Holiday gift ideas: home and office gear

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Wi-Fire Long-Range Wi-Fi Adapter, by hField Technologies

As you probably know, most Wi-Fi adapters, whether built-in or add-on, restrict power output in the interest of saving on both product cost and battery life. But there are times when, as a consequence, link quality and performance, especially at hotspots and otherwise outdoors, are less than robust. Enter the Wi-Fire, which is an external USB 802.11b/g adapter with both a directional antenna (for aiming at the spot where signal strength is maximized), and very high transmit power output -- they claim up to half a watt (vs. the 100 mW or less of typical adapters today) and claimed receiver sensitivity also better than most. The unit can be clipped to a notebook's screen, and drivers are provided for Windows, the Mac, and even Linux. Sounds good!

Except in testing, where we found that the additional range provided with our 802.11g connection was only about 25% - in our case, a few meters. The directional antenna idea seems valid, but we found in practice that there was no practical benefit. The unit itself is flimsy and could fall off the notebook with not too big a push, and the included connection manager was rudimentary at best. And, of course, it's still 802.11g in a 802.11n world.

The solution, though, is simple -- buy your sweetie a shiny new 802.11n adapter. You'll get more range and improved performance even when operating in 802.11g mode -- and at a price likely below what the Wi-Fire costs. Here we've got a good idea that suffers from both poor timing and poor execution -- not the best combo when opening presents.

Cool Yule Rating: 1 star

Price: $59.99 at Amazon.com

Product Web site.

Reviewed by Craig Mathias

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This story, "Holiday gift ideas: home and office gear" was originally published by Network World.

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