There are three reasons you should consider Netgear's WG511T if you're shopping for a wireless networking adapter: it's easy to use, it's very fast, and it delivers the best range we've seen to date in a PC Card adapter. Unfortunately, the WG511T's enhanced range and speed can be achieved only when it is used with other Netgear Super G products, such as the Netgear WGT624 router. You can also use the adapter with standard 802.11g or 802.11b devices from other vendors, but when you do, the data-transfer speed plummets. This makes the WG511T the obvious choice if you're planning to build an exclusively Super G network. If you want your network to handle standard Wi-Fi traffic, on the other hand, you may want to consider a less expensive, standard 802.11g adapter, such as the Linksys WPC54G or Netgear's less racy WG511.
Installing the WG511T requires only inserting the accompanying CD and clicking through a few onscreen prompts. Once installed, an icon for the WG511T's Configuration Utility appears in the Windows taskbar notification area in the lower-right corner of the screen. We like this utility, which has a useful help section that explains the PC Card's various configuration and security options. The utility also lets you set up separate connection profiles for the different wireless networks you connect to, which saves you the hassle of having to reenter encryption keys or other security information each time you change networks. The WG511T supports both WEP and WPA encryption schemes.
The WG511T tucks a few performance enhancers under its hood--specifically, portions of the 802.11e draft specification built into its firmware--making it especially well suited for streaming media. These new features ensure that streaming-media applications, such as the voice and video links in a teleconference, won't be interrupted by a simple file transfer. This means that you can participate in a teleconference over your wireless connection and download data from the Internet without suffering degradation in the audio or video quality of the links.
The most noteworthy feature of the 108Mbps Netgear WG511T wireless PC Card is its inclusion of Super G technology (link is a PDF file), which boosts the adapter's speed to nearly twice the tempo of standard 802.11g devices. A recent firmware upgrade allows the PC Card to switch dynamically to support standard 802.11g and 802.11b devices when they enter the network, too.
The WG511T runs circles around the U.S. Robotics USR5410. Better yet, the WG511T delivered fantastic range in our indoor tests, providing stable connections as far as 225 feet away when connected to the Netgear WGT624 router in Super G mode.
CNET Labs throughput tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)
The secret to the WG511T's fast speeds lies in its support of double-channel bonding, which tricks the transmitter and the receiver into accepting two wireless channels as a single channel. The downside to this type of channel allocation is that it requires a bigger swath of the spectrum, which means that your router is more likely to interfere with other 2.4GHz devices, such as neighboring networks and cordless phones.
Netgear's one-year warranty for the WG511T is shorter than you'll find on competing products, such as the D-Link DWL-G650, which has a three-year warranty. However, Netgear does offer toll-free, 24/7 phone support good for the lifetime of the product. We were impressed with the WG511T's documentation, too. Both the user manual and the installation guide are thorough and include illustrations and screenshots to ease setup and configuration. Netgear offers these documents online through its product support Web site, which also hosts firmware upgrades and a list of related FAQs. In addition, Netgear offers a free animated networking tutorial called Mentor that you access through the company's technical-support page. Mentor features onscreen demonstrations for changing network settings in Windows, using Outlook on your network, and browsing with Internet Explorer.