Installations: The House That Jim Built - Part Two Page 6

Wireless to the Nth Degree

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Impressed with a demo I'd received months ago when Belkin announced its N1 router ($150) and notebook card ($99), I decided to check them out in my own home as soon as they were available. (The router and card are based on the draft of the "n" specification, not the final spec, which isn't likely to arrive before 2007.)

Compared to 812.11g, the "n" technology promises both greater speed and longer range. This was important to me because, while I currently subscribe to Verizon's less-expensive FiOS service, I'll soon be upgrading to faster throughput and want the wireless network to be able to handle it. Also, I've long envisioned working from our deck, which overlooks the Hudson River and the Tappan Zee Bridge. So, as soon as they were available, we installed an N1 router in the basement (A), and another one in the bedroom to ensure full coverage throughout the house and property.

Installing the N1 was a snap, thanks to an idiot-proof installation guide and the use of cool, blue-hued graphical icons, rather than LEDs, to indicate the system's status. Performance-wise, the N1 system rocks - just not with my brand-new Dell Duo Core notebook. That's because the computer comes with the smaller ExpressCard slot rather than the standard PC Card slot, and Belkin is still a few months away from offering an ExpressCard version of the receiver. But even using the standard 802.11g wireless built into the notebook (the N1 defaults to "g" if it can't make an "n" connection), the reception is the best I've experienced, with signal strength remaining constant no matter where I roam in the house. And using my older notebook with the N1 PC Card ($99) installed, Internet access is as fast as I've ever experienced it, although performance is apparently well below its theoretical top speed of 300 Mbps. But when the final "n" spec arrives, it's likely the router can be upgraded to full compatibility via firmware tweaks.

After using Belkin's N1 wireless system, I realized that installing the second router upstairs was overkill. Even with that router off, I can work anywhere in the house, even at the outer reaches of the back deck. In fact, that's where I'm currently finishing and e-mailing this article (B), watching rush-hour traffic clog the Tappan Zee Bridge. Just because it's called work doesn't mean it has to feel like work.

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