The ME101 is fairly easy to set up; using the foldout installation guide, which has helpful diagrams and a handful of troubleshooting tips, we got the device up and running within five minutes. The setup process installs the ME101 Configuration Utility from the included CD. The utility runs on Windows 98, Me, 2000, and XP; a comparable, browser-based interface is available for non-Windows users. The user guide on the included CD offers more detailed information on setup and operation. The box also includes an Ethernet crossover cable.
The ME101's handy small footprint, rotating antenna, and wall-mounting options allow you to place it just about anywhere in your home. It connects to any access point as a client and doesn't require any peering configuration, as does Buffalo's WLA-G54. However, you'll have to assign the ME101's IP address manually, because DHCP support is provided only via a firmware update. Computers or game boxes connected to the ME101, however, can get their IP addresses via DHCP regardless of the firmware version.
The ME101's removable antenna makes it easy to increase the bridge's range.
The ME101 has some nice features for such an inexpensive bridge. Easy-to read-LEDs indicate power, WLAN activity, and LAN activity. A removable, rotating antenna is easy to adjust for optimal reception--or replace with a more powerful model.
While the ME101 may be adequate for users who simply want to connect their gaming console to the Internet, the bridge lacks features and security options that would be useful for other wireless networking purposes. For instance, the bridge's lack of DHCP and WPA support may make it difficult or impossible to integrate into some networks.
We were also disappointed that the Ethernet port requires a network crossover cable (one is included in the box) to connect to your PC or game box if you are not using a network hub or switch. We would have preferred an autosensing MDI/MDI-X Ethernet port so that standard straight-through cables would work with it. Additionally, with no automatic upgrade utility, users have to download all software and firmware updates manually from the Netgear Web site and install them using the ME101 Configuration Utility.
The ME101 provides decent performance compared to that of other 802.11b devices, with a maximum throughput of 5.2Mbps. This is adequate for Internet sharing, but users who are thirsty for more speed should seek devices that offer 802.11g support and 100Mbps Ethernet ports, such as the Linksys WET54G Wireless-G Ethernet bridge or the Buffalo AirStation WLA-G54 wireless bridge.
We were pleased to see that, boosted by its external rotating antenna, the ME101 performs better than average over distance. Our tests show that the ME101 provides near-peak performance out to 100 feet and doesn't drop off completely until close to 175 feet. This performance is on a par with that of the Sony PCWA-DE30 wireless Ethernet converter.
CNET Labs throughput tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Netgear offers a solid three-year warranty along with lifetime 24/7 toll-free phone support for the ME101. The Web site contains product updates and documentation downloads (we recommend downloading the updated firmware immediately to take advantage of DHCP), along with a useful, searchable knowledge base and contact information for e-mailing or calling technical support. Also, after installing some free downloadable software, registered Netgear customers have access to an online-learning tool, called Mentor.