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SMC2532W-B 802.11b High Power Wireless PC Card reviewed

SMC2532W-B 802.11b High Power Wireless PC Card reviewed
By

SMC EliteConnect 2.4 GHz 802.11b High Power Wireless PC Card

SMC EliteConnect 2.4 GHz 802.11b High Power Wireless PC Card
Summary 802.11b PC client card with 200mW output and dual MMCX connectors for attaching higher-gain antennas
Update 8/24/2003 - Corrected antenna connector information
Pros • 200mW transmit power
• Can attach external antennas
Cons • Doesn't seem to get along with WinXP

The latest twist that manufacturers are trying to use to differentiate their 802.11b products in a very "me-too" market is power output. Linksys has had good success with its WSB24 to pump up the AP end of the link and now SMC is trying to boost the client end with its SMC2532W-B. But, as I'll show, power isn't the only thing that matters in getting a good wireless connection with a roving notebook computer...

Internal Exam

A quick check of the card's FCCID reveals that it's a rebranded ZCom XI-325H - essentially an Intersil PRISM-based XI-325 with a beefier power amplifier. Figure 1 gives you an inside look.

Figure 1: Internal view of SMC2532W-B

The FCC test reports indicate a Peak Power output of 23.5 dBm / 222mW (averaging the Channel 1, 6, and 11 measurements), which is significantly higher than the average 802.11b card. Note that the card's antenna, which attaches via two RP-MMCX connectors isn't shown. Since it's removable, you can substitute an antenna of your choosing, given that you can deal with the teeny connectors!

The other hardware issue of note is the location of the two LEDs. They are tucked into the top edge of the card (you can see them at the top right of the photo above) so that they may be hidden by your notebook's body, as they were in my Dell Inspiron 4100.

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