While most modern laptops include Wi-Fi, none provide much versatility when it comes to antenna positioning, and virtually all provide a fixed range. For field workers and other extended-range scenarios, resellers may want to try the Kinivo WID 380 Wireless 300 Mbps Enhanced USB Adapter, a long name for a long-range device for Linux, Mac and Windows. And with a list price of $19, it can easily be part of every field worker's toolkit.
This USB-to-802.11 g/b/n device employs two external 2dBi antennas that can swivel to help achieve the optimal connection and fastest possible speeds. When connections are good, the WID 380 drivers use 802.11n channel bonding to deliver a maximum theoretical bandwidth of 300 Mbps. Our tests didn't get close to that, but we were impressed with its range but were able to identify a few issues with its drivers.
Our first attempt at testing the WID 308 was with our MacBook Pro. The drivers are included on a mini-CD, which we didn't want to risk inserting into our test Mac's slot-loading DVD drive. So we proceeded to the above-average Kinivo driver download page and quickly found a link. However, the version for Mac OS 10.7 "and higher" did not work on Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks). So we switched to a Windows laptop and downloaded its driver instead. It should be noted that "unsigned driver" warnings appeared during the installations of both platforms.
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With the Windows 7 driver firmly in place after a restart, we connected to our test Wi-Fi network and monitored the number of bars and connection speed at various distances from our 802.11n access point.
At 10 feet and one wall away, all five bars were green and Windows reported a connection link of 54 Mbps. Moving to 20 feet and two walls away didn't reduce the speed or number of bars. It wasn't until we reached a distance of 30 feet and two walls from the AP that five bars dropped to three, but the link speed remained at 54 Mbps. At 40 feet, the link speed dropped to 36 Mbps and to 18 Mbps at 50 feet.
The theoretical maximum range for 802.11n indoor connections is 230 feet. When we repeated the tests using the laptop's built-in Wi-Fi, the connection speed dropped more quickly and overall range was about half that of the WID 380. Also included with the kit is a USB 2.0 extension cable with a freestanding base (shown). This allows the WID 380 to be placed in a standing position anywhere within 3 feet of the connected system.
For placement of a machine where no wired network exists or for remote locations that are too far from an access point to make use of a laptop's built-in Wi-Fi, the Kinivo WID 380 Wireless 300 Mbps Enhanced USB Adapter might be just what's needed.
PUBLISHED AUG. 19, 2014