Author: Tim Higgins
Review Date: 5/31/2001

 

Model: WUSB11

Pros: – 40 and 128 bit WEP encryption
– Good documentation
Cons: – Poor performance

 

The Basics

 

Indicators:
  • Wireless Link

  • Power

Comes with:
  • Driver and Documentation CD

  • Printed User Guide

  • USB cable

  • Quick Installation and Addendum sheets

Chipset:
  • Intersil PRISM II
Other:
  • Fixed position, Integrated (non-accessible) Antenna

 

Introduction

The WUSB11 is the second 802.11b USB adapter that we’ve tested (the D-Link DWL-120 was the first) and we found definite differences between products, with the Linksys turning in a poorer showing.

 

Details

The B11 is based on the Intersil Prism II chip set.  The antenna is part of the printed circuit board with no external parts or connectors.  Indicators consist of a Red “Link” LED and Green “Power” LED, both of which shone steadily, regardless of data traffic or network link condition… not very helpful.

A Utility program for Win 98, Me, and 2000 comes on a CD, along with a PDF version of the printed User Guide.  Installation on my Win98 Compaq 1650 laptop went relatively smoothly, with the problems noted in the Tip below.

Tip: Make sure you follow instructions and run the Utility install program before attaching the hardware.  Also be sure you uninstall any other Wireless hardware or utility programs before installing the B11’s utility or you may not get a successful install.

One sour note is that the Utility installer doesn’t make an entry in the Windows Add/Remove Software Control panel and doesn’t put an Uninstall link in the Start Menu entry.  The only way to uninstall the program is to use the CD.  So don’t lose it!

The Utility installation set the B11’s properties so that I was able to connect to the Linksys BEFW11P1 (reviewed here) without having to touch any settings.  If you do need to adjust settings, the Reference Manual has good explanations for each of the settings that you can futz with.

Tip: 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 Configuration Utility supplied with the B11 is based on the ubiquitous Neesus Datacom Wireless LAN Configuration Utility.  I’ve complained about this program many times before, so go here if you’re unfamiliar with what it does (or doesn’t do).  The good news is that it was definitely a newer version than I’d seen before, with some added improvements.  The Signal Strength indicator seemed more responsive and indicative of what was happening although the Signal Quality indicator seemed to never drop below 70, even when the Signal Strength indicator was reading 10.  There’s also an added  Site Survey tab.  Don’t get your hopes up, however.  It just provides a list of any access points that it sees, along with SSID, BSSID, Signal level, Channel Number, and WEP status.  You can also enter four 40 bit WEP keys and also four 128 bit keys, instead of the usual single 128 bit key.

 

Performance

Wireless testing was done using a Linksys BEFW11P1 router (reviewed here) as the wireless client, and a Windows PC as the other LAN client.

Both clients are on the LAN side of the router, so these tests do not include the router. Here are the results:

 

Summary

Given my previous experience with a USB 802.11b adapter, I expected better performance from the B11 since USB adapters can have larger and better antennas than PC card designs.  This, plus the fact that the adapter can be positioned more freely since it’s attached via cable instead of being stuck into a slot, can often make up for a weak signal from another Wireless station.

Such is not the case, however, with the B11.  So if you’re looking for a little range boost from an 802.11b client adapter, you’d better keep looking!