Network Card Guide

Helping you get connected

Wi-Fi network cards are the tiny little blades that slip into the side of laptops, or the standard-looking cards in your home desktop. Technically, they're referred to as wireless network interface controllers (WNIC), and along with a router they can connect you to the web without those annoying Ethernet cables. However, they still require an access point, which is generally the aforementioned router. Check that guide for useful tips on picking up the best hardware possible.

Here, we'll discuss three of the most popular cards, the internal devices necessary to get you online.

Advertiser Links for Network Cards

D-Link DWL-G650 AirPlus Xtreme G Wireless CardBus Adapter

Since we were so impressed with what we saw from the D-Link Xtreme G router, we thought we'd take a closer look at its accompanying adapter, the second half of D-Link's requirement for fulfilling impressive 108Mbps performance. With that said, you'll want to keep in mind that only the latest versions of this card offer such speeds in combination with the Xtreme G router. Make sure to download the most recent firmware from D-Link's homepage in order to ensure optimal performance.

Here are some of the notable features of the Xtreme G CardBus Adapter:

  • Combines with Xtreme G router for optimal speed
  • Simple installation
  • Multiple year warranty
  • Fairly cheap at about $35-50
  • **Caption: The Xtreme G router and card go hand in hand

    There are a few good reasons to pick up this card, including its easy setup and a warranty that lasts three years with 24 hours a day and seven days a week phone tech support. That alone is impressive for a product that costs less than $50.

    However, some of the speed numbers may have been blown up a bit. Most reports on the Xtreme G Adapter indicate that the card is hardly a jackrabbit of performance, dragging around 10-12 Mbps over a 802.11g network. Of course, this can vary according to a number of factors, although it certainly isn't going to impress even the average web surfer.

    Verdict: In the end, although the D-Link card [http://www.gizmocafe.com/shop/?ysq=D-Link+DWL-G650+AirPlus+Xtreme+G+Wireless+CardBus+Adapter&x=44&y=1]owns a fairly impressive name and title, the card settles for a "you get what you pay for" result.

    Linksys WPC54GX Adapter

    Requesting that consumers own up a little more dough for its card than the wares offered by the competition, Linksys is acting brave considering the disappointing reviews received for its WRT54GS router. The popular network producers are attempting to make the extra bucks worth your while through the following features:

  • "Funk Software" allows for configuration of WPA
  • Easy setup
  • MIMO technology supports fast connection at a distance
  • Bit pricey at about $80-100
  • **Caption: Some new features blast the WPC54GX out of price rationality

    The primary feature desperately pushed by any network device is speed, and that's exactly what the Linksys WPC54GX is attempting to do. Apparently, such a feature is supposed to excuse a hefty price tag, which doubles that of the competition from D-Link and the Xtreme G CardBus. However, the D-Link featured less than favorable performance, so does the extra money make this Linksys device worth the cost for consumers?

    The quick answer is no. Although Linksys has branded the performance initiatives of the WPC54GX as the MIMO technology we discussed earlier, the feature isn't anything not already being offered by other competitors. Sure, it helps the Linksys achieve some decent speed while at a distance from the primary access point, but in the end it's simply not worth the cost.

    Verdict: Although an easy installation and some interesting new features make the Linksys card [http://www.gizmocafe.com/shop/?ysq=Linksys+WPC54GX+Adapter&x=34&y=8]a quality device, it's simply too expensive for the limited options being marketed.

    Netgear WG511T 108 Mbps Wireless PC Card

    If you read about the Netgear's device in the router guide, you know that it's a quality product with some serious high speeds. Of course, the major knock against that router was its overly complicated, time-consuming, and sometimes frustrating installation, which has left many consumers vying for the popular competition from Linksys and D-Link.

    Netgear attempts to repair its reputation amongst the masses with the following features for its Wireless PC Card:

  • Quick speed, like its router
  • WPA support
  • Actually easy to use!
  • Pretty reasonable price, at about $50-60
  • **Caption: Partnered with a Netgear router or not, this card is the fastest

    Although not quite as cheap as the D-Link Xtreme G CardBus, Netgear's offering gives consumers some ridiculously fast performance for only a few bucks more. That was the same story when reviewing the Netgear and D-Link routers, but the difference in this line of Wi-Fi wares is the fact that the WG511T is simply much easier to install and use.

    The perplexing part might be reports that the very best performance can only be achieved when using other Netgear products, such as that confusing router. This is hardly news when considering the competition from Linksys and D-Link, but for those of us who have followed the lesser-known Netgear closely, we're left wondering, "what happened?"

    Verdict: Fast and (finally) feasible, Netgear's network card [http://www.gizmocafe.com/shop/?ysq=Netgear+WG511T+108+Mbps+Wireless+PC+Card&x=69&y=3]is the fastest whether you're using other products from the company or not.