There are lots of ways to link into a wireless network: PCI cards for desktops, PC cards for notebooks, and USB adaptors. However, if you have a small group of computers, physically remote from a main network, Buffalo’s new box could be an ideal product.
The snappily-named WLI-TX4-AG300N (ethernet converter from now on) is a flattened cuboid box with just two buttons and a blue power LED so small the term 'pin-head' would be hype. There are four RJ45 network sockets on the back and a power jack for the small, external power supply.
Unlike other draft-n devices, the ethernet converter doesn't have a trio of little aerials to handle the wireless signals, so you can sit the box on or under a desk, or hang it on the wall. There's a simple driver CD, which installs easily on each machine you want to connect. Once you’ve plugged network cables between them and the converter, you're in business.
On an open network, it hunts out available Wi-Fi connections and when you've selected the one you want, it connects to any available, shared machines. On a secure, encrypted network things can still be simple, as long as the router also uses Buffalo’s AirStation One-Touch Secure System (AOSS).
AOSS is a proprietary Buffalo system for connecting to a secure wireless network, without having to get into encryption types, keys and passwords. Bring the ethernet converter close enough to the router to reach both AOSS buttons, press them and the whole process should be completed automatically. AOSS is supported by Wii and PlayStation games consoles, too, although that’s more useful to connect directly to a router than to this box.
Speed wise, we were getting well over 802.11g transfer rates, though this drops off with distance between the wireless access point and ethernet converter, and depends on the thickness and material of interior walls.
Although something of a niche product, if you have up to four PCs with network adapters fitted and want to add them to a wireless network, Buffalo’s WLI-TX4-AG300N ethernet converter saves the cost and effort of having to fit wireless cards to each one. With 802.11 draft-n compatibility, the wireless connection is fast, as long as your router is draft-n too.