The PCWA-DE30's unique two-part design consists of a square radio that's connected by a 10-foot Cat-5 cable to a power unit that has a 2-foot AC cord. This separation lets you set the power unit next to the device that you want to connect and place your radio and antenna up to 10 feet away, to optimize signal strength, reduce desk clutter, or satisfy aesthetics.
Use the Setup button to automatically clone network settings from a Sony router.
If you already have a Sony PCWA-AR300 router, setting up the PCWA-DE30 is nearly effortless. Connect the two with an Ethernet cable, press the Setup button on each device, and the PCWA-DE30 clones the settings. The PCWA-DE30 also conveniently senses and switches between MDI (straight-through) and MDI-X (crossover) cable modes; on other products, such as Linksys's WET54G, you have to flip a switch.
Connecting it to another vendor's product is just slightly harder; you must install the included Setup Utility on a connected PC and configure the converter manually. We'd prefer a browser-based configuration tool that requires no installation and can be accessed from other PCs on the network.
The Sony wireless Ethernet converter offers most of the same features and security options you'll find in comparable devices, but it generally falls short of providing the most advanced options. The most noticeable example is the single, large, hypnotically pulsing indicator located on its front panel. It turns blue to show signal quality, red for failure, and pink to indicate the peer-to-peer mode. Unfortunately, it doesn't communicate additional information that advanced and professional users would want, such as traffic level or collision activity. The utility has handy features, such as a pop-up signal-strength meter, and it's easy to access its configuration tools for network settings such as SSID, IP address, and security. However, it lacks more advanced features that you'll find on some competitors, such as the Linksys WET54G, including the ability to add multiple WEP keys.
The PCWA-DE30 currently supports 128-bit wired equivalent privacy (WEP) encryption. This is probably strong enough for most home networks, but WEP has known security flaws and is relatively easy to crack. To make the device more secure, Sony plans for its fall firmware update to include Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) encryption.
The PCWA-DE30 performed poorly in CNET Labs' tests, posting a throughput of 5.7Mbps--well off the 14.8Mbps pace set by the Linksys WET54G. It also proved weak in terms of range, offering up only 150 feet in our test environment, much less than the WET54G's 200 feet.
It may work slowly, but it works smoothly. We threw a variety of Ethernet devices at the PCWA-DE30--everything from a couple of computers to a five-port switch, a network video camera, and a print server--and it worked flawlessly with all devices. We also used the PCWA-DE30 to connect a PlayStation 2 to our wireless network and found that playing ATV Offroad Fury 2 felt identical to playing it with an Ethernet connection, with no perceivable lag or blackouts (although our tester did get a lot of mud slung into his face).
CNET Labs throughput tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Note: Distance in feet|
For practical throughput tests, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot 4.3 software with Chariot 4.4 Endpoints as its benchmark. For more details on how we test networking devices, see the CNET Labs site.
Sony's service package for the PCWA-DE30 is only adequate. The one-year warranty is skimpy; Linksys gives you three. Also, you'll have to register online to get the company's toll-free, 24/7 phone support.
The documentation that comes with the PCWA-DE30 is sparse. It includes three fold-open brochures covering setup and troubleshooting, but you don't get a thorough manual with an index. And while, admittedly, the product is new, Sony's Web site has little more to offer. A search of the knowledge base failed to show any relevant items, and there's no chat room for discussing and solving problems. Even the online FAQs just echo those printed in the minimanual.