Networking

Product Review: D-Link Air Pro more economical than ever

Features and functions of D-Links Air Pro DWL-5000AP 802.11a wireless access point


By Brian Nadel

D-Link's Air Pro DWL-5000AP 802.11a wireless access point deftly manages to appeal to novices without diluting its potency for more experienced users. The Air Pro combines a thoroughly documented setup process with fast performance, and it's affordable to boot. We only wish D-Link didn't make you work for your warranty. Click here to check out the latest prices for this product.

First timers welcome
The DWL-5000AP's economical $339 price puts it within reach of most small-office and home users, and it caters to that largely novice audience with plenty of setup help. In addition to a printed manual and the quick-installation guide, a pair of CDs holds software and an electronic manual, plus a series of videos on how to install and configure the equipment. These videos are helpful for first timers, but they are not OS-specific, and they lack the depth that would aid the wireless veteran.

Only a few quirks mar this otherwise stylish and flexibly designed access point. We liked the four rubber feet, which snap onto the bottom or side edges of the unit so that it can stand vertically or horizontally. The pair of antennae at the rear of the unit can rotate 180 degrees to get the best reception. Unfortunately, the access point lacks wall-mounting hardware, so the unit is stuck on your desk or another flat surface. And the power supply requires a three-prong plug to operate, which might make it awkward to use in buildings with older, ungrounded plugs.

Top-notch security
Once the D-Link is connected to a network, you can set up the access point in about five minutes using the Web-based Configuration Utility. The Configuration menu shows all the pertinent data, from SSID to IP addressing to WEP security. WEP comes turned off for configuration ease. Because it provides 64-, 128-, or 152-bit protection—the best you can get these days—we strongly suggest setting appropriate security parameters right away. For those interested in details, the Advanced Configuration menu presents a variety of settings, including Transmission Strength and Data Speeds.

Fast and far
The DWL-5000AP performed well in our labs' tests. Its 22.1Mbps throughput speed in Standard mode and 29.6Mbps in Turbo mode were faster than the SMC EZ Connect 802.11a wireless access point's speeds, but the D-Link couldn't keep up with the NetGear HE102 802.11a wireless access point, which is currently the fastest we've tested. In Standard mode, the DWL-5000AP served up Web pages, MP3 audio, and MPEG video with a range slightly longer than 57 feet.

We'd typically praise any company with support policies that include a three-year warranty; free, 24/7, toll-free phone support for the life of the product; and a Web site rich with downloads, advice, and troubleshooting. D-Link provides all this but only if you register your product within 90 days of purchase. Otherwise, your warranty lasts just 90 days. This punitive approach is decidedly user-unfriendly.

The DWL-5000AP is in many ways a laudable product. Its hand-holding setup should put novices at ease, and its fast throughput will be a boon to home and office users who want to transfer bandwidth-intensive files. But having to jump through hoops to get the product's warranty, especially when you've paid several hundred dollars for a key piece of networking equipment, is a drag. Click here to get the latest prices for this product.

Editor's rating = 7.5 (out of 10)
Performance = 8
Setup and ease of use = 8
Service and support = 6
Security = 8
Design = 7
Features = 7
Pros
  • Affordable price
  • Fast data throughput
  • Helpful setup videos
Cons
  • No wall-mounting hardware
  • Must register to activate warranty
  • Requires three-prong outlet


 

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