7 Cool Network Devices That Add Value Too

Keep the 'Net Working

In the connected age, it's becoming increasingly expected that network access will be everywhere and anywhere. Here are seven devices that can create, enhance or extend networks and help resellers squeeze every last drop of bandwidth and value from them.

Linksys Smart Wi-Fi

When deciding how to outfit a space with the fastest Wi-Fi technology available, the Linksys EA6500 HD Video Pro AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Wireless Router should be on the short list. With three-stream support under the latest 802.11ac spec, it's capable of delivering a blazing 1.3-Gbps transfer rate over the air while simultaneously servicing Wireless-N and older clients at their maximum single- or dual-band rates. It automatically prioritizes video and other high-bandwidth media streams and can connect as many as four wired Gigabit Ethernet nodes. The EA6500 does its magic by employing a total of six antennae for 3x3 communications on each of its 2.4-GHz and 5.0-GHz radios. A pair of USB ports permits connection of printers or storage devices for sharing with network clients. The unit lists for $219.

Linksys AC Connect

For connecting wired Ethernet devices to an 802.11ac network, there's the Linksys WUMC710 wireless-AC universal media connector. It provides four Gigabit Ethernet ports, supports wireless speeds as fast as 1.3 Gbps and is backward-compatible with dual-band Wireless-N routers. Like the Linksys EA6500, the AC1300 automatically prioritizes high-bandwidth media streams, which is useful for connecting HD or 3-D devices in home theater or office presentation settings, or other HD media-streaming applications or devices. The WUMC710 lists for $149.

ZyXEL Wireless Extender

When the budget falls short for building an 802.11ac network, boosting the range of an existing network might be the next best thing. Few devices are easier to install than the Wireless N300 Range Extender from ZyXEL. To extend a network, simply plug the device directly into an outlet at the outer edge of the existing 802.1 b/g/n access point, connect a PC to its built-in Ethernet port and point a browser to it. A web-based wizard takes it from there, and if configured using defaults, repeats on a separate channel the SSID of the access point it's extending. For around $59 list, ZyXEL offers a simple, low-cost solution for squeezing extra life from an existing network and even offers MAC address filtering and other security features apart from the AP it's repeating.

PowerLine AV Wireless N Extender

Here's a way to extend a building network to any place there's AC power. The PowerLine AV Wireless N Extender from D-Link turns any AC power outlet into a potential wired Ethernet port at speeds as fast as 200 Mbps. It extends wired Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) or 802.11b/g/n networks onto a building's electrical wiring. A second adapter like the PowerLine AV500 converts any AC outlet in the building to a network port. List price is $119, but it sells on the street for less than $80.

Wireless N PowerLine Router

When a router needs to be part of the powerline expansion plan, D-Link again offers a solution. The company's Wireless N PowerLine Router combines features of its Powerline AV Wireless N Extender with a long-range Wireless-N router that reaches speeds of 300 Mbps for wireless, and wired Ethernet speeds that peak at 200 Mbps. It includes three Fast Ethernet ports for connecting local devices and a single USB port for sharing a printer or storage device with LAN clients. It lists for $59.99 and works with endpoint connectors such as the PowerLine AV500 for connecting nodes.

USB 3.0 to Gigabit Ethernet

Ever find yourself with a USB port but no network connection? For such situations, there's the USB 3.0 to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter from StarTech. As the name suggests, it connects any USB port to Ethernet, and on USB 3.0 delivers Gigabit Ethernet speed. Here in the CRN Test Center, the device is an indispensable tool when resurrecting old motherboards and systems. It's also great for adding a second NIC or Gigabit speed in a hurry. And with support for jumbo frames, VLAN tagging and wake-on-LAN, it's also suitable for long-term installations. The list price is $45.99; drivers are available for Linux 2.6 and higher, Mac OS 10.6-10.8 and all versions of Windows.

Tely Pro Appliance

Tely Labs, one of CRN's 10 Coolest Network Startups of 2013, in July began shipping the TelyHD Pro Appliance, a PC-less videoconferencing and collaboration solution for offices large and small. The $699 appliance includes a four-mic speakerphone with noise cancellation, an embedded browser with soft keyboard, a Skype-certified audio/video system with support for SIP, H.264, H.263, AES-128 and -256, and a maximum resolution of 1,280-x-720 at 24 frames-per-second. The self-contained Ethernet device works with DHCP by default, outputs HDMI to any standard flat-panel TV and interoperates with Blue Jeans, Cisco, LifeSize, Polycom and other major teleconferencing brands. A remote is included, as are control apps for Android and for iOS. Content also can be fed from compatible Windows PCs to the connected display panel. One year of six-party conferencing and desktop sharing with other Tely endpoints is included.