and RS232 serial connectors, the serial port doesn't appear to be functional and it's not documented in the User manual.

Configuring the AP can be a one or two-step process.  The AP comes set up as a DHCP client, that is, it will pick up an IP address from a DHCP server on your LAN.   As long as you have a way of finding out the IP addresses of DHCP clients on your network, you'll be able to see the address of the AP, and enter it into your web browser to connect.

The AP is protected by both a user name and password, which are documented on the Quick Installation card that comes with the AP.

If you don't have a DHCP server, then you need to use the WLAN AP Utility. You install the utility from a floppy, and launch it from a Windows 95/98/NT/Me/2000 machine. With the utility, you can:

  • find the AP(s)

  • set the AP's IP address

  • update the AP firmware

  • launch a web browser for other configuration

The utility quickly found the AP, which appears to come up with an IP address of 0.0.0.0 in the absence of a DHCP server.  (If it's not found, get out your bent paper-clip and press the hidden reset button on the rear of the case.)  The Utility then assigns a temporary IP address that is in the same subnet as the computer that you're running the utility on.  At this point, you can connect with your web browser and set permanent IP address info (and disable the DHCP client feature), and set the other AP parameters as needed.

The browser-based Management Utility (click on the screenshots below for a full-sized view) is nothing fancy, and I found it a little buggy.  I kept getting sent back to a screen that told me "Another user has logged in./The login has timed out./ File not found. Please re-enter" after I tried to apply changes.  

Update 12/19/00 SMC says these bugs are fixed in the later firmware available here The newer AP firmware also lets you set the WEP key via passphrase or manually.

SMC AP Information MIB screen  SMC AP Control MIB screen

SMC AP TCP/IP settings screen

I also found differences in display between Netscape 4.75 and IE5.0 that ranged from annoying to misleading (see WEP section below).

The AP and its companion SMC2632W 11Mbps Wireless PC card are not shipped with compatible channel or (E)SSID names. So at minimum, you'll have to change the settings on one or the other so that they're the same.  Neither manual tells you to do this, however! (See this page for help.)

Update 12/19/00 SMC says that you don't need to worry about setting the PC card channel when using it with an Access Point.  The PC card driver will scan for Access Points and connect to the closest one.

Documentation was pretty basic and you'll probably find yourself wanting more information.  SMC's Web site has manuals, AP firmware, and the AP utility available here.  If they're as good as they've been in posting new Barricade router firmware, you should probably check to see if they've posted newer versions than those that come with the AP. (You can also try our Wireless Troubleshooting pages.)

 

WEP...Good...and bad!


The good news is that the AP appears to support both 64 and 128 bit WEP encryption!  Encryption comes disabled by default and I found turning it on to be a bit of a puzzle.  Each time I clicked on the "Apply Changes" button after setting the WEP properties on the "AP Conrol MIB" screen, I'd get sent to the "another user has logged in..." screen.   When I went back to the "AP Conrol MIB" screen to see if the changes took, it looked like nothing had been set.  The "AP Information MIB" screen was no help either, since it doesn't display WEP information.  I had to go to my wireless client's configuration utility and enable/disable WEP to see if it was really working.

I later found that everything worked ok in IE5.0, so the browser display problems appear to be Netscape (probably Java) related.

You can only use the "passphrase" method of setting the WEP encryption key.  You can't see the key that's generated and you also can't set and store multiple keys. 

 

What's missing?


The AP completely lacks network monitoring capabilities.  You have no way of knowing:

  • How many clients are using the network

  • MAC or IP address of clients

  • State (active, roaming, etc.) of clients

  • Network statistics (error rate, packets sent/received, etc.)

You also have no way to:

  • control access to the wireless LAN by client MAC or IP address

  • filter traffic

  • control access by roaming clients

 

How fast is it?


I used netIQ's free QCheck utility for the AP's speed trials  Tests were done using an SMC2632W PC card as the wireless client. Here are the results:

(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 
[10S@500Kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

AP to Client - Condition 1

3.1

5 (avg)
11 (max)

499

0.0%

AP to Client - Condition 2

3.1

5 (avg)
7 (max)

500

0.0%

AP to Client - Condition 3

3.1

5 (avg)
7 (max)

499

0.0%

AP to Client - Condition 4

3.1

5 (avg)
7 (max)

498

0.0%

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

The results in all 4 conditions were very consistent, and average for most of the 802.11b products I've tested.  This time I remembered to check performance with WEP enabled.  When I set the AP and PC card to either 64 or 128 bit WEP, throughput dropped to 1.8Mbps (tested under Condition 1).  See the SMC2632W PC Card review for more comments.

 

Summary


I started out thinking the AP wasn't anything special (and actually, it sorta isn't, given that the box is OEM'd from Eumitcom and available from a number of other companies).  But the more I worked with it, the better I liked it!  Web-based setup (for the most part), DHCP or static addressing, 64 and 128 bit WEP, and solid performance.  On the other hand, for about 25 bucks more, you can get probably the same performance, but with a 3 port switched router included (the SMC7004WBR)!  Methinks that with all the wireless routers starting to hit the streets, SMC and the rest of the crowd may need to lower their Access Point prices in order to keep moving product!


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 Opinion Summary:     66.7%   |   33.3%  |   out of 39 reviews  
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