The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Hawking HWU8DD 802.11g USB “Dish” Client Adapter

Posted by Deliverator on June 4th, 2006

My brother wanted to check out Frys before heading back to Cleveland, tomorrow, so off we went. I always like to peruse the wireless section of the store to see what new WiFi gadgets have made it to market. I was thinking of purchasing a client bridge to try and establish a better connection to my mini media center box, but couldn’t find much. Ethernet to WiFi client bridges have almost disappeared from the brick and mortar stores. There are still a lot of situations in which an Ethernet to WiFi client bridge is the only workable solution, so it is frustrating that they aren’t more readily available. In some cases, bridges have been replaced by “gaming” bridges, designed to network your overpriced console gaming system of choice, but I have found these inadequate for most general purpose scenarios. So, what is a bridge needing geek to do?

I am still not sure of the answer, but I found a solution to my immediate need (to find a better solution for pumping high bandwidth data to my media center) in the form of a $70 USB WiFi client adapter (with a rather novel design) from Hawking Technologies. Most USB client adapters fit into two basic categories: a USB dongle similar in size/shape to a USB flash memory stick and a little rectangular box with a flip up omni antenna. The commonality to both these designs is their abysmal range.

Mini Dish

Enter the Hawking HWU8DD. This device is essentially a USB 802.11g client device with a small, integrated dish antenna, which can be oriented to a variety of positions. The antenna, according to the manufacturer, provides 8 db of gain. The box also advertises the device as “high power,” but doesn’t clarify what it means by that in terms of mw/dbm. The base of the unit includes an LED based signal strength meter to assist in centering the antenna on the strongest signal path. Driver installation was a breeze in Windows XP. The site survey application is fairly basic, but functional. I turned it off and used XP’s built in “Wireless Zero Config” application, instead. I was impressed by the HWU8DD’s receive sensitivity and power. I was able to connect to my access point at the next to highest possible speed setting in “g only” mode and stay connected through large file transfers.

My previous solution, an old Orinoco USB adapter hooked up to a small panel antenna, had difficulties punching through the floor and two walls between it and the target access point. The reliability of the connection using the Orinoco was marginal at best, at any speed. Most Orinoco products (at least the ones based around the “classic” silver/gold pcmcia card) have always had a good reputation for receive sensitivity, so its low 30mw transmit power may have been to blame. Its tought to punch through a building, especially one as ill-suited to WiFi as mine. My house is sheathed in aluminum sideing, making for a “hall of mirrors” effect.

As I indicated earlier, I was very impressed with the Hawking’s ability to deal with a difficult environment and deliver consistent, top-notch performance. I’ve been streaming high-bitrate video to my media center all night long and haven’t experiencd so much as a hickup. If you are in the market, I highly recommend it. My only complaint is the inability to aim the dish downward much, relative to the base. This was easily fixed by propping up the rear of the unit a bit, so not a show stopper, but it might be nice to incorporate in future products/revisions.