I was wondering if someone could explain to me how to understand the specifications when shopping for a wireless network card, so that I can determine its speed, range, efficiency, and security capabilities.
I am guessing that all wireless network cards are not created equal.
I apologize if this post is on the wrong thread. I was not sure which thread to post this on.
Speed depends on variant of the 802.11 wireless specs -- most new cards are n which is quicker than g but with n best to stick with the same brand as the router to ensure compatibility.
Security capabilities -- most new cards support WPA2 which is pretty secure.
Format is the main consideration. Laptops can be USB or PCMCIA (aka PC Card) -- I don't know but assume cards are also now in the "mini PCMCIA" format too. Most new laptops have wireless built in -- which saves having projecting devices sticking out of the laptop to get damaged. Built-in wireles can probably be more power efficient and better integrated into power saving measures.
Desktops can use USB or PCI or (the newest) PCIe.
USB has been regarded as inferior but, in certain environments, the fact that you can extend the physical reach by means of a USB extension lead without loss of signal can be an advantage.
Range: if no objects in the way, for a stable connection, 100-200 feet depending on how the antenna is oriented. The new N routers with multiple antennas are pretty good with getting a wide signal out.
Speed and Efficiency are kinda tied together. All Wireless has more overhead and issues to deal with. The advertized speeds you can toss out the window. Unless you are using one wireless device 10 feet away from the router.
Expect real world speeds about 1/2 of what the boxes tell you. Each wireless device on the network will cut the speed by 1/2 when it's online and pulling data.