NetGear's HE102 access point, the least expensive product we tested, is geared toward the SOHO market. Its strong point is the simplicity of installation, but several feature shortcomings need to be addressed soon.
We installed the HE102 using an HTML browser on a computer that was on the same network as the access point. Although NetGear does not offer a utility for the purpose, the HE102's installation process deserves kudos. We just opened the browser and wrote the access point's name (as printed on the bottom of the device) in the URL field, and we were immediately taken to the access point's Web-based configuration page. All subsequent setup can be done similarly. The features supported by the HE102 are like those in the SMC access point, including normal and turbo modes, WEP-based security, the ability to adjust transmission power, and MAC-address-based ACLs.
Only in the NetGear product did we find a serial console port. While all the products we tested are designed for in-band management, a console port can be a welcome feature when you are experiencing network problems. Unlike the SMC 2755W, NetGear's product does not include an integrated DHCP server, but the company says one will be added in the next firmware release. The product also lacks SNMP support and, unlike the other products tested, does not include an online help feature, something that might be desirable in SOHO environments.
In our performance tests, the HE102 came in second in normal mode and right around average in turbo mode. Range testing revealed a fairly limited coverage area, similar to the Intermec device. Ping coverage at the various spots, with maximum transmit power enabled, indicated up to a 20 percent packet loss at spot E and up to 10 percent packet loss at spot F. At the remaining spots there was no packet loss.
HE102 802.11a Wireless Access Point, $340. NetGear, (888) 638-4327, (408) 907-8000. www.netgear.com