you ever wanted wireless internet access from a hotel room, dorm room or library but were stuck plugging your laptop into a phone jack or LAN port instead? Or maybe you carry a bulky WiFi base station with you because you simply cannot be without the wireless net, and wish for a more portable unit. If either is true, Always On Wireless has created a very elegant solution to your problem: The PDA-sized WiFlyer wireless access point, capable of broadcasting wireless internet from either Ethernet or Dial-up sources. Read on to learn more about this compact, extremely functional piece of hardware.
Photographer: Brian Forman
Wireless internet is becoming extremely popular, if not commonplace. Companies like Apple computer and Linksys have made wireless networking simple enough for the common consumer, and the conveniences ushered in by wireless networking access have been embraced by the full spectrum of consumers. So the next logical step to the technology is to make it smaller and more portable. This is exactly what Always On Wireless has done.
WiFlyer is an 802.11b wireless device. It is compatible with 802.11b- & 802.11g-enabled PCs, Laptops and PDAs. Range is given at 200 ft, with a network speed of 11 Mbps. WiFlyer supports industry-standard 128-bit WEP encryption and is compatible with Windows, Macintosh, Linux and Unix systems.
WiFlyer works similarly to other popular base stations. When the unit is connected to an Ethernet network, it auto-detects the necessary settings and in seconds is up and running. If the connection is to be made via a dial-up service, then there is a simple GUI onboard WiFlyer that allows the user to enter all the relevant information (phone number, password, etc). Just click 'connect' and the modem does its thing.
WiFlyer comes packaged with a standard RJ-11 phone cord and a very slim & lightweight power adapter. The power adapter is a nice touch because it is significantly smaller than the WiFlyer unit itself. If the charger were a standard size it would almost negate the hard work that went into making WiFlyer itself so small. Another great touch is the antenna port on the side of the unit that allows you to attach an external antenna to boost the unit's range significantly.
Without the additional antenna, I was able to get range similar to that of my Apple Airport Base Station, and a bit shy of my antenna-clad Linksys wireless router. The unit was able to broadcast a sufficiently strong signal to reach every corner of my (albeit small) concrete-walled apartment. Always On claims that line-of-sight broadcast lengths of up to 200 feet can be achieved. If you find yourself needing added range, the Hawking Hi-Gain 6dBi Omni Antenna is available from Always On for $48.95. This unit plugs directly into the antenna port on WiFlyer's side to give you improved signal strength, signal distance and data transfer performance.
The WiFlyer Unit may be used in conjunction with Always On Wireless's WiFlyer Accelerator, a high speed web page compression software package for enhancing the perceived speed of dialup Internet browsing and email up to 6x times the normal experience. At $29.95 for 6 months, subscriptions are fairly priced, especially if you spend a lot of time on dial-up connections downloading large files.
BUGS AND WISHES
While I can find very little to dislike about the little unit, It would be nice if each WiFlyer purchase came with a free trial subscription to the download accelerator software. It's an intriguing program and I think that allowing customers a free test period would convince many to subscribe full-time.
WiFlyer can be purchased from the Always On Wireless Inc. Online Store for $149.95. WiFlyer Accelerator can be purchased from the Always On Wireless Inc. Online Store for $29.95 for a 6-month subscription. The Hawking Hi-Gain 6dBi Omni Antenna can be purchased from the Always On Wireless Inc. Online Store for $48.95.
- Very good range
- Simple to set up for both Ethernet and Dial-up applications
- Small charger compliments unit
- No trial subscription to WiFlyer accelerator
- Only available in (admittedly nice) grey color
I used to carry my Apple Airport Base station with my Powerbook to just about any place I went because I love the convenience of wireless. Unfortunately, the airport was roughly the same size as the Powerbook and so was rather cumbersome. Now I get all the functionality of the Airport from a device no larger than my iPAQ. It's smaller than any of my portable drives, even. And for me, the added convenience is worth the price of admission. I would recommend this device to anyone looking for a wireless access point that may EVER desire to travel with it at some point. You will have to spend a bit more to buy the small model, but should you ever need to bring it with you, you will no doubt be glad you did.