The basic setup of Netgear's WGXB102 wall-plugged wireless extender kit is easy. You connect the XE102 (HomePlug-only unit) to your router and plug it into the wall, then plug the WGX102 (HomePlug/802.11g unit) into an electrical outlet in the room where you want to have wireless coverage. The units request IP-address information from your router and automatically join your network.
The most interesting feature of Netgear's WGXB102 wall-plugged wireless extender kit is the integrated 802.11g access point included in one of the kit's two units. You can configure the access point to operate in either 802.11g-only or 802.11b/g modes. The 802.11g-only mode helps speed up wireless connections, but because the data rate is slowed over the HomePlug network, it does little to turbo charge your network.
You can configure the WGX102 unit (the HomePlug adapter with the integrated access point) to function either as an access point to extend your wireless network or as a full-fledged wireless router. When configured as a router, the WGX102 touts an array of advanced networking features, including DHCP services, content filtering that blocks access to specific Web sites based on keyword or domain name, dynamic DNS, and port triggering, which can help you play games over the Internet.
Security for the wall-plugged wireless extender kit consists of WEP and WPA for the wireless portion of the kit and 56-bit DES for the HomePlug network. You can also allow or deny access to the network based on a computer's hardware, or MAC, address.
Netgear's wall-plugged wireless extender kit is designed more for convenience than performance. Netgear's claims of 54Mbps for the kit are misleading. Although one of the units in the package is equipped with an 802.11g access point that's theoretically capable of transferring data at 54Mbps, actual throughput shrinks to around 5Mbps once the data is passed on to the HomePlug network. CNET Labs clocked the WGXB102 kit at 6.2Mbps. That's still faster than a standard broadband connection, which makes Netgear's wall-plugged wireless extender kit more than adequate for sharing a broadband connection in a home or a building. Still, it disappoints us to see a fine company such as Netgear hoodwink its customers by overpromising 54Mbps for the kit.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Throughput in Mbps|
Netgear covers its wall-plugged wireless extender kit with a perfunctory one-year warranty. Toll-free phone support is available 24/7, but it's available for only 90 days from the date of purchase. Netgear recently gave its support Web site a much needed makeover, but the site is still more difficult to use and offers fewer resources than other Web sites, such as those hosted by Linksys and D-Link. A detailed FAQ and user forum for the kit would be welcome additions. The lengthy 182-page reference manual for the wall-plugged wireless extender offers plenty of useful information but lacks important basics, such as warranty specifics and contact information.