Test Drive: D-LinkAir Pro 5GHz Wireless Access Point

By Lonny Paul

Everyone wants to be connected faster and 802.11a answers the call. D-Link now provides a robust 802.11a access point which has robust security and encryption and provides much higher data throughput rates than that of 802.11b.

The D-Link DWL-5000AP provides a highly-secure network environment and also provides users with a faster connectivity to the network. In comparison to other 802.11a models tested, this unit appears to be more robust in multi-floor performance with similar throughput.

Just as broadband has pushed the Internet connectivity speed, 802.11a products push wireless network speed. Marketed as achieving maximum throughput of up to 72 Mbps and communicating on the not-so-crowded 5GHz spectrum, D-Link’s wireless products do provide additional throughout for those who “need the speed” -though no where near the advertised speed (networking overhead takes a lot away).

D-Link’s new 802.11a Access Point provides great network connectivity at a higher speed (but also for a higher price). The product setup can literally take you a few seconds if you choose the default settings and increase the speed of wireless clients. Unless you are running a secure network with specialized settings, this 802.11a Access Point could be for you.

Setting up a stand-alone access point isn’t too difficult. Connect it to your wireless network and let the client’s connect. Although the D-Link DWL-5000AP Access Point provides extensive security and encryption options (including 152-bit WEP encryption), without touching one keystroke of settings I was able to plug in and connect to the network without a problem. The client found the access point with no problem.

By default, the D-Link product uses the 192.168.0.xxx IP address setup. Connection via either Web interface or serial connection is made available for configuration. D-Link goes the extra step and even includes a cable for connection to the unit’s COM port. Without using either, you can be online in less than a minute.

The Web-based setup provides for full configuration of the unit as a DHCP client or server, authentication by MAC address and your choice of 64, 128 or even 152-bit encryption. In most non-corporate environments, encryption is really not necessary, although MAC address validation is pretty much standard fare for anyone with a wireless network these days to assure the neighbors don’t jump on your network bandwagon.

The provided documentation is a simple leaflet to get users through the setup, with a full user’s manual on the provided CD. That’s the standard these days, but for the price of this product D-Link should have splurged on printing it.

The D-Link packaging and marketing materials tout a speed of up to 72MBps with their proprietary “turbo” mode, however, as you’d expect, real-world testing sings a different tune.

In testing with D-Link’s CardBus and PCI adapters for clients, the AP provided an average of 19.69Mbps throughout. That’s quite impressive compared to 802.11b-based WLAN speeds. At 75 feet, the performance lagged to an average of 14.64Mbps. Over 100 feet, this unit performed with about 25% speed degradation-about what’s expected with 802.11a.

Although the TCP throughput is quite impressive, it should be noted that the “link” to the access point was actually rated much higher, with a 24MB link even at 150 feet. These tests were tested with “turbo” mode enabled on both the AP as well as the D-Link PC Card. With encryption at any level, minimal performance degradation was noted.

These performance levels are pretty in-line with those of other 802.11a access points previously reviewed, however there was not as much signal loss detected as there was with SMC, when working on a different floor seemed to lose the base all together. The 75 and 100 feet tests were performed outside of the building-five floors below-where the access point was placed (and no, the AP wasn’t placed in the window).

With a full range of 64-152 bit encryption and MAC address validation, the 5000AP provides a wide range of security features. Utilization of those security features did not provide any notable performance loss.

Those who have previously adopted the 802.11b standard should note that the D-Link Web site is currently promoting an upcoming 802.11a/802.11b hybrid access point. This should prove quite useful for individuals who have lots of wireless adapters deployed for 802.11b and simply don’t need everyone to have “super” wireless connectivity. Personally, I’ll wait for one with dual mode support so I can use existing hardware as well.

However, if you’re just getting started with WLANs, consider 802.11a. The prices on these units are already falling to more affordable levels and D-Link does a great job of providing an 802.11a access point which requires minimal setup and performs great within an normal SOHO or home application. Even without 802.11b support, the DWL-5000AP gets a “recommended” rating for data speeds, super easy setup and consistent signal strength.

Pros: Frequency clear of interference; higher data transfer than 802.11b; simple configuration/setup.
Cons: Real-world data transfer not as fast as marketed; higher price tag than 802.11b.

DWL-5000AP – $319.99 MSRP

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.

Must Read

Get the Free Newsletter!

Subscribe to Daily Tech Insider for top news, trends, and analysis.