Wi-fi Card: Reach on a Budget
The new range-extending routers aren't cheap. For a low-budget alternative, consider Hawking Technology's new Hi-Gain Wireless-G Laptop Card (HWC54D), a $45 adapter that maximizes the range and dead-spot coverage of an 802.11b or g gateway.
Basically, the HWC54D is a standard 802.11g card with a pop-up directional antenna that you twist to get the best signal. Tested with a plain 802.11g router, the Hawking card gave us almost as much extra range as did the new routers we tested with their respective cards--though at the outer edge of a garden (roughly 70 feet from the router), the Hawking card was about two times as slow. More pluses: The card connected on the first try to each of the routers we tested, and it costs only about half as much as the new cards we tested.
Since it has no proprietary performance enhancements, the Hi-Gain card is perfect for connecting at hotspots. Our one concern: The antenna looks as though it could snap off pretty easily. But that's a risk we're willing to take for such a big reward.