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Holiday Buyer's Guide 2006, Part 2: Networking

Holiday Buyer's Guide 2006, Part 2: Networking
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What? You haven't finished your holiday shopping yet? Well, in case you've been considering a networking-related gift, there are many products that are sure to please your giftee. This guide to networking gifts is based on hands-on experience with products reviewed throughout the year, and links are included to the related reviews and articles for your further exploration. You'll also find some tips on what not to buy, a bit unusual for a gift guide, perhaps, but equally important.

You all know the drill and why you're here, so let's just get right to it.

Wireless Networking

Wi-Fi continues its march toward ubiquity despite crowded airwaves, flaky performance, over-hyped products and generally high buyer dissatifaction. But if you're determined to try to free yourself or a loved one from his or her cabled shackles, we have a few things to suggest.

First, stay away from any products using draft 802.11n technology. Despite all the hype to the contrary, this standard is far from done and many significant changes are still coming. As our reviews have shown, these products generally promise long, deliver short and will interfere with nearby networks. And if that isn't enough, only one manufacturer - ASUS - is guaranteeing upgradability to the final 802.11n spec when it is released sometime next year.

In their efforts to differentiate themselves, manufacturers have come up will all sorts of permutations on the "N" theme, making it difficult for the average consumer to know what he or she is really buying. So here's a partial list of draft 11n "marketingese" so that you know what to avoid:

  • RangeMax NEXT (Netgear)
  • RangeBooster N (D-Link)
  • N1 (Belkin)
  • Wireless N-Draft (Trendnet)
  • Wireless-N (Linksys)

With that said, you'll get the best combination of range and performance from products using MIMO chipsets from Airgo. Airgo's first-generation "True MIMO" chipset is at the heart of the Belkin Pre-N and other routers. But instead of the Belkin, which is short on routing features, a better choice would be the Netgear WPNT834 RangeMax 240. Although the 240 uses Airgo's third-generation chipset that includes "ACE" technology, which can interfere with neighboring 802.11b/g networks, you can shut it off and still have a product that will keep both you and your wireless neighbors happy.

Netgear WPNT834 RangeMax 240 Wireless Router

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