Product Review: Netgear 108 Mbps Wireless PCI Adapter

Thumbs down.  Way down.  Don't buy Netgear.

This is a product most people will never buy (although a friend of mine, Stephanie Lessman, bought one once).  It's a wireless internet card for your desktop computer.  Most people have ethernet in their desktops and a built-in wireless card in their laptop (or a PC-MCIA card in their laptop).

So why did I get one?  Because in my new apartment, the phone jack is way on the other side of the apartment from my computer.  Rather than string an ethernet cable across the entire apartment, I opted for wireless.

So I got the latest, fanciest wireless network.  The box claims it can get 108 Mbps, faster than ethernet.  But when I plugged it in and got it working, the reception sucks.  I'm getting 11 Mbps right now, the same as 802.11b.  When I hold my laptop (with built-in wireless) right next to the desktop, the laptop gets 54 Mbps and the desktop still only gets 11 Mbps.

So, I called tech support.  Based in India.  You know what happened next: the lady could barely understand me, I could barely understand her, and she was unable to help me.  She told me that she could have an advanced tech support guy get back to me . . . in the next 24 hours.  I told her that was no good, she said she wasn't able to do any better than that.  I told her that was unacceptable, I was going to return my Netgear product and buy her competitor's product instead.  She had no reply for that so I hung up.

I took the damn card back to the local computer store.  BTW, there's an awesome local computer store in SF: Central Computer.  They have excellent selection,  better prices than CompUSA, better computer modding parts, and excellent customer service.  I talked to the guy there and he told me a few things:

  • Linksys is the best brand for wireless networking.  Netgear is ok.  DLink is the worst.
  • I'll never get more than 18 Mbps with my PCI wireless card.  The networking companies make them low-power on purpose, to get people to buy laptops.  The built-in wireless that comes with new laptops is really good and really expensive, and most companies throw it in for free, to encourage you to buy the laptop instead.
  • The Pringles can trick can actually work.

Thanks to his excellent advice, I decided to take the same wireless card back home and put it back in my computer.  I'm still getting sketchy reception, but apparently that's the best I can get.

Now, why couldn't Netgear have some actually knowledgeable tech support who could have told me that?  They could have saved me the trip downtown.  Screw Netgear.