Extending an 802.11n signal is a major goal for mobile users. While 100 Mbps makes for fast surfing, the Wi-Fi coverage can be limiting--often just 300 to 400 feet.
The Hawking Technology Hi-Gain Wireless-300N wireless adapter hits a sweet spot. When connected to an 802.11n router, its range of up to 600 feet and throughput of around 60 Mbps (at 5 feet) is ideal for those who want the best balance of speed and distance.
Hawking HWUN1 Design
A bit smaller than a deck of cards, the $89.99 white clamshell device plugs into your PC via a USB cable. Although you can use a shorter USB cable, we disliked having a cord dangling from the laptop all day. The HWUN1 also includes a clip for attaching the adapter to your laptop screen, but it kept falling off during our tests.
The multi-directional 2dBi Dipole antennas let you adjust their position for the best results, and you can add larger antennas--such as Hawking's Hi-Gain 7dBi Directional Compact Antenna HAI7MD ($40)--to boost coverage another 50 feet or so.
Installing the HWUN1 software takes just a few clicks, although finding your wireless network is cumbersome. You have to first set up a profile so that the device knows what router to connect to.
There's no obvious Connect button: Once you set up the profile, the software finds the Wi-Fi router or hotspot automatically, meaning you don't have to manually connect each time. The HWUN1 supports up to 152-bit WPA or WPA2 encryption, which is plenty of protection against hackers in public places. It also works fine with Windows Vista.
Going the Distance
Using a Sony VAIO SZ notebook, the HWUN1 connected at 60 Mbps five feet from our router, which pales in comparison to the 100-Mbps throughput achieved by D-Link's matching USB adapter for its Wireless N Router DIR-615 at the same range. In terms of real-world testing, the D-Link adapter transferred our 1.6GB movies in about 45 minutes, whereas the Hawking unit would have taken about 3 hours.
Even though the HWUN1's speed dropped to 35 Mbps at 50 feet and 25 Mbps at 300 feet, it still bested the DIR-615, which only eked out 8 Mbps at 200 feet. At the maximum range of 600 feet, the HWUN1 barely connected at 1 Mbps.
Even so, this was a dramatic improvement over the speed and range of the VAIO without the adapter, which only ran at 35 Mbps from about 100 feet and would not connect at all beyond 300 feet, even using its built-in 802.11n connection.
Hawking HWUN1 Verdict
The Hawking Hi-Gain Wireless-300N HWUN1 is ideal for those who want to roam farther and can live with a maximum of 60 Mbps. It's plenty fast for copying files over a network and even network backups. If you want to do better than the built-in Wi-Fi on your laptop, you can't go wrong with this adapter.