Networking

Product Review: Linksys 802.11a access point

Features and functionality of Linksys 802.11a


By Brian Nadel

The affordable Linksys WAP54A Instant Wireless Access Point should appeal to small businesses looking to extend their office networks wirelessly using 802.11a equipment. In Turbo mode, this device delivers some of the fastest throughput we've seen, and it provides the highest level of security available. We only wish it came with a longer warranty. Click here to check out the latest prices for this product.

Linksys WAP54A Instant Wireless Access Point


Built for business
With its blue and black case, the $349 WAP54A shares the familiar and consistent styling of other Linksys products. It has a rugged exterior, with recesses on top to simplify stacking, as well as four sturdy legs. A pair of antennae can be rotated 180 degrees to lock in the strongest signal. The WAP54A doesn't include wall-mounting hardware, however, so the access point has to sit on your desk or on another flat surface.

This access point should be easy to install for anyone with a basic understanding of networking. The detailed, 34-page manual contains a useful FAQ section and a glossary of commonly used networking terms. The WAP54A connects to a network switch or hub and can be configured quickly via the Web-based setup utility using a Web browser. The Setup tab lets you set the IP address, insert the network's SSID, turn the Turbo function on or off, specify a transmission channel, and choose the level of WEP security. To ease network setup, the WAP54A comes with WEP disabled, but we recommend immediately setting the device to an appropriate level of security. The WAP54A can handle 64-, 128-, and 152-bit encryption, placing it among the most secure access points on the market.

Like many other wireless access points, the WAP54A's Web-based utility also offers advanced configuration settings. The Status tab shows the type of networks available, the transmission rate, the current channel in use, and the level of security. The Filter screen lets you deny certain clients access by filtering their MAC addresses. The Advanced tab leads to higher-level controls, such as beacon interval, fragmentation length, and transmission power.

Turbocharged performance
The Linksys WAP54A fared well in our labs' tests. It moved data back and forth at 21.6Mbps in Standard mode, which is a bit slower than the D-Link Air Pro DWL-5000AP. In Turbo mode, however, the Linksys zoomed ahead, with a 31.3-Mbps speed rating—just shy of the blistering pace set by the Netgear HE802.11a Wireless Access Point. In Standard mode, the WAP54A's unobstructed range of 55 feet was a little shorter than that of its competitors, but at that range, it served up MP3 audio, MPEG video, and a broadband Web connection without problems.

One of our few disappointments with the WAP54A is its sadly typical one-year warranty. For a product clearly targeted toward small business, we expected something comparable to NetGear's five-year warranty. At least toll-free phone support is available 24/7 for the life of the product. The Linksys Web site also offers drivers, FAQs, a searchable knowledge base, and a series of informative white papers on networking.

With its excellent setup utilities and fast data transfers in Turbo mode, the WAP54A Instant Wireless Access Point offers a capable and affordable solution for small-business users. While Linksys's warranty for the product is shorter than we'd like, it's otherwise a good buy.

Editor's rating = 7.6 (out of 10)
Performance = 8
Setup and ease of use = 8
Service and support = 7
Security = 8
Design = 7
Features = 7
Pros
  • Excellent phone support
  • Fast throughput in Turbo mode
  • Affordable price
Cons
  • No wall-mounting hardware
  • Average warranty


 

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