A wireless access point (AP or WAP) serves as the most basic hardware "glue" for connecting computers without wires. Comparable to hubs in a wired network, an access point allows wireless devices to join an existing Ethernet LAN. The products below follow the 802.11b standard that supports a maximum bandwidth of 11 Mbps. 802.11b is a cost-effective standard wireless technology for home networking.
D-Link wireless access points have been available for several years and have sold well. This product is known for good network performance even with full 128-bit WEP encryption turned on. D-Link was one of the first low-cost AP manufacturers to feature MAC address filtering for improved wireless LAN security. Warranty support on the DWL-900AP is limited to one year.
2. Netgear ME102 Wireless Access Point
Unfortunately, Netgear has discontinued the ME102 and no longer offers a comparable product. The ME102 is still available through reseller channels, though, and it is certainly worth the investment. The ME102 offers solid performance and a reputation for being extremely easy to set up. This mature product offers full (128-bit) WEP encryption and DHCP client support. Before being discontinued, Netgear priced the ME102 attractively, making it a great value in this class of product.
As with other Linksys products, customers have reported various types of "flakiness" with the WAP11 wireless access point. Range seems to be limited. Technical support and documentation remain poor at best, and the one year warranty is shorter than that of some competitors. However, the WAP11 promises full WEP encryption, MAC address filtering and other leading-edge features, and normally still beats others on price.
Belkin entered the wireless access point market fairly late with the F5D6130. Nevertheless, the F5D6130 boasted good overall performance and good security support, including MAC address filtering and 128-bit WEP encryption. Belkin also provided its usual high-quality documentation and lifetime warranty for this product. The F5D6130 lacks a browser-based configuration utility and did not ship with an Ethernet cable, but can be a great value if the price is right. Now discontinued, support information for the F5D6130 is still available from Belkin's Web site.
5. SMC EZ Connect SMC2655WSMC's entry-level 802.11b wireless access point (now discontinued) features full WEP encryption, MAC address filtering, and good range (distance support). It also implements the Power over Ethernet feature to support installation in areas not close to an electrical outlet. The SMC2655W install software is not browser-based and is Windows-only. The product also lacks monitoring capability for identifying intruders on the LAN.
6. Orinoco AP-200Proxim differentiated this product from other wireless access points by adding new proprietary features that go beyond the 802.11b standard. These features include technology to reduce signaling interface from microwave ovens and "WEP Plus" encryption for improved security. The AP-200 also includes an effective Web-based setup program, two 10/100 Mbps Ethernet ports, and a free Ethernet cable.