EnGenius takes the practical road to WLAN performance improvement

Setup and Configuration

Installing the 362 was easy, although the installer does throw up a confusing combination of windows at one point so you need to be careful where you click. You have a choice of installing only the drivers or the drivers and client utility and WPA supplicant (I chose the latter). As with the Wi-Fire, you need to use the 362 on a system with a USB 2.0 port or you'll get only about 5-6 Mbps maximum throughput.

The Wi-Fire utility automatically takes care of disabling Windows' built-in Wireless Zero Configuration (WZC) utility when it launches, but doesn't provide an easy way for you to go back to using WZC. In fact, even when I exited the 362's client utility and checked the "Use Windows to configure my wireless network settings" checkbox in the adapter's Wireless Connection properties Wireless Networks tab, I couldn't get back to using WZC. The Wi-Fire utility was much better in this regard, allowing me to easily switch between the two methods of managing the adapter.

Figure 2 shows the 362 utility's Status screen, which I didn't like as much as the Wi-Fire's. While it has the adapter IP address - something I dinged the Wi-Fire for not having on the main screen - its signal strength meter is inferior, lacking any numerical readout.

WLAN Client Utility Status screen

Figure 2:WLAN Client Utility Status screen

The Options > Display Settings window had controls for display units (dB / %), refresh interval and relative / cumulative display, but they didn't have any effect on the Current Status window when I changed them. However, the Advanced button on this tab opened another window that did contain separate signal and noise numerical readouts that were affected by the aforementioned Display Settings.

You can get traffic statistics using the Diagnostics tab, and a readout of Transmit and Receive link rate in the Advanced Status window, but no indication of actual throughput when data is flowing. Also missing from my list of things I like to see in client utilities is any throughput or signal strength vs. time plots.

The Profile Management tab is where you scan for networks (Figure 3) and access settings for each wireless LAN that you connect to. Selecting a network and clicking the Modify button brings up a Profile Management window (Figure 4).

WLAN Client Utility Scan results

Figure 3:WLAN Client Utility Scan results

The Advanced tab in Figure 4 contains adapter properties settings, but with the ability to control transmit power conspicuously absent! You also get a subset of properties to play with in the network adapter properties window Advanced tab.

Profile Configuration screen

Figure 4:Profile Configuration screen

The Security tab contains a full menu of options including the enterprise-grade 802.1x options shown in Figure 5. The same list is available when you select WPA/WPA2 security, minus the "Host Based EAP" option.

Security options

Figure 5:Security options

Wrapping up the tour of the utility, the System Notification area (tray) icon deserves special mention. It not only incorporates a signal bar display, but also a Tooltip mouseover that shows profile name, SSID, connection status, signal strength, transmit link speed, adapter mode (11b or g), driver name and IP address. No complaints there!

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