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Review: Linksys Wireless-N Broadband Router And Wireless-N Notebook Adapter

Wi-Fi technology has been rapidly evolving since it first came on the scene in 2001. The original 802.11b based-products, with their 11 Mb/s bandwidth capacity, were quickly eclipsed by 802.11g running at up to 54 Mb/s. Most computers and wireless routers sold today are based on 802.11g, and do a pretty good job spreading connectivity throughout a house. But even as 11g becomes ubiquitous, there's a new standard on the horizon: 802.11n.

The promise of 802.11n is two-fold. First, by using a technology called "multiple-input, multiple-output" (MIMO), 11n is supposed to offer radically greater range -- up to four times the distance of 802.11g. Second, connection speeds of up to 300Mb/s are available to devices using the new standards.

There's only one problem with the 802.11n standard: It doesn't exist yet. The working group of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) that is responsible for defining Wi-Fi standards is still determining exactly what 802.11n is. In fact, the current estimate is that the standard won't be finished until mid-2007.

This hasn't stopped all the major Wi-Fi vendors from developing 802.11n products, however. How is this possible? Because before a standard is finalized, draft standards are released. A draft specification of 802.11n was produced by the working group in the spring of 2006, and that draft is what is being implemented in the products now being sold, which refer to themselves as "draft 802.11n" or "pre-N" products.

With that in mind, we sat down with the draft-N product line from Linksys, to see what it was capable of. We were provided with two PCMCIA adaptor cards (WPC300N) and a wireless router (WRT300N) for testing. The router looks pretty much like any wireless home router, except that in addition to the two stick antennas that an older router might sport, it also has a paddle-shaped antenna between other two. It also has 4 LAN Ethernet ports on the back to allow hardwired devices to run through the router.

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