Linksys has gone out of its way to simplify the setup process, and the extra effort pays off handsomely. Simply plug the WAP51AB into a hub, a switch, or a router on your existing wired network; install the setup wizard software on a connected computer; and follow the onscreen instructions. The setup wizard guides you through the basics, such as setting the network name and the security level for both the 802.11a and 802.11b sides of your network. And while the Linksys lacks the start-up videos that D-Link includes with its wireless products, the illustrated quick-start guide and the 48-page electronic user manual provide all the necessary hand-holding.
After you complete the setup wizard, you can make changes or tweak more-advanced settings using the access point's Web-based utility. For example, you can easily create MAC-address filtering schemes or change detailed settings such as RTS threshold, beacon interval, and transmission rate. However, network administrators will miss features such as visual-performance metrics and the ability to mask the network using Network Address Translation.
The WAP51AB offers standard security features, including 64- and 128-bit WEP encryption, as well as 152-bit coding. This Linksys does not, however, support the 256-bit coding used by the D-Link AirPlus DI-614+. By default, the WAP51AB comes with WEP encryption turned off, making it ripe for a roving wireless hacker. We recommend that you immediately set encryption to the appropriate level and enter your own SSID to replace the access point's generic linksys network name.
| Throughput tests
Measured in Mbps (longer bars indicate better performance)
| Response time |
Measured in milliseconds (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Using the Linksys WPC54A Instant wireless PC Card and WPC11 Instant wireless network adapter, the dual-band access point delivered range on a par with that of the best single-mode equipment in informal tests. In 802.11b mode, our laptop retained contact with the access point at 108 feet but lost its link in 802.11a mode at just 46 feet. On the downside, we had to set the WPC54A Instant wireless PC Card to "Autoconnect to any network in range" before we could reestablish contact with the access point. However, when we updated the PC Card's firmware, the problem disappeared.
For practical throughput tests, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot 4.3 software as its benchmark. For wireless testing, the clients and the routers are set up to transmit at short ranges and at maximum signal strength. CNET Labs' response-time tests are also run with Chariot software using the TCP protocol. Response time measures how long it takes to send a request and receive a response over a network connection. Throughput and response time are probably the two most important indicators of user experience over a network.
The WAP51AB comes with a dismal, one-year warranty, which pales in comparison to Intel's three-year coverage on its Pro/Wireless 5000 LAN dual access point. Also, read the fine print; Linksys warns you to hold onto the original receipt and the packaging bar code to verify the warranty period.
Beyond that, we encountered solid tech support. Should something go wrong, the company provides toll-free, 24/7 phone support. The well-organized Web site provides manuals, software updates, troubleshooting help, FAQs, and a huge knowledge base. You'll also find an education section with information on home-networking topics and a network configurator to help you pick the right products to match your needs.
Linksys support site.