Test Drive: D-Link AirPro 2.4GHz/5GHz Multimode Wireless Access Point

By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

If you’re waiting for a single wireless standard to rise up and make your WLAN life easier-forget about it. In 2003, you’ll face choices between 802.11a, b, b+, and various flavors of 802.11g (depending on the chips used by either Texas Instruments, Intersil, or Broadcom, so far). No, there will be no Wi-Fi unity in 2003, so perhaps the best thing you can do is to buy dual-radio 2.4GHz/5GHz wireless equipment. One of the best is with D-Link’s DWL-6000AP access point with its speedy 802.11a and 802.11b+ combination.

D-Link may not have been the very first with a dual-mode access point (AP) with the DWL-6000AP, but they were darn close. Sometimes being the first means that you’re the worse. That’s not the case here.

The only problem this AP has is that the box still says it’s just running 802.11a and 802.11b. That was true of the first models, those built from April 2002 through August 2002, but the current generation actually have Texas Instrument-powered 22Mbps 802.11b+ for a bit more range and speed while maintaining compatibility with your older 802.11b network interface cards (NICs).

Otherwise, though, you’d never know this is the first of a new generation of APs. You can see it from the start with the easy as pie installation. You simply hook the AP into a switch, a PC, or, in my case, a hub with an Ethernet cable, pop the installation CD in, and put in the power plug. Inside of a minute, you’ll be running the wizard installation routine. Unless you’re getting fancy with your network, you’ll be running new PCs off your new Wi-Fi network as quickly as you can reset their SSIDs.

Both the 2.4Ghz 802.11b+ and the 5Ghz 802.11a delivered their usual speeds-no where close to their theoretical 22Mbps and 54Mbps respectively-but more than fast enough for Internet browsing and light file sharing in b’s case and quick enough to keep small office users happy when using 802.11a devices. In brief, D-Link delivers exactly what you expect when you buy the box, solid performance with both popular wireless standards.

Like any other high-end AP, the DWL-6000AP includes such fundamentals as a built-in bridge between both Ethernet and Fast Ethernet 10-Base T networks with a single integrated port. The trade paperback sized box comes with a pair of dual 5dBi integrated antennas.

The DWL-6000AP has more than just the basics going for it. The Web-based administration interface is a pleasure to use and, of far more importance, it gives you excellent control over the access point.

For example, if lets you set up usage filters using Access Control Lists (ACL)s based on Media Access Controller (MAC) addresses. It can also be used with a static IP address, with a dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) assigned address or act as a DHCP server on its own.

While Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), may be breakable, the DWL-6000AP makes a would-be cracker job as hard as possible by offering user-selectable encryption settings of up to 152-bit WEP on the 5GHz side and 256-bit WEP on the 2.4GHz band. It’s no Fort Knox, but 152-bit WEP is more than enough to prevent casual break-ins.

There was, however, one odd quirk. When I tried to use the 6000AP’s in-context help feature, my Windows XP system told me that to display the help message properly I needed to have the Chinese Traditional language pack installed. I ignored it and the help displayed properly, but D-Link needs to do a little cleaning up of their help files before releasing them to the typical American user.

Those are minor blemishes. For my money, the DWL-6000AP wasn’t only one of the first dual-mode access points on the market; it’s also the first-prize winner.

Model: DWL-6000AP ($299.99)

Pros: Excellent administration interface; dual Ethernet/Fast Ethernet bridge; two wireless standards in one access point.

Cons: A few fit and polish problems

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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