Do you have a love/hate relationship with your home Wi-Fi network? One reason might be that the network is unable to reach every spot you want it to--the sunny patio, the upstairs bedroom, or the kitchen, perhaps. Now, new routers and adapters labeled "Pre-N" or "MIMO" promise to address the dreaded dead-spot dilemma while doubling or tripling the range of standard 802.11b and g devices.
Do these new products live up to their billing? Yes, but you'll pay for the improvement. The routers we tested--shipping versions of D-Link's Super G with MIMO and Linksys's Wireless-G with SRX, and a preproduction Netgear RangeMax--range in price from $150 to $199, compared with about $59 for a standard 54-mbps 802.11g router. Client PC Cards in the new product lines cost $99 to $129, versus approximately $39 for plain-vanilla 802.11g adapters.
Still, people who want their Wi-Fi to go where no wireless has gone before may decide that paying the price premium is preferable to undertaking a complex setup of secondary access points or purchasing a costly high-power antenna.
With the new equipment, you don't have to upgrade your entire network to get the benefits of the technology. Though our tests produced optimum results (including increased throughput) when the router and the client card belonged to the same product line, we found that just using one of the new routers significantly improved the performance of legacy gear. And finally, if you need added range for only a single notebook and you want to save money, consider buying a better Wi-Fi card: Hawking Technology's Hi-Gain Wireless-G Laptop Card (see "Reach on a Budget").