Actiontec USB 802.11b Wireless Adapter

  • Editors' rating
    7.0 Very good


  • Small, lightweight, easily installed.


  • Not the cheapest 802.11b adapter available.

Adding wireless networking to desktop or notebook PCs is now simple, thanks to Actiontec. It may not have an imaginative name, but the USB 802.11b Wireless Adapter is a quick and easy way of connecting any USB-equipped PC to a wireless LAN.

The adapter works with Windows 98 or later. There's no Linux or Mac driver available for those Macs without built-in wireless networking. Actiontec claims the effective range is up to 100ft or around 30m indoors -- certainly we had no problems getting a signal 20 metres from our access point through a plasterboard partition wall.

The adapter itself is a miniscule 8.7x5x1.1cm and weighs just 65g with the supplied USB cable -- this isn’t going to add to the weight of the average laptop bag. You can either just plug it in and leave it on the desk, or mount it on a vertical surface using the supplied Velcro pad, or the built-in screw slots.

Installation is straightforward – plug the adapter in and Windows will automatically detect it. All you have to configure is whether you want to connect to an access point or create an ad-hoc wireless LAN, and you're away. There are further configuration options, such as enabling encryption, but these aren't necessary to get a connection.

The USB 802.11b Wireless Adapter may have been designed with notebook PCs in mind, but we think it's equally useful for desktop PCs. Its small size and easy installation make it suitable for anyone to set up. While more expensive than a wired network adapter, it's still a reasonable price for wireless kit.