By Chris Guld
Geeks on Tour
This is a topic that has received a LOT of coverage.
There are many factors in Wi-Fi, and you don’t have control over many of them. What you DO have control over is your own system, and the best thing you can own is a USB type of Wi-Fi adapter.
You need a USB adapter if you know you’re near a Wi-Fi hotspot, but you see little or no signal at your computer. Or, there is enough signal to get connected, but the speed fluctuates and even drops you. If you plug in a USB adapter, you can position that adapter in the best location and, almost always, improve the quality of your connection.
What exactly is the product I’m recommending? Well, there are lots of them. I sometimes hear people refer to them as "boosters," but they’re really not. They stand on their own; They don’t boost another piece of equipment. Most people today use the Wi-Fi capability that is built in to their computer. What I’m saying is, Turn off the built-in feature and plug in a USB adapter to use instead.
Our current favorite is the Engenius because it is high-powered (200 milliwats) and because you can attach an external antenna if you want an even better connection.
There have been times when we have sold adapters ourselves, but it’s rare; the products and suppliers just change too frequently for our taste. You can find these online at various Web sites, or just go to any computer and networking supply store and ask for a USB wireless network adapter. The technical specification is 802.11(b or g). That means Wi-Fi, and 2.4 gigaherz is the Wi-Fi standard frequency. USB simply refers to the way it connects to your computer – through a USB port.
Don’t be swayed by the claims of faster speeds – e.g., Bs are 11mbps and Gs are 54mbps. Those speeds are referring only to "within the local network" speeds. Once you start browsing the Internet, you will be limited to the Internet connection speed, which will be less than 3mbps. When looking at detailed specifications, power and range are much more important than speed. Almost any USB adapter will be an improvement over your internal device because you can position adaptor to have the clearest line-of-sight to the Wi-Fi hotspot’s access point.
If you are close to the hotspot’s access point, you shouldn’t need the USB adapter. Your built-in Wi-Fi will work fine if you’re within 150 feet or so and have no obstructions. If that’s not the case, and you’re having trouble, a USB wireless adapter will help.
|If you have a question about mobile Internet or motorhoming with computers, post on the Internet to Go Forum.|