Thursday, August 03, 2006

Are All Wireless Cards Created Equal?

You have probably seen them on eBay- sellers charging $5.00 for a generic no-name 802.11b wireless PCMCIA card, charging $10.00 for shipping and claiming that the card is "just like D-Link, Netgear, Linksys" in the item title. Is this true? Are all wireless cards created equal? The short answer is no. There is usually a huge difference between most of the cheap generic cards (and routers/access points) and some of the brand name devices like Linksys. That does not mean that a generic card will be nonfunctional or useless. But there is a difference concerning the range you will receive.

Different 802.11b cards sometimes have different antennae inside of them. Many Orinoco rebranded cards, which are enterprise level cards and cost upwards of $25.00, have up to 1.5 dBi gain antennae on them and get very good range (can vary depending on the wireless router or access point used). Linksys cards also use a stronger antenna that will allow connections across an entire house and up or down several stories. Most generic cards use a low range antenna that is generally only capable of picking up a wireless signal in the same or next room as the router or access point. They can get a better range if they are in a line-of-sight to the router.

Generic cards are a good value for very short range. But if you need something a little stronger, check out our rebadged Orinoco Gold cards that come with a built-in antenna as well a a 7 dBi gain external antenna with magnetic mount. So in addition to considering the price of the card when purchasing, also be sure to determine what kind of range you need. If you are not sure, just ask us.

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