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Reviews

Short Take: Silex Technology’s SX-2000WG Wireless USB Device Server

By Legacy October 7, 2005, 12:00 am

WIRELESS ACCESS TO EVERYTHING BUT THE KITCHEN SINK

Silex promises the convenience of "remotely using multifunction printers, scanners, storage devices, or various other USB devices." It seems like just about everything except speakers and webcams can be used. How can this device support so many different functions?

The answer that it (the device) isn't really doing it. Your Windows 2000 or Windows XP PC is doing the heavy lifting. The SX-2000WG seems to be acting as a middleman between the USB devices and a Windows PC with the drivers needed to access those devices. Note that this is my assumption on how it is working. The documentation is very light on technical details.

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PREPARING FOR TAKEOFF

The SX-2000WG is a compact little guy about the size of a CD jewel case. The vertical stand shown is optional. It also comes with four adhesive rubber feet to prevent sliding if you would prefer to lay it down.

You also get a CD with the required software and the full manual in PDF format, two thin printed setup guides (one for the device and one for the software) and the AC adapter.

You have four options for the initial configuration of the SX-2000WG: wired connection, wireless connection, USB memory key and Window Connect Now (a simplified wireless connection available in Windows XP Service Pack 2). The manual recommends using the wired connection method so that is what I opted for. Inicidentally, the manual describes all four methods with copious screen shots so I will refrain from duplicating them here.

For the wired setup, you plug the lan port of SX-2000WG into a hub or switch that your PC is connected to. Note that there is no included LAN cable so you'll have to supply your own. This seems a bit stingy when Silex is recommending the wired connection method. Also, be certain to plug the LAN cable into the SX-2000WG before you plug in the power. The presence or absence of the LAN cable at power up is how the SX-2000WG determines if you want to do a wired or wireless setup.

Next, pop the Setup CD into your PC and select Device Server Setup, then Wired Setup. The complexity of the process that follows will depend upon how your wireless network is configured. If you have a default configuration insecure wireless network, setup is quite simple. If you have configured your wireless network for additional security, the setup of the SX-2000WG is a bit more involved. However, if you're able to setup a more secure wireless network, you can easily handle setting up the SX-2000WG.

After initial configuration is complete, remove the LAN and power cables, connect your USB devices to the SX-2000WG and plug the power cable back in. Then, you proceed with the installation of the SX Virtual Link software on your PC.

Before you can use any of your USB devices, you must have the necessary drivers for the USB device installed and you must run SX Virtual Link to connect the device to your PC over the wireless network. The exception to this requirement for manual connection is printers. SX Virtual Link can automatically connect and disconnect printers when it receives a printer request.

WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE?

In use, the SX-2000WG is disappointingly finicky and unreliable. I tested it with my printer and with a wireless USB keyboard and mouse. When it worked, it worked well, but the SX Virtual Link software seems quite buggy. The only way I could get it to work properly was to manually connect each USB device in SX Virtual Link. Most importantly, before shutting down or logging off, you must manually disconnect each USB device from within SX Virtual Link. If this is not done, SX Virtual Link becomes confused about the state of the USB devices. It will show them as still connected but they will not work. If you then disconnect them in SX Virtual Link, attempting to reconnect them will fail. The only way to get things working again is to shut down SX Virtual Link and reboot the SX-2000WG.

Additionally, if you use the SX Virtual Link feature to automatically connect your USB devices, timing problems can occur between SX Virtual Link and a laptop accessing the network over WiFi. In my testing, SX Virtual Link would always attempt to reconnect the devices before my laptop had acquired it's IP address from the WiFi router and would pop up errors. There was no way to delay the automatic connection attempts.

Keep in mind too that SX Virtual Link does not like Fast User Switching. When you switch to another user, it will complain that SX Virtual Link is already running. Obviously, this is not a good solution for shared computers.

Sharing devices with the SX-2000WG is can also be problematic. Only one client can be connected to any device at any given time. I imagine that using this in a small office, you would often need to go around and find out who had connected to a device you needed to use. You can partially get around this limitation by using the automatic connect/disconnect feature (only for printers). However, in my testing, using this feature caused my printer status monitoring applet to pop up error messages before and after each print job, complaining that it had lost the connection to the printer. The job still printed but the errors would get old very quickly.

PURCHASING

Pros

  • 802.11g and USB 2.0
  • connectivity
  • Allows sharing of up to USB 15 devices (requires hub)
  • Ability to configure via USB memory key

Cons

  • Unreliable and buggy
  • Only supports Windows 2000 and Windows XP
  • Not suited for shared use

OVERALL IMPRESSION

In conclusion, the SX-2000WG is a disappointment. For a product that is supposed to be providing increased convenience for its users, it is far too unreliable and fussy. If you're interested setting your peripherals free from their chains, you should probably look elsewhere. I give it the following score:

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