Cheap WLAN adapter trouble

I’ve been connected to my LAN through the air for a couple of years now, and I’ve had some pretty mixed experiences. My Linksys WRT54G router is a marvel, and has yet to fail me. The adapters I’ve used with my PC however have for the must part not been able to keep up. And, as I realized today, they all happen to be made by Sitecom.

Until today I had a Sitecom WL-107 PCI WLAN adapter installed in my work PC. It worked OK, especially with a bigger aftermarket antenna. I also needed an external USB adapter, to use with other machines. The first one I used was one of those external little boxes, the WL-107. I only used it for testing occasionally, but it used to get really hot and after about 15 minutes of connectivity it needed to rest for half an hour or so. I then bought a WL-172 dongle type adapter, which had similar problems. And then this week, the PCI card failed on me as well.

I had been having trouble with my PC disconnecting occasionally, and refusing to reconnect, or at really slow speeds. This was getting increasingly worse, until yesterday it became unbearable. Luckily I happen to have two separate wireless routers (my modem also has wireless, but it is usually disabled), so I could test whether switching routers had any effect. It didn’t. So I tried the WL-172 dongle with both routers, and it worked well, for the usual 15 minutes or so. This meant my WL-107 was the culprit. The last of my three Sitecom devices to finally also disappoint me.

Because I desperately needed to get some work done, I got in my car and got the most expensive PCI WLAN adapter in stock at my local computer store, a Linksys WMP300N. It’s got a really fancy antenna and I can definitely feel a little speed improvement. So far so good.

My guess is that these kinds of problems are not exclusive to Sitecom. There are lots of cheap brands that sell almost identical products, like Conceptronic, Sweex, Eminent, Digitus, etc. The list goes on and on, and these are just the ones available here in The Netherlands. For WiFi stuff it seems the best thing is to stay away from these brands and buy A-brand stuff. It really isn’t worth the trouble.

3 Comments

  1. There’s a lot of factors that can ruin WiFi signal – microwave ovens, solid walls, cordless phones, wireless doorbells, vacuum cleaners, or any of the zillions of electronic appliances operating at the 2.4GHz frequency.

    I’ve personally had a little luck with adjusting the frequency on my wireless router. I don’t know how the frequencies in NL are allocated but in North America there are 11 channels which are each a small increment higher in frequency than the one before. The default channel on my router was 6. Changing this frequency to one of the extremes (channel 1 or 11) gave me some limited success.

    I don’t think I’ve ever been fully satisfied with wireless networking (or mice or keyboards). Maybe it’s my magnetic personality or something but I’ve found wireless technologies to be rather glitchy and unreliable. The back of my computer looks like spaghetti but I know that if something isn’t working it’s because I’ve yanked out a cord.

    Comment by Brian — May 30, 2008 @ 7:17 pm

  2. The problem I had was that on some days wireless worked great, and then the next day it wouldn’t at all. I have a mobile phone that does wifi, and it would be able to connect (and sustain a connection) when my PC wouldn’t.

    I agree that wireless isn’t ideal, but my particular problem definitely was a faulty adapter. I guess these cheaper chipsets just get a little hotter than they can handle when I listen to web radio, watch video streams, download software updates and browse the web while FTPing my work to a client’s server. :)

    The new adapter copes much better, and has so far been a pleasure to work with.

    Comment by Roy — May 30, 2008 @ 8:40 pm

  3. I had also the same problem with wireless cant get proper signal and cant get connect for long time again and again loss network and my work stop… Information here may useful to me and i will check my adapter hope i can find the fault. Thanks for Information

    Comment by Software Collector — November 14, 2008 @ 8:21 am