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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.

PREPARING FOR TAKEOFF

Figure 1: SX-2000WG Retail Box.

Just in case you thought I made up that product name, there’s the proof on the SX-2000WG’s box.

Figure 2: The SX-2000WGT.

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.


Figure 3: CD, Setup guide and AC Adapter

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.


Figure 4: Reset swith, LAN, USB and power ports

On the back of the SX-2000WG, we see the antenna, the reset switch and the LAN, USB and power ports.

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

This product is available for $149 direct from Silex.

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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