Want to surf the Internet from any room in the house without wiring the whole place for Ethernet? Then perhaps it's time to go wireless. While all of Apple's latest computers are compatible with its AirPort technology, folks with older desktops, unfortunately, are left with no place to land.
Macworld Lab tested an AirPort alternative. The AirEZY2400-SWG from OTC Telecom is a cross-platform, wireless Ethernet solution that can be used to create a network of up to six Ethernet-ready computers or to connect computers to an already existing network.
Two AirEZY2400-SWG transceivers connected to the Ethernet port of two computers establishes a simple peer-to-peer network. Plugging one AirEZY2400-SWG into a hub on your network via the included crossover cable gives your clients with attached AirEZY transceivers access to the LAN. There's no software to install; the transceivers automatically configure themselves. Sounds simple: plug-and-play access to a 2Mbps wireless Ethernet network. Unfortunately, this solution is far from perfect.
Apple set a price record with the $99 AirPort card. Although the AirEZY is different technology aimed at different computers, at $199 it seems expensive in comparison.
Product documentation claims that the AirEZY2400-SWG utilizes spread spectrum radio technology, allowing computers to connect at a distance of up to 300 feet in a typical office environment with cubicles and walls. Well, we couldn't maintain a connection through walls, or even windows. The tech support person told us that while regular drywall won't block a connection, walls that are reinforced with metal, or a file cabinet that sits between you and the next AirEZY transceiver, probably will. Each time we took our iBook out of the room, the connection broke and the AirEZY transceiver locked up. Even after returning to the room, the transceivers would not synch. Restarting, cycling the power to the transceivers, and switching AppleTalk on and off finally put the two nodes back on speaking terms.
Then there's the issue of speed. The AirEZY2400-SWG's 2Mbps transfer rate is fast enough for Web surfing, but slow for local network file transfers. In comparison, an AirPort network has transfer rates of up to 11Mbps. In our performance tests, a Power Macintosh G4/500 took nearly 28 minutes to transfer 100MB to our iBook 300MHz when using two AirEZY2400-SWGs to create an AppleTalk peer-to-peer network over IP. The same test took just over five minutes when using AirPort in computer-to-computer mode.
Finally, the AirEZY2400-SWG is not compatible with AirPort.
Keep in mind that if you have an older PowerBook without an AirPort slot, both Farallon and Lucent Technologies make AirPort-compliant PC Cards. This doesn't help owners of older desktop Macs, but it is a better solution for those with older PowerBooks.