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Hawking Technology HWUG1 2.4 Gigahertz USB WiFi Adapter

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The really cool aspect of this device is that it works – there being so many of them that don’t. A USB WiFi adapter will add wireless connectivity to pretty much anything with a USB port… at least, in theory… but getting many of them to do so is an exercise in creative head bashing. The HWUG1 plugs in and gets ready to rock with hardly a whisper, and no damage to anyone’s skull.

pictureAside from offering connectivity to the genuinely unconnected, the HWUG1 can provide a permanent connection to a second network on systems with only one available WiFi or Ethernet port, as we used it in one installation. It’s also a powerful adjunct to a notebook computer with a built-in WiFi adapter that can only connect to networks that are practically screaming in its ear – the HWUG1 has impressive reception.

It’s likely that some credit for the generally productive nature of the HWUG1 is due its installation procedure… in that it has one. If you follow the instructions that come with this device – to wit, run its companion CD-ROM prior to connecting the adapter to its host system – it will walk you through installing its drivers and getting it up to speed with virtually no chance of anything going horribly wrong.

Once it’s installed, the HWUG1 can be configured through its user interface application, which will permit it to be set up to deal with your wireless router. This includes a scan feature to locate all the available wireless networks within range, a handy tool if you plan to take it on the road. It offers all the current encryption standards, including WEP, AES, WPA and WPA2.

The HWUG1 supports 54- and 108-megabits per second data transfer, and features IEEE 802.11b and IEEE 802.11g compatibility.

Unlike most of the more readily available wireless adapters, the Hawking adapter has optional accessories. Its best trick in this respect is a selection of optional high-gain replacement antennas offered by its manufacturer to increase its range. Unscrew the antenna that arrives with it, wind on something larger and it will reliably connect to more distant and hitherto funky networks.

Finally, in addition to drivers for Windows XP and Vista, the HWUG1 includes a downloadable driver set for Macintosh Leopard, and this, too, actually works. We shan’t get too deeply involved in why it worked for us, but we were impressed.

The only arguably unfortunate aspect of the Hawking wireless technology is its telephone support. The packaging for the HWUG1 makes mention of 24/7 help through a toll-free number… but the number appears to ring in a call center on the far side of the world. While the staff we spoke to were polite and reasonably knowledgeable in so far as we could tell, there’s the outside possibility that English was not the first language for all of them. The formalities of asking for our name, date of purchase, telephone number, e-mail address and other details invariably took longer than addressing the issue we’d called about.

Admittedly, unless you want to use the HWUG1 in an unusual capacity, it’s unlikely that you’ll need Hawking’s phone support.

While it costs more than wireless adapters from Walmart, and will probably entail some tracking down if you want one, the HWUG1 is worth the effort. It combines a flawless installation, impressive flexibility and, thus far in our experience, unimpeachable performance.