Wireless warriors confused by todays 802.11 standards have a new ally: Netgears WAG511, a wireless PC Card that supports two bands and all the major wireless standards, including 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g.
I expected compromised performance from this $129 all-in-one wireless card, but performance met or exceeded that of the best cards Ive tested.
In 802.11b mode, the card offered performance that far exceeded most 802.11b cards. The one exception was a Sony PWCA-C150S (which includes a better antenna design but supports only 802.11b).
In 802.11g mode, the WAG511 had 30 percent greater range than the next-closest competitor; and in 802.11a mode, it had about twice the range of any card based on Atheros first-generation chip set. In fact, the WAG511 card came as close as Ive seen to matching the performance of built-in 802.11 antennas.
The WAG511 is based on Atheros yet-to-be-announced chip set, which is an update of the AR5001X chip set, signaling that Atheros has successfully escaped its 802.11a heritage.
A potential issue with this card is with its driver. Version 188.8.131.52 (actually the first version) of the Netgear driver isnt Windows XP-compatible, and I had driver problems with three systems. I dont find these to be serious issues because drivers are updated frequently, and the cards worked fine eventually.
As with Netgears other new wireless cards, the WAG511 ships with a configuration utility thats better than Windows XPs wireless utility but is unnecessary nonetheless.