Dell seems to be making itself into both a one-stop and a one-brand computer shop. Besides selling PDAs and printers, the company has stepped into the wireless networking market. Two new house-brand 11-MHz, 802.11b devices are part of this push—the $69 (direct) Dell TrueMobile 1180 Wireless USB Adapter for Desktops and the Dell TrueMobile 1184 Wireless Broadband Router ($129 direct).
Both new products are fine buys—competitive on price, and with performance typical of 802.11b access points and adapters. Like most wireless networking companies, Dell stresses simple installation, and one feature that stands out is the ability you get to create user preference profiles for the adapter so the device can detect and connect to a specific access point automatically. You can also configure the adapter for multiple access points so that you are equally prepared to connect to office, home, and public wireless networks.
The TrueMobile 1184 Wireless Broadband Router combines a four-port 10/100 switch, a cable/DSL router, network address translation capability, and a DHCP server. We would like to see a stateful packet inspection firewall included in this version of the router, though. A typical browser-based configuration utility supports the router via a wired connection or a PC equipped with a wireless adapter.
We tested the TrueMobile wireless products with each other and with a variety of 802.11b products from outside vendors. The client card configured easily with the 1184 Wireless Broadband Router and with a D-Link DWL-900AP+ access point and a Microsoft Wireless Base Station. A utility called Client Manager lets you configure the 802.11b adapter to connect automatically with any access point in range, and you can set an order of preference for connection to familiar access points (you can also change settings manually). Another tab in Client Manager lets you opt for automatic connection to nonpreferred access points, the type you might find while roaming in a mall, airport, or business park.
With the Dell router/AP in the middle of two notebook PCs located 39 feet apart, transferring a 50MB set of files took an average of 2 minutes 47 seconds, which compares well with the overall average of 2:50 for previously tested 802.11b wireless setups. When we placed the AP in the middle of our basement test area, we were able to maintain a usable signal throughout our two-story home and up to 30 feet outside the house—a typical connection distance for devices using this technology.
The Dell TrueMobile Wireless products competitive pricing and emphasis on easy configuration makes them a safe choice.