August 1, 2003
Easy As 1-2-3
The Linksys BEFW11S4 EtherFast Wireless-B Access Point + Cable/DSL Router with 4-Port 10/100 Switch (www.linksys.com; suggested retail price $99.99) is an inexpensive, easy-to-use product that allows even novice users with cable or DSL connections to set up a wireless home network and share IP addresses, files, printers, and other network resources. Installation took less than 30 minutes, and after a week of testing with an ADSL line, we found no major glitches.
Because the BEFW11S4 splits the signal as it comes into your home, any of the networked computers can access the Internet even if the rest are turned off — something that could not be done in earlier versions of the product. The standard ports operate at up to 100Mbps, with wireless transmissions up to 11Mbps.
However, one downside is that those wireless speeds can be erratic if the signal has to penetrate thick walls or transmit to a computer on a different floor. This can be remedied by purchasing a signal booster (the Linksys WSB24 Wireless-B Signal Booster solves the problem but at a cost of about $99.99). Another downside is that the product includes only one wireless Ethernet card — for laptops. So if you don’t want to connect your desktop to the network via an Ethernet cable, you’ll have to purchase an internal wireless PCI card at about $60 each.
Overall, the BEFW11S4 is a solid, reliable network product for the novice or intermediate user. While more advanced products might offer greater wireless transmission speeds and more bells and whistles, the ease of installation paired with the relatively low price make this a good buy.