Introduction:

Home and small office networks have grown immensely in the past few years. Whether the need was efficient data transfer or LAN parties, consumers have turned to networking as their solution. Thus, when the first wireless networking hardware was made available to the public, many jumped at the chance to purchase it.

However, many soon realized that while wireless networking may have saved the hassle of cords, it presented several problems. First were slow transfer speeds. While wired networking provided a constant 100mbps download rate, wireless networking allowed less than half of that.

Second was security. At home, it was the infamous "drive up and log on" tactic of laptop owners and the fear that neighbours would be able to access your router. But in the business world, wireless networking presented much more serious problems. The holes in security were only waiting to be exploited by experienced hackers, unauthorized personnel, or lowly competitors.

Those were many of the fears and complaints that accompanied the first wave of wireless networking. However, wireless networking has since outgrown these early issues, evolving 802.11g and WEP encoding, which constitute to both higher transfer speeds and tighter security.

Today we will be looking at one essential component of a wireless network: the adapter. We will be focusing on ZyXEL’s ZyAIR G-200 USB adapter. As a point of comparison, we will be weighing it against Netgear’s own USB adapter of the same calibre, the Netgear WG121, so do not be surprised if we reference the WG121 throughout this review.

Setup

The adapter arrived packaged in a small box with all the required components and documentation tucked inside.

No advertisements, company pamphlets, or other useless materials were otherwise included; a small but pleasant detail which enforces the practicality of ZyXEL. Everything in the box (excepting the packaging) is shown below.

Installation was simple and unproblematic, though ZyXEL’s documentation was rather brief compared to Netgear’s coloured diagrams. However, most all users with basic networking knowledge or some common sense will have no problem getting the adapter up and running. After all, it is USB based, so installation is as easy as plugging in and running the software. Even so, the colourful charts and graphs would have been appreciated.

The G-200’s software is equally painless to set up. It is very straightforward, in somewhat of a contrast to Netgear’s more graphical take on the WG121’s installation interface. As you can see below, Netgear’s navigation screen is just a little bit more colourful and attractive in comparison to ZyXEL’s equally functional but nonetheless more basic design.

This means one of two things; either that ZyXEL rushed this part of the software or that its aim was for efficiency instead of attractiveness. Fortunately, as you will see in our testing section, the latter is correct.

Specifications

The G-200 has all of the specs you would need when setting up a basic network including good range and WEP security. Below are the official features provided by ZeXEL.

Product

G-200

802.11g Wireless

USB Adapter

Application

Laptop & Desktop

Standard Compliance

IEEE 802.11g/b

Frequency Range

2.4G ~ 2.4835GHz

Data Rate

54Mbps/48Mbps/36Mbps/24Mbps/12Mbps/11Mbps/9Mbps/6Mbps/ 5.5Mbps/2Mbps/1Mbps (Automatic Fallback)

Modulation Technique

DBPSK/DQPSK/CCK/OFDM

Network Architecture

Ad-Hoc Mode (Peer to Peer without AP) & Infrastructure Mode

Host Interface

USB2.0

Antenna

Internal patch antenna

Range Coverage

Indoor: 60m ~ 80m

Outdoor: 150m ~ 300m

Security

64/128-bit WEP Encryption

Wi-Fi Protected Access

Roaming

IEEE 802.11 compliant

Transmit Output Power

17dBm@11Mbps

13dBm@54Mbps

Receiver Sensibility

-88dBm@11Mbps

-71dBm@54Mbps

Testing

The ZyAIR G-200 performed exceptionally well in several tests against the Netgear WG121. The G-200 outperformed the WG121 in all but one of our distance tests.

We then tested the time it took to download a game trailer from the internet sized at 9.2mb (for reference purposes, we connected through a Netgear WGR614 802.11g Wireless Router). Again, the G-200 outperformed the WG121.

ZyXEL’s adapter was seven seconds faster than Netgear’s. Also, the transfer rate was, on average, 15 KB/Sec faster in favour of the G-200. While this may seem close to nothing, seconds and kilobytes saved may turn to minutes and megabytes when downloading larger files.

Conclusion

Overall, the G-200 proved to be a highly efficient USB adapter. Though there are several wireless solutions which offer faster speeds and tighter security, the G-200 possesses a very good value for its price. It performed better that the more popular WG121, and it will be a fine solution for any wireless home networking project.

Pros:

-Competitive speeds

-Painless and straightforward installation

Cons:

-Short documentation

SLRating: 8.5/10



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