What’s N-ext In Wireless Internet

Alison Young
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February 14, 2007
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If you haven’t already heard about it, the next wireless Internet standard is 802.11n. If you have wireless Internet at home, you may or may not know what you use now, but most people still use the old 802.11g, or even older 802.11b. This new 802.11n utilizes MIMO (Multi-In, Multi-Out) technology, which flies past b or g versions, and gives you more range. There’s a boatload of solutions for 802.11n, but I’ll focus on the NETGEAR and Apple products that caught my eye at the recent trade shows I attended.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) NETGEAR debuted an array of products, and part of that was NETGEAR’s RangeMax NEXT technology. It extends the possibilities of your home network by providing you with a Steady-Stream of 270 Mbps.

If you have other products with Intensifi, such as the RangeMax NEXT Wireless Notebook Adapter card (WN511B), this will optimize your performance speed.

Out of NETGEAR’s models, I tested out the RangeMax NEXT Wireless-N Router (WNR834B). It has a nice white contemporary look with its 8.9-inch height. It fits nicely into the corner of my network closet and has four 10/100 Ethernet LAN ports, one Ethernet WAN port, a NAT (Network Address Translation) firewall (this is help to hide PCs and files from outside users) and a SPI (Stateful Packet Inspection) firewall to deny outside requests for personal information.

The SmartWizard makes the setup painless by automatically detecting and configuring your router for virtually all your connections. Touchless Wi-Fi security makes creating the highest level of security simple and includes WEP, WPA/WPA. This (WNR834B) router is yours for about $140 at www.netgear.com. If you want the slightly faster model, the Gigabit Edition (WNR854T) goes for $160.

At MacWorld Apple announced its 802.11n solution with its new Airport Extreme. It gives you up to five times the performance and twice the range of the previous Airport Extreme. The look of it has moved away from the traditional manapua-looking thing to a sleek 6.5-square box.

The new Extreme uses MIMO smart antennas and has the ability to operate in either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz wireless frequencies. The possibility of interference from appliances and cordless phones is reduced with the Airport Extreme. Most importantly it is backward compatible with your Mac and PC if you’re using previous generation 802.11b or g. Additional features include three Ethernet LAN ports, one Ethernet WAN port, a built-in NAT firewall and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA/WPA-2)/128-bit WEP encryption. To me, the best feature of the new Airport Extreme is the USB port. There you can plug in a USB printer so you can print wirelessly, or an external USB hard drive to turn it into a shared drive, making file backups and sharing simple. For a business, or if you’re having lots of people over for a party, the new Airport Utility software included will allow you to easily setup a wireless network for up to 50 simultaneous users. For home-oriented use, you can set security restrictions, including Internet access limits on your keiki’s computers.

Apple’s new Airport Extreme Base station will retail for $179, and will be available soon this month at the Apple Store (Ala Moana Center or the brand new Kahala Mall location), or online at www.apple.com.

What you can find with NETGEAR and Apple are just the tip of the n-iceberg, but you can find other solutions from Belkin (www.belkin.com), D-Link (www.dlink.com) or Linksys (www.linksys.com).

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