MacTalk | February 24, 2009

MAXPower USB WiFi Adapter And Extension Cradle

NewerTech Media Coverage
In the age of Intel Mac's an external USB2 WiFi adaptor seems kind of out of place, but what if you have an iBook or old iMac with a slow or no Airport card? The USB2 MaxPower 802.11g Adapter from Newer Technology might be just the thing you are looking for!

In the box you will find a usb-key style adapter and an extension cradle along with a driver CD, instruction manual and warranty card - a driver CD...how quaint!

Not wanting to break my iMac, I went about reading the instructions on how to get this little beastie up and running - the introduction made reference to getting you 'up and running with your new storage device quickly' which I found a little perplexing but read on all the same. The rest of the instructions were predictably dry but had more than enough detail to get you through each step. So on to the install we go!

The content on the CD was easy to navigate, separate Mac and PC directories at the top level, then an assortment of supported devices and lastly drivers broken out into OS versions. There is even a directory called 'A printed Mac manual is in your box'...just in case you didn't notice it, how thoughtful.

Having already read the printed manual I went though the install process for Leopard, it wasn't exactly the same but close enough for you to get by. You do have to restart once the driver is installed, 32 days uptime so a restart was probably a good thing.

Once the reboot was done I connected up the adapter to the cradle and plugged into one of my iMac's spare USB ports - the instructions say you need to go into System Preferences to apply settings to the new interface, but as soon as it was connected OS X asked me if I would like to do it automaticlly. You are taken to the Network Preferences pane where you can see from the screenshot, I now have a new adaptor!

So how does the included utility hold up? Being a bit of a stickler for good user interface, I was disappointed *cough*ugly*cough*. But it gets the job done and it has some info that geeks will just love!

Going though each of the six sections:
- Profile: Lets you add, edit, delete and activate different connection profiles. Letting you setup a different profile for each network you connect too.
- Link Status: Has some great geeky readouts about your current connection including things like signal throughput, channel and strength - oh my!
- Site Survey: Shows all the networks that are within range, their MAC address, what security they are using and if you are connected. You can also use this screen to connect to an available network.
- Statistics: Has even more geeky stats for people obsessed with TCP/IP. If you MUST know how many 'Frames fail to receive ACK after all retries' - this screen is for you.
- Advanced: Lets you set...err...advanced settings! Advanced things like what network modes you would like to support; b, b/g or b/g/n. You can also disable the radio here.
- About: Lastly we have the about screen which has info about the software and firmware versions in use as well as the MAC address.

Although the instructions indicate that you would need to put the Wireless Utility into the startup items of your Mac, I found that it worked just fine being controlled by OS X without the help of the utility. That said, the utility does have it's uses so, it really comes down to how you want to use it.

I did a very unscientific range test and found that it compared well to my other wifi gear, a little less range than my Meraki Mini but quite impressive for it's size! You would have no trouble connecting to wifi in a cafe you were in or across the street from. The extension cradle is a nice inclusion and gives the device a 'home' when you are tied to a desk, but it's not something you would carry with you. Speaking of carrying things, the adapter itself is quite thin and light so it would easily fit into your laptop bag - one thing that I noticed was that the cap to protect the USB plug doesn't fit over the other end of the device, which means unless you are quite careful where you store it, it's probably going to get sat on, crushed or lost fairly easily.

Lastly, uninstallation. In the same directory as the install package on the CD there is a script called 'uninstall.command' - sounded like what I wanted, but it wasn't covered in the manual. TextEdit to the rescue - it was as expected, a shell script to clean up after itself. It ran though just fine, removing the driver and utility from my system with no problems.

No doubt this is a handy device, although the software was a little clunky and the installation was a little 'windows-like' but if you have an older Mac or just need the speed boost of 802.11g this pocket size adaptor delivers the goods for Mac and PC!

Recommended.

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