Like the Gateway WBU-110, the HWU54D receives power through the USB cable that connects it to your computer, so it doesn't require an AC adapter. Its paddlelike antenna bends 180 degrees forward and back, helping you adjust it to point toward your router. Two LEDs on the front show when the device is powered on and picking up a Wi-Fi signal.
The HWU54D high-gain USB wireless-G adapter's quick-installation guide and user manual are so bad, they're almost laughable. The brief, pocket novel-size guide includes minidiagrams and screenshots with literally microscopic text. Each and every one of the screenshots in the short manual was captured at such a low resolution that text appears grainy at best and illegible at worst. At least the manual provides comic relief through suggestions such as using the device for "surfing the Web while you read a book in the park."
If you're a technophile, however, you can likely overlook the HWU54D high-gain USB wireless-G adapter's shoddy documentation in light of the device's killer performance and long range. The HWU54D achieved a real-world data transfer speed of 23.1Mbps in CNET Labs' tests, topping other fast performers, such as the Microsoft MN-710 and the Buffalo wireless USB adapter. The device made good on its indoor signal-range claim of 100 meters in our informal range tests. The HWU54D's security measures--64- and 128-bit WEP encryption plus WPA support--help secure your data in transit.
As its benchmark, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot 4.3 software on a console system with clients running NetIQ's Performance End Points 4.4. Our throughput tests measure the transfer speed of a file that a user might send across a network. This is known as the payload throughput and does not include packet errors and other data that might be transferred over a network. Payload throughput can vary widely from the bandwidth speeds vendors advertise and is a much better gauge of what you're likely to experience with a standard file transfer. For more details on how we test networking devices, see the CNET Labs site.
Hawking includes a respectable two-year warranty with the HWU54D high-gain USB wireless-G adapter, but the company's toll-based phone support, which is available only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, is another matter. We wracked up quite the long-distance charge after waiting from 8:25 a.m. to 8:54 a.m. for our call to be answered. At least you don't have to pay for the advice. The company's support Web site is also less than impressive, consisting solely of a hodgepodge of driver downloads.