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 ZoomAir 11Mbps Wireless PC Card

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 8/7/2001


Model: 4100

Pros:

- 64 and 128 bit WEP with no throughput hit
- Good performance vs. range
- Comes with Sygate Internet sharing software

Cons:

- Windows only
- So-so client utility

 

 

 

The Basics

Indicators
  • Link/Activity

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

  • Printed Owner's manual

  • Sygate 3.11 for Internet sharing

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

   

Introduction and Basic features


The ZoomAir 11Mbps PC card is your basic 802.11b PC card that 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.

Tip: The PCI version of the card comes as a separate PCI adapter and PC card, but the PC card has an SMA style connector with cabled antenna!

There's one "Link" LED on the antenna section, which shines steadily when the card detects a signal from another 802.11b station and blinks when it can't. The LED doesn't flicker to indicate network activity.

Setup and client management for the ZoomAir is similar to other PRISM II based cards, such as the SMC2632W and D-Link DWL-650, that use the Neesus client utility, so refer to either of those reviews if you need details.

(I found it interesting that the latest additions to the ZoomAir line, their USB Client adapter and IG-4150 Wireless Internet Gateway are re-branded ORiNOCO products.  I think that makes Zoom the first company to have a product line based on both the Agere Systems and Intersil PRISM chipsets!)

 

Performance


I ran the ZoomAir through the Qcheck test suite, using an SMC 2655W Access Point as the test partner.

Test Conditions:

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

Firmware/Driver Versions:

AP f/w:
1.4f4
Wireless client driver: 
0.29.3.3
Wireless client f/w:
 
 unknown

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

3.9 [No WEP]
3.9 [w/WEP]

3 (avg)
5 (max)

499

0%

AP to Client - Condition 2

3.8

3 (avg)
4 (max)

499

0%

AP to Client - Condition 3

3.8

3 (avg)
5 (max)

499

0%

AP to Client - Condition 4

3.8

3 (avg)
5 (max)

499

0%

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

Comments: The data shows consistent performance over all tested conditions.  No SNR measurements could be recorded, since the Client application did not provide them, but the Client Manager's worst case reading for Condition 4 was "Fair" for both signal quality and strength.  

No throughput degradation was found with either 64 or 128 bit WEP enabled.

Summary


The ZoomAir PC card stacks up well against the ever-growing field of 802.11b client cards, with good performance in all tested range conditions and no WEP-enabled throughput degradation.  You can find it as low as $100 on-line, and that includes bundled Sygate 3.1 Internet sharing software as an added bonus.


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