Help in Purchasing a Wireless PCI Card/USB Adapter for Personal Use

I tried to do the research on my own so as not to bug people, but I could not come to any concrete solutions. I will need to connect to the internet via a wireless device on my desktop in a week. I game on my computer and stream a lot of video, but that's about it. I have a few questions:

  1. How big of a difference is the performance between a PCI card and a USB adapter?

  1. What are the advantages/disadvantages to both, i.e. which would better suit my lifestyle?

  2. I own an HP Slimline appears that the PCI slot is smaller than normal? Will I have to find a special PCI card to fit in this?

I appreciate the help since I am in the process of a move, so the less things to worry and research about, the better.

Thanks again,


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Performance is pretty much the same, if it wasn't...then the manufactures wouldn't be making the lessor performance device. With a USB adapter, you can attach it to a cable and move it around for better signal, but few have a place to attach an external antenna. With a card, you can often attach an external antenna...but some cards don't have an antenna jack.

Depends on what your "lifestyle" is. A card is less likely to get broken off like a plugged in USB device, unless you dangle it with a dongle cord.

Most likely its an Express Card slot, a standard PCMCIA card won't fit.

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Most wireless solutions do not involve concrete. Well, if you're installing a tower, pole, or pedestal box, perhaps there's some concrete involved.

Gaming requires fast response times and generally fast downloads. Screaming video requires fast UDP downloading. What you'll find is that the wireless does not impact the performance as much as your broadband provider. For example, with a 54Mbit/sec wireless connection, you could stream video up to about 25Mbits/sec download. However, that kind of speed does nothing for you if your ISP sells DSL at 1.5Mbits/sec. The ISP speed will be your #1 limitation on performance.

None. Each has its own collection of horrors. PCI cards, with the stock antenna, are in the worst possible antenna location. It's usually buried behind the steel computer case, up against a wall, under a desk, and in the middle of a tangle of wires. Your signal strength will suffer severely and your ability to maneuver the antenna to a more desireable location will be limited. If you're going to go with PCI, get an external antenna with a cable extension.

USB has the advantage of being much easier to optimize the antenna (or device) location. The problem is that most USB devices use PCB (PIFA) antennas, which have much lower gain than the stock rubber ducky antenna usually supplied with a PCI card. What you gain in location with USB, you lose in antenna gain.

Very roughly, it's about even.

If you're into gaming and video, you have no life and little style. As long as you don't wear the USB or PCI device around your neck as some kind of status symbol, I suspect you'll be ok, as neither device is addictive and detrimental to most lifestyles.

Duz it have a model number? Extra credit for the exact model number and a URL on the HP web pile.

That's called a "short" PCI card. There are several PCI devices that come with two mounting brackets, for each type of card height. See the photo of the Linksys WMP54G at:

The card will obviously fit, but I'm not 100.0% sure that they supply the short mounting bracket. Looking at the docs, they don't show a short bracket. I just did a very quick (and sloppy) scan of the equivalent DLink and Netgear cards, and found more "short" PCI cards, but no mention of corresponding brackets. I guess you'll have to look inside the box or call the vendor.

Also, be sure that you're NOT talking about a PCIe (PCI Express) card slot, which is quite different from a short PCI card. That's one reason you should supply the exact model number of your computer.

I can't guarantee that anything I suggested will work. That's because I have no idea how many walls you're shooting through, and how far you're planning to go. If the ultimate in performance is what you want, I suggest you run the CAT5 cable and NOT use wireless. All it takes is the neighbors microwave oven or cordless phone to come alive at an inopertune moment, and your game or video feed will drop out.

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Jeff Liebermann

I'll add a few things:

- The ability to place your USB where you want it can be critical.

Example: My neighbor has a cheap $20 USB adapter with the typical internal antenna up on a stick (covered in plastic) outside his house. He's got it on a 15' (zero loss) USB extension going through a window. His pci card would not work at all where his pc is, but with the USB out the window he found a clear line of sight and connects at full speed.

He could have bought a low loss coax antenna cable, but it would have cost much more and/or lost too much signal.

- You CAN buy a USB adapter that has a decent antenna. You can even replace the antenna with a higher gain one.

Here's a good deal as an example:

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3) USB has another advantage: it will work on any desktop or laptop you may need it for in the future.


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That's kind of cute for the extended range applications, with that external antenna. You could add a reflector to that, and almost have the equivalent of the more expensive Hawking with a dish:

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the "mac" version is $20 more. what's up with that?
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I carried a little USB dongle around with me for a couple of years, sort of replacing my crossover cable for quickie networking. I'd plug it in to someone else's PC, and Adhoc to my laptop. Then I bought a Belkin F5D7050 USB dongle for a friend. Piece of junk. Wound up giving her the old DLink, and now I'm trying to decide what to do with the Belkin. Tossed the box already, so I can't return it. And the lifetime warranty doesn't seem worth exercising, if whining on the web can be believed.

The DLink is discontinued, so I don't know what I'll buy next.

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dold hath wroth:

DWL-122 methinks.

I've had lousy luck with most of the USB dongles that I've tried. The problem seems to be the drivers. Ethernet wireless does literally everything in the wireless device. PCMCIA and MiniPCI cards do about half in the card and half in the driver. USB does almost everything in the driver. The most common problem is that there's a tendency to accidentally disconnect the USB wireless device, which usually results in a disconnect. However, it's a crap shoot as to which USB devices and driver combinations will automatically reconnect and/or continue the session where I left off. I have yet to find a USB device that does it well or reliably. I've done better with PCMCIA or PC Card.

I have PCMCIA cards for most of my ever growing assortment of junk laptops. The good laptops have built in MiniPCI cards, but the older stuff requires something else. I've been carrying around a WRT54G v2 with DD-WRT installed, running in client mode, for situations where I need an external antenna or fancy features (sniffing, snorting, surveying, something, etc) running in client mode. Although I have the dongle, I've been running mine off 4ea NiMH AA batteries. Think of it as a fancy travel router. I have saved config files for each of my major activities and customer sites so that I don't have to tinker with the settings (much). Of course the big advantage to an ethernet connection is the lack of drivers needed and that it will work on anything (with an ethernet port).

So, my suggestions (of the week) is some kind of travel router, which can also act as a client. DD-WRT if you want.

Reply to
Jeff Liebermann

Yep. I think the plastic is deformed a little from too long an operating cycle in a coffee cantenna, but it still works, and offers no problems wherever it is used.

I haven't tried that many, I bought several of the DLink before the 802.11b version went away, and I would have purchased a DWL-G122, hoping that it would be as good, but I see it as discontinued as well.

The powerpack would be a feature of your own? I wouldn't have thought of that ;-( I would presume that anything that got warm would be drawing too much power to run off AA for long enough to make it worthwhile. 12VDC, .5A. Your power pack is 6v? 1amp? 2 hours from a fresh charge? That's a big box. Too bad the WTR54GS doesn't have a convenient DC input. It doesn't say how much power it draws, just "built in". I guess it has a little nuke pack or something ;-) So proud of the built in AC converter that they don't bother to mention the spec.

That has drwan my attention to the NETGEAR WGPS606. It is a WiFi client print server with four ethernet and two USB ports.

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am tired of trying to get anyone's drivers to work with Linux;-(

If I put one of those in, and throw away the Belkin FD57050 piece of junk, I could get my old DWL-122 back in the laptop bag.

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Yes. The WRT54G v2 thru v4 and above have a wide range switching power supply regulator inside the box. (Note: 1.0 runs on 5V. There are two versions of 1.1, one of which is 5v, the other 12v. I haven't tried v4-8 yet). It will run on anything between about 4VDC and

18VDC. Power dissipation varies by model between 3-5 watts. My 6v 4A gel cell will run it for about 1.5 hours before complaining. The 5.4v NiMH pack will run for about 45 minutes before complaining.

This is from some measurements I did in 2005 on a WRT54G v1.1. Volts Amps Watts (receive) 20.0 0.26 5.2 15.0 0.35 5.4 12.0 0.45 5.4 10.0 0.56 5.6 8.0 0.70 5.6 7.0 0.80 5.6 6.0 0.95 5.7 5.0 1.2 6.0 The later hardware mutations draw somewhat less power.

Well, there are plenty of articles available on running the WRT54G on solar power.

True. The WRT54G wasn't really designed for minimum power consumption. However, later chipsets are and draw less power.

I also have a 12V 7A-Hr gel cell that I use for the ham radio stuff, that can also be used. The calcs are simple enough. The idea is to NOT run the battery down below about 75% charger. So, 0.25 * 12v * 7A-Hr = 21 watt-hrs available The WRT54G burns about 4 watts. 12 watt-hrs / 4 watts = 3 hrs You can certainly run longer than 3 hours, but you run the risk of destroying the gel cell battery.

The board inside is easily repackaged. However, I'm not into aesthetics so I just have the battery pack ty-wrapped to the WRT54G case.

AC power supply is external. The external power supply usually has more power capacity than the unit draws.

That's exactly why I prefer an ethernet wireless client/bridge/router/sniffer/whatever. Zero install hassles.

There are also "travel router" boxes worth considering. Most of these have a client mode. I've only played with the Linksys WTR54GS.

and wasn't very impressed. It also runs on 117VAC, not battery. Still, it's small, portable, and good enough for most applications.

Reply to
Jeff Liebermann

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I'd think a reflector on the Edimax's omni would be higher gain than the Hawking's claimed 8 dbi.

I was just looking over the reviews of the Hawking and it seems to perform well. But then somebody compared it directly to the Edimax.

Customer review of Hawking USB dish quoted here:

"Pros: You get a decent rate of increase in range, but absolutely nothing like that of the Edimax usb adapter for thirty-six bucks from Newegg (bought them both) that has the external antenna capability.

Cons: Flimsy toy-like cheap plastic construction (first one defective, received prompt replacement from Newegg). Looks like it will be better than it is. ......... Personal opinion: somewhat disappointed, mainly because of the price paid (go with Edimax usb, imho)."

Other Thoughts: Mfr use of the "Hawking" name: very disappointing. Does not live up to the name."

Another review in direct comparison:

"Pros: Purchased previously Hawking's ""mini-satellite-dish"" usb adapter; received a fair increase in range. This Edimax product (at much less cost) is way over that in range between buildings; ......I added the Xterasys range extender antenna from Newegg (ten bucks), and got way over the expected coverage, FAR more than the Hawking device (which is not recognized under Backtrack2 for monitor mode, btw). The big plus is that you can easily screw in the antenna of your choice; other mfrs do not seem to think this as a necessary option. For those in-the-know this is a requirement."

Various reviewers note that this Edimax adapter works and comes with Linux drivers.

Sorry if it sounds like I'm selling these things, it just looks like a really good one. I can certainly see the value of avoiding the USB driver issue. In fact with decent $40 ethernet adapters available, the more I think about it, I go with one of those for a desktop.

I suppose it's a trade-off between reliability and portability. Also might depend on whether the adapter is to be used on various pc s or just one.


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The Hawking antenna really is 8dBi gain. I ground out the numbers for the dish:

and the same diameter in a flat plate reflector:

If the omni were a vertical colinear antenna (highly likely), and gain increases 3dB for every doubling in the antenna size, then the approximate gains are:

wavelength cm gain (dBi)

1/2 wave 6.25 2.1 full wave 12.5 5 2 wavelengths 25.0 8

If the omni is 10" long (plus 1.2in for a decoupling sleeve), it has a chance of having 8dBi gain. If the guts are made from coax cable sections instead of wire rod and phasing coils, subtract about 1dB per

1/2 wave section for the coax losses.

I haven't played with either the Edimax or Hawking devices, so I can't offer any opinions.

Reply to
Jeff Liebermann

12v at 500mA in the spec, 5 watts sounds right.
6v 4Ah, I suppose you mean. I would expect 2 hours, but, there is some limit before complaints are registered. Your gel cell might be tired of the use, too.

No amp rating? 5.4v from four AA NimH is a damn fine trick. It was the size of the four AA pack that interested me.

That would be okay... I just wouldn't think of carrying a four AA pack for casual use, and it doesn't sound like you are doing that.

That would be more reasonable, but then it is too large to put in my laptop bag, a whole different category from four AA batteries.

That's the one where I was referring to the internal supply, and lack of power rating. I suppose you could dig inside and tap into the DC side of it. On the other hand, an extension cord is lighter than a 6v7Ah gel cell.

That would be a handy widget. The Netgear has some printer ports and multiple ethernet ports, so it would be better for my immediate need, but the WTR54GS would work for anybody that had a NIC. Some of the older PCs that I was playing with only had USB, or at least the USB is on the front, and I don't have to dig to get at it.


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