Buyer beware - ASUS "future proof" draft n-based hardware

Summary:The 802.11n WiFi standard is a long way off being ratified ("sometime" in 2008 is the best guesstimate at present), but this hasn't stopped manufacturers from cashing in on it by releasing hardware based on draft 802.11n specifications. ASUS has taken this a step further by offering purchasers of their Broadcon Intensi-Fi Draft N-based WL-500W gateway and WL-100W adapters a guarantee. On the face of it, it sounds like a good deal, but examine the press release a little deeper and you quickly realize that it's not much more than a publicity stunt.

ASUS Super Speed N
The 802.11n WiFi standard is a long way off being ratified ("sometime" in 2008 is the best guesstimate at present), but this hasn't stopped manufacturers from cashing in on it by releasing hardware based on draft 802.11n specifications.  ASUS has taken this a step further by offering purchasers of their Broadcon Intensi-Fi Draft N-based WL-500W gateway and WL-100W adapters a guarantee. 

On the face of it, it sounds like a good deal, Call me old fashioned, but I'm sticking to 802.11g for my wireless needs but examine the press release a little deeper and you quickly realize that it's not much more than a publicity stunt.

Like most press releases, the one that ASUS released last week started off well:

ASUSTeK Computer Inc. (ASUS) today announced the 802.11n upgrade guarantee program for its draft-n wireless solutions, the WL-500W Super Speed N wireless router and WL-100W Super Speed N wireless adapter. With countless draft-n products in the market ASUS is the first wireless vendor to announce an upgrade program to guarantee compatibility with the future 802.11n standard, whether in the form of firmware or hardware updates.

"The WL-500W and WL-100W, powered by Intensi-fi technology from Broadcom, achieve data transfer speeds higher than 100Mbps, making it suitable for multimedia streams to all corners of the your home," said Hektor Tung, Director of Product Marketing for ASUSTek Wireless LAN BU.
"With the 802.11n upgrade program, the two ASUS draft-n products guarantee future 802.11n compatibility and give users peace of mind when purchasing draft-n solutions."

So far, so good.  But to get to the good bit you have to keep on reading.

What products are qualified for 802.11n upgrade guarantee program?
    - WL-500W Super Speed N multifunctional wireless router
    - WL-100W Super Speed N wireless card 

Keep going:

This program will cover the units purchased before December 31st, 2006.

Router
Whoa!  It only covers gear bought up until the end of 2006?  That's right.  That means that you have less than a 3 month window in which to buy this if you want to be guaranteed of an 802.11n compatible router or wireless card "sometime" in 2008.  Excuse me, but that doesn't show serious commitment to the draft-n gear at all in my mind.  What's wrong with supporting all WL-500W Super Speed N routers and WL-100W Super Speed N wireless cards irrespective of when purchased?   What I see here is ASUS hoping to ride the draft-n wave for up to 24 months based on this 3-month promotion.  Does this make me want to go out and by draft-n ASUS products?  Nope.

But there's more.  Back to the press release:

When will upgrade program begin?
Upgrade program will begin as soon as the 802.11n standard is ratified and will continue for three months. Warranty will not be renewed.

Did you catch that?  Check it out:

Warranty will not be renewed.

ASUS wireless card
I don't like that at all.  Any 12 month warranty that you have on the wireless card or router will be long gone by the time that 802.11n is ratified, so if the upgrade bricks your gear, you're on your own.  To me, the guarantee now goes something like "We guarantee that your gear will be 802.11n compatible, unless the upgrade kills it, in which case we guarantee you nothing".  Doesn't sound like much of a guarantee to me.

There's also no word as to how these products behave around 802.11b/g gear either.

Call me old fashioned, but I'm sticking to 802.11g for my wireless needs.  If my existing WiFi router blows up between now and "sometime" in 2008, I'll be replaced by another 802.11g router.  As far as draft-n goes, my money is staying in my pocket. 

Topics: Wi-Fi

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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