Buffalo Technology’s AirStation 54Mbps Wireless USB adapter reviewed

Wireless Performance

Although I have a USB2-equipped desktop machine, the notebook that I normally use for client testing remains at USB 1.1. But not to be kept from my appointed throughput-testing rounds, I just connected a Belkin F5D7130 AP [reviewed here] to my notebook and left the USB-G54 lashed to my 2.4GHz Pentium4 desktop, sitting where the test AP normally is. Figure 2 shows the test results.

BuffaloTech WLI-USB-G54 - Four location throughput

Figure 2: Four location throughput
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

I should note that you can't directly compare these results - or any results going forward - with those of previous reviews before October 1, 2003. My recent move meant setting up new test locations, which are described here.

The new Location 3 test is the only one done from a point one floor below the stationary AP location. The poorer performance for Location 3 might be due to the unusual antenna design of the USB-G54, but it could just be the way the radio waves crumble in the new test location. Only time - and more product testing - will tell for sure.

I also ran tests in WEP128, WPA-PSK / TKIP, WPA-PSK / AES modes and found a significant throughput loss (24%) only in WPA-PSK / TKIP. All other modes had variation within the accuracy of my test methods. This is consistent with what I've found on other Broadcom-based products, and does put you at a throughput disadvantage if you mix the USB-G54 (or any other Broadcom-based client supporting WPA) with WPA-enabled APs or wireless routers based on GlobespanVirata (Intersil) or Atheros chipsets.

The best-case average throughput of about 20Mbps is consistent with Broadcom-based 11g products based on Ethernet or CardBus interfaces. So it appears that - unlike 802.11b USB1.1 adapters - you won't pay a throughput penalty for connecting via USB 2.

You will lose throughput, though, if you use the adapter with a computer supporting USB 1.1, as Figure 3 shows.

BuffaloTech WLI-USB-G54 - Throughput connected to USB1.1

Figure 3: Throughput connected to USB 1.1
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

Smooths things right out, doesn't it? Although you wouldn't buy the USB-G54 specifically to attach to a USB 1.1-equipped machine, it's nice to know that you at least have the option.

802.11g Wireless Performance Test Results

Test Conditions

- WEP encryption: DISABLED
- Tx Rate: Automatic
- Power Save: Disabled
- Test Partner: Belkin F5D7130 Access Point

Firmware/Driver Versions

AP f/w:
Wireless client driver:
WinXP 5.1.3538.0
Wireless client f/w:
No Info

Test DescriptionSNR (dB)Transfer Rate (Mbps)Response Time (msec)UDP stream
Throughput (kbps)Lost data (%)
Client to AP - Condition 1020.4
[No WEP]
[w/ WEP]
1 (avg)
2 (max)
Client to AP - Condition 2013.21 (avg)
3 (max)
Client to AP - Condition 302.83 (avg)
6 (max)
Client to AP - Condition 4011.72 (avg)
3 (max)
See details of how we test.

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