Monday, December 12, 2011

Rosewill RNX-G1 USB 2.0 Wireless Adapter

Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: Works well, keeps a good signal, works in Windows, Mac and Linux
Cons: No 802.11n support, doesn't sit quite right in horizontally aligned USB ports

We have too many computers around here to have them all physically connected with Ethernet cables, so I hopped on Newegg to search for an inexpensive wireless adapter. I wanted to pick up adapters for two different computers, but wanted to be able to switch them from one computer to another in case we rearranged anything and needed them in different computers. For this reason, I decided that a wireless adapter with a standard USB port would be the way to go. The Rosewill RNX-G1 Wireless Black Dongle was $10 with free shipping, so I ordered a couple of them up and awaited their arrival. They also make a version that is white in color if it would match your system better.
The RNX-G1 Wireless Adapter came in a black retail box with a thin piece of moulded plastic holding the adapter and the screw-on antenna. Underneath the plastic was a sleeve containing a CD with the device driver, a quick installation guide (PDF) and the user manual (PDF).
The device is about the size of a USB flash drive, measuring about 3.5" long, 1" wide, a half inch tall and weighing about 1 ounce. It also has a 3.5" external 2dBi antenna that screws onto the end and has a blue activity light in the middle of the device. The antenna is adjustable - it can stick straight out the end of the device, or bend up to 90º and also rotate in a complete circle so that you can aim the antenna wherever you need to get the best signal. It can operate in temperatures ranging from 0ºC to 55ºC and be stored in temperatures ranging from -20ºC to 70ºC, at up to 90% humidity (non-condensing).
When you put the CD in the drive and let it auto-run, it brings up a menu that lets you install the driver, view the quick install guide, view the user manual, browse the CD or exit the software. For my purposes, I obviously wanted "Driver Installation", which gave me a choice of operating systems to install the drivers for. It had options for both 64-bit and 32-bit versions of Windows 7, Windows XP and Windows Vista. I'm using a 64-bit version of Windows 7 on this computer, but I imagine other versions are installed in a similar manner.
The software installed the REALTEK RTL8187 Wireless LAN Driver and Utility on my computer. Installation only took a minute, and this particular driver required a computer restart when completed. After the computer was finished restarting, I screwed the antenna onto the wireless adapter and plugged it into an available USB 2.0 port. It was immediately detected and configured, and I was left with an icon in my system tray. All I had to do was open it up, click on "Available Network" and double click on the name of my home network to connect.
Installation of the second device was even easier, as the computer that device was installed in was running Linux Mint instead of Windows. All I had to do was plug the device into a USB port and wait a few seconds. The wireless adapter was automatically installed and configured and waiting for me in my network manager in the system tray. All I had to do was click the name of my home wireless network and let it connect, easy as pie.
The device supports a variety of security. Aside from the open system, it also supports using a shared key, WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK, WPA-802.1x, WPA2-902.1x and WEP-802.1x network authentication. It also supports WEP data encryption. It can operate on 11 different frequencies from 2412MHz to 2462MHz, as well as switching between 802.11b or 802.11b/g settings. It works in both Ad-hoc and infrastructure mode, and features a power saving mode that can be set to min, max or none. I leave mine set to none because I use my computer a lot and want to make sure it's always working at it's best when I want to use it.
I'm connected to a Linksys WRT-56G router about 30 feet away, and I'm showing 96% signal strength and 91% link quality. There is also a wall, an LCD television, DVD player and a Nintendo Wii between this computer and the router. I haven't noticed any difference in speed or latency between this wireless adapter and the 25' Ethernet cable I had stretched over here previously. I've had no problems at all with the performance, always getting a clean and steady signal to my router without much added latency or packet loss/retransmission.

Keep in mind, though, that this is a 802.11b/g device, and does not support 802.11n. My router doesn't support the newer 802.11n standard so this was an inexpensive option for me, but if your router does support it you may want to pass on this and spring for a faster 802.11n device instead.
There are only a couple of minor negatives I have noted, and neither is related to the performance of the device. First of all, the cap will be easy to lose. It fits over the USB end of the device in one direction, and if you leave the device plugged in all the time for internet access that thing is going to get misplaced for sure. Secondly, the length of the unit with the antenna screwed on the end makes it tilt downward slightly when it's plugged into a horizontally aligned USB port. I've not had any problems with it falling out or harming the USB port or the USB end of the device in any way, but I still don't much care for it.
The RNX-G1 Wireless Adapter is compatible with Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP/Vista, Mac 10.3+, and like I said earlier it plugged in and worked instantly in Linux Mint as well. It comes with a 1 year warranty from Rosewill.

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