Choosing a Wi-Fi Router Adapter for the Road

When choosing a Wi-Fi card for the road a few considerations come beyond those already discussed in the home and office sections on the previous page. First, since you will be connecting at many different access points, you want maximum compatibility. Second, since signal strength varies widely in public locations, you want as good an antenna as you can get.

In terms of compatibility, most hotspots still have 802.11b routers, although that will likely change fast as networks build out with newer equipment. For maximum interoperability with any b or g router, pick a top-selling card from a major vendor, which has likely been tested thoroughly with a variety of access points, and gets frequent firmware updates to fix any bugs.

Don't worry about the speed of your adapter. Most hotspots have no more than a 1.5Mbps Internet connection, which any 802.11b card can handle with ease. The key to better hotspot performance is reception -- if you can't get a good signal, it doesn't matter how fast your card is.

To increase range and improve signal reception at hotspots try special high-power Wi-Fi cards. External antennas are another option (many Wi-Fi cards have little antenna ports at the end, check with your vendor before buying to see what antenna options are offered), but they are expensive, usually costing more than the card itself. They are also cumbersome to tote around and use, since they don't exactly fit on your lap. It's simpler to go the high-power route, with adapters like the 200mW 802.11b card from SonicWall based on Senao technology. MacSense and MacWireless also sell versions of this card for Mac users. Finally SMC's Elite Connect Universal High Power Wireless Cardbus Adapter (SMC2536W-AG) offers extended range for a, b and g networks all in one card.

Choosing Wi-Fi Adapters for Peripherals If you have networkable devices like video game boxes or Ethernet printers, you can turn them into Wi-Fi clients just by adding a simple adapter called an Ethernet bridge. First you set up the bridge using your PC to connect to it, then simply plug it in to your Xbox, PlayStation 2, networked storage drive, or printer.

You can also use a pair of adapters to form an ad-hoc wireless network between two game consoles, no larger computer network necessary. Some Wi-Fi bridges can double as access points, extending your wireless net as well as hooking up your wired Ethernet devices.

Here are some good Wi-Fi bridge solutions:

NetGear ME101 Wireless Ethernet Bridge NetGear ME101 Wireless Ethernet Bridge Linksys WET54G Wireless-G Ethernet Bridge Linksys WET54G Wireless-G Ethernet Bridge

Some bridge adapters can even handle more than one Ethernet device at a time, bridging an entire Ethernet network, such as the Linksys WET11 and WET54G Wireless Ethernet Bridges.