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Always Connect

Wd380 aIt’s a fact of school IT life that lots of notebook WiFi adapters go dead long before the rest of the system is ready for retirement. You can replace the original radio with parts from the manufacturer or eBay, but that will be an old radio that isn’t up to the latest networking specs. That’s where Kinivo’s WID380 wireless adapter comes in.

The black plastic plug-in WiFi radio is extremely economical at $20 and weighs 0.7-ounce, but is much bigger than most USB wireless adapters. It, however, has the advantage of including a pair of antennas that can be rotated nearly 180-degrees and aimed for better reception. They are rated at 2dBi and with the antennas aimed away from the notebook, the radio extends 6-inches from the system. That is about twice as far as the typical add-on USB radio and just about guarantees that it will get snagged on something in a backpack. In that regard, this USB WiFi adapter works better connected to a desktop computer and it includes a desktop cradle with a 3-foot USB extension cord.

Setting it up is quick and very easy. The adapter comes with a mini-CD that has software for PCs (including Windows 8.1), Mac OSX and Linux computers. It loads the drivers automatically and took all of two minutes from opening the box to being connected, a big consideration if you need to squeeze dozens of installations into the day.

While I set it up manually, entering the pertinent network information and password, you can use the adapter’s Wireless Protected Setup (WPS) button to directly connect with a router and automatically exchange passwords. Once connected, it has a single green LED that shows that the device is connected and blinks to indicate data flow.

Unlike other recent USB WiFi adapters, the WD380 doesn’t include its own connection manager and uses the operating system’s software. I used a Sony VAIO Tap 20 desktop (with Win 8.1) and an HP EliteBook 2560p notebook (with Win 7) along with a Netgear Nighthawk and a Linksys WRT 1900ac routers. The device connected on the first try and reliably received a variety of data, from Web sites and online video to interactive apps as well as local server-based items.

Wd380 dThe device can connect with any 802.11n, g or b wireless LAN, but only works on the 2.4GHz band. That leaves out the potentially faster, but shorter range, 5GHz band that other devices can tap into.

Based on the 802.11n spec, the WD380 device theoretically peaks out at 300Mbps. Overall, it raised the system’s ability to grab wireless data and delivered smooth online video. Using Passmark 8’s Networking tests, it hit of peak of 205Mbps of data 15-feet from the router. It had a range of 120-feet and even with it moving loads of data back and forth, the WD380 adapter never gets more than warm to the touch.

At $20, it’s a bargain and a big improvement over the wireless adapters in all but the most recent notebooks. It is, though, well behind the latest 802.11ac adapters that can deliver much more data to students and teachers. Stay tuned, I’ll have several of the latest AC adapters in an upcoming story.

A-

Wd380 b

Kinivo WD380

$20

+ Quick set up

+ Good performance

+ Windows, Mac and Linux software

+ Pair of swivel antennas

+ Desktop cradle

+ Inexpensive

 

- Large

- 2.4GHz operation only

 

 

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