Create an 802.11n network without ripping up your 802.11g net

Netgear's HD/Gaming 5GHz Wireless-N Networking Kit lets you create a wireless bridge between a router and a client. In addition to creating a bridge for a game console or other Ethernet device, the system creates an additional 802.11n-based wireless network.

The scoop: HD/Gaming 5GHz Wireless-N Networking Kit, by Netgear, about $200.

What it is: The kit contains two pieces of hardware that let users create a wireless bridge between a router and a client. The main goal is to allow for network access for Ethernet-enabled devices that don’t have wireless or hard-wired connections near their locations. This can include networked set-top boxes, home entertainment consoles (including Netgear’s own EVA8000), and even video game consoles. While other connectivity options exist, such as powerline network adapters or other wireless Ethernet bridges, this system is cool because it offers the faster 802.11n wireless technology.

Why it’s cool: The beauty of this design is that in addition to creating a bridge for a game console or other Ethernet device, the system creates an additional 802.11n-based wireless network. If you have an existing 802.11g router, for example, instead of ripping up that entire system and buying a new 802.11n-based router, you can create an 802.11n network through the creation of this bridge.

Here’s how it works: The device connected to the existing wireless router also acts as its own access point, using 802.11n to connect to the client. The second device, acting as the client, automatically connects, but because the first device is acting as its own access point, the system creates its own SSID name and wireless security settings. Any additional clients with the ability to connect via 802.11n or 802.11a (a very nice surprise) can connect to the first device over the faster wireless link. IP addressing is still handled by the original router; the user is just getting the benefit of the faster 802.11n wireless link.

Setting up the system for the first purpose (connecting a game console to the network) was a breeze. The kit comes with power adapters and Ethernet cables; it was just a matter of plugging in and waiting a few minutes for the boxes to boot up and talk to each other. When I had the system connected to an Xbox 360, the system was able to get its IP address assigned without any difficulty, and I was up and running with no problems.

Some caveats: The only problem I experienced was trying to figure out the pass phrase for the 802.11n portion of the network. But after installing the configuration program on my wireless notebook, I was able to access the "access point" device and discover the pass phrase. A bonus point for Netgear – the system comes with WPA Personal encryption as the default setting, as opposed to other systems that don’t have security enabled automatically.

Grade: 5 stars

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