A portable wireless solution for your Mac or PC. (July 24th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Newer Technology, inc.
Price: $49.95 US
- Sensitive adapter; found more networks than Apple's built-in ones. Good transfer speeds. Communicates using 802.11N, G or B. Works with or without cradle.
- Must unplug and replace adapter on each restart–a bother. Program must be run every time you want to connect. Software could be more convenient.
If you have a Mac that lacks a built-in wireless adapter, then you might be interested in the Newer Technology MAXPower USB 2.0 wireless adapter. This adapter plugs into a USB 2 port on any Mac or PC, and allows you to connect to Wi-Fi networks at home, the office, or on the road.
While the product name is a mouthful, the MAXPower 802.11n/g/b Wireless USB 2.0 Stick Adapter & Extension Cradle, consists of a desktop cradle and a USB stick that is the actual Wi-Fi adapter. Use of the cradle is optional; you can plug the adapter directly into your USB port if you prefer. This is handy if you use a PowerBook, since you don't need any desk space for the optional cradle.
The thick plastic case is solidly built. The USB connectors mate well, with little to no wiggling. The unit only weighs 1.13 ounces, so it's perfectly portable.
The adapter comes with a CD that contains the necessary drivers; one set for 10.3.x and another for 10.4.x and 10.5.x. You install the drivers using Apple's installer, and it requires you to restart the computer after the installation is complete. The software occupies less than 5 MB of disk space. After the restart, you run a program called Wireless Utility to set up the connection to your wireless network. You must run this program every time you want to connect, so Newer Technology suggests that you set the program to automatically launch when you log in.
I tested the adapter on an Intel Core Duo iMac running 10.5.4, and a G4 PowerBook running 10.4.11. The adapter works quite well; it found more networks than the Apple Airport card that came with both of the test machines. The unit transfers data up to 300Mbps and my tests bore that out. For example, I copied a medium-sized file (3.66 GB) over the wireless connection and the test went flawlessly. The file transferred in 8m 45sec when talking to an Apple Airport Extreme based station; as opposed to 5m 52sec, using a 100-T wired connection.
There are two aspects of this adapter that bother me: First, the necessity of running a separate program each time you want to connect to a wireless network. A preference panel that runs when you login would be more convenient. Second, when you restart the computer, you do not connect to the wireless network until you unplug the stick and replace it, which is very annoying. This is a known problem documented in the Newer/OWC Knowledge Base, but that doesn't make it less of a bother. While the article mentions a Leopard (OS X 10.5) update, none is available yet.
The MAXPower 802.11n/g/b Wireless USB 2.0 Stick Adapter & Extension Cradle is available from Otherworld Computing and the price has been reduced from $57.99 to $49.99. If you don't have a built-in wireless adapter, this is a useful product, but not without a bit of frustration. It supports Mac OS X 10.3, 10.4, and 10.5, plus some Windows installations.
Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor