Works with 802.11n routers; delivers high throughput at extreme range; compatible with both desktop and laptop machines.
Bulky, consumes desk space, cant range quite as far as hFields 802.11g-only Wi-Fire.
The last unconventional network adapter we examined, hField Technologies’ WiFire Wi-Fi adapter, wowed us with its range, but its sloppy antenna mount robbed it of a Kick Ass award. We didn’t ding it for not working with 802.11n networks because nothing else did like it, either. That’s no longer the case.
Hawking Technology's 300N Dish Network Adapter is big and bulky, but it gets
the job done when you're a long way from your router.
Hawking Technology doesn’t have much of a knack for naming products, and this one is no exception. It would be exceedingly tiresome to repeat “Hi-Gain USB Wireless-300N Dish Network Adapter” every time we mention the product, so we’ll just use the model number, instead: HWDN1. Hawking’s HWDN1 is capable of operating with 802.11b, -g, and -n networks; so if you’re operating an 802.11n network, you can leave your router in “n-only” mode.
Like hFields Wi-Fire, the HWDN1 plugs into your laptop’s USB port. Unlike the Wi-Fire, however, Hawking’s HWDN1 doesn’t have any means of being mounted to your laptop; it’s designed to sit on a tabletop next to your laptop, instead. That’s not a big deal unless you’re working in a crowded coffee shop or are actually using the PC on your lap because you don’t have a table.
As you’ve probably guessed, by virtue of its dish shape, the HWDN1 is a highly directional antenna that performs best when it’s aimed squarely in the direction of the router to which it’s connected. This adapter is much bulkier than the Wi-Fire, measuring four inches wide, 5.25 inches long, and 2.75 inches thick when folded flat for travel (it stands 5.25 inches tall when in use).
We tested the adapter using our new favorite 802.11n router, the dual-band Linksys WRT600N (incidentally, the HWDN1 works only on the 2.4GHz frequency band). As you can see from the benchmark chart below, the adapter performed relatively poorly at close range when compared to Linksys’ WPC600N PC Card adapter, delivering TCP throughput of just 62.3Mb/sec (compared to the WPC600N’s 125Mb/sec at the same location). On the other hand, the HWDN1 was considerably faster than the Wi-Fire, which is limited to operating on 802.11g networks, it performed much better than both adapters in our media-room test, and it clobbered the PC Card adapter in our outdoor tests.
The Wi-Fire remains the extreme-distance champ by virtue of its ability to deliver TCP throughput of 14.5Mb/sec at 350 feet (with the signal passing through a garage firewall and a steel garage door). The HWDN1 maxed out at 13.9Mb/sec at 300 feet and dropped its connection to the router when we ventured further out. Given a choice between the two adapters, however, we’d go with the HWDN1. Its bulky form factor makes it a pain to travel with, but its capacity for operating on 802.11n networks at very long distances gives it an undeniable edge.
|Linksys WPC600N ||hField WiFire ||Hawking HWDN1 |
|Kitchen (20 feet) (Mb/sec) ||125.0||21.0||62.3 |
|Patio (38 feet) (Mb/sec)||75.0 ||20.8||57.4|
|Bedroom (60 feet) (Mb/sec) ||39.2||18.4||43.2|
|Media Room (35 feet) (Mb/sec) ||36.4||15.8||59.9|
|Outdoors 1 (90 feet) (Mb/sec) ||0.9||15.2||27.5|
|Outdoors 2 (85 feet) (Mb/sec) ||0.2||13.2||21.7|
|Outdoors 3 (300 feet) (Mb/sec) ||No connection||15.2||13.9|
|Outdoors 4 (350 feet) (Mb/sec) ||No connection||14.5||No connection|