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ELSA Vianect WLAN Access Point

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  • Editors' rating
    6.7 Good

Pros

  • Compact and stylish
  • easy setup.

Cons

  • No firewall functionality
  • No built-in support for broadband connections.

ELSA has chosen simplicity over functionality for its access point, declining to provide broadband-oriented features or support for multiple wired devices. However, if you just want to provide Internet access for two or more PCs in separate rooms, this is a simple way of doing it.

The Vianect WLAN Access Point is a nicely styled unit that would blend in with most peripherals, and can be placed on a desk or mounted on the wall. The antenna is internal to the unit and so can't get damaged. All the connectors are on the rear of the unit and the LEDs are along the front.

ELSA's access point offers little in the way of extras. There's only a single 10Mbit/s Ethernet port for connection to a wired LAN, so if you have more than one wired device, you'll need to buy a separate switch or hub. If you do have a single wired PC, you'll need a crossover cable to connect it to the Ethernet port on the access point, and this isn't supplied. The access point supports a modem or ISDN TA through its serial port for dial-up Internet access -- there's no internal modem.

You get a DHCP server capable of managing up to 253 addresses. As well as providing IP addresses to network clients, the server will assign default gateway and DNS server addresses based either on those you configure manually, or the addresses the access point is assigned by your ISP when using the dial-up connection. You can configure the DCHP server to assign addresses only to wireless clients, not those on the wired network.

There's no firewall functionality in this unit -- if you have a broadband connection you'll need to install some other security measures elsewhere on your network. Similarly, if you attach a modem to the unit for dial-up access, this connection won't be secured. Putting a firewall between the access point and a broadband connection, should you have one, will protect clients from attack, or you could install personal firewall software on each PC connected to the network.

You manage your access point using a Windows application, rather than via a browser. ELSA's access point management software automatically scans your network for any access points, and shows you a list of those it finds. For a home network this is only likely to be one. The IP address of the access point doesn't have to be configured correctly for it to be located -- once it's found you can change the IP address to fit in with your network.

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Once you've set the correct IP address you can configure your access point by double-clicking on its entry. Each access point can be password protected. The configuration application uses a tabbed window so you can quickly find the option you're looking for.

The dial-up networking settings can be pulled from the PC on which you've installed the management software, so if you already use that PC to access the Internet, you'll have less configuring to do. You can manually dial and hang up the modem from here as well -- you can disable automatic dial-up if, for instance, you only have a single line for voice and Internet access, and don't want to inadvertently tie the line up. You may also want to manually disconnect if you know you've finished surfing.

ELSA's products performed well in our tests, the access point and PC Card combination coming close behind the winner, from Zoom. Performance with the USB client was slightly lower, but still ahead of most of its competitors.

If you have an existing PC with a dial-up connection, and you'd like a way to share that connection with more systems wirelessly, then this is a simple solution. You won't get any protection against attack from the outside world, but with a dial-up connection you're at reduced risk of attack anyway. If you've no plans to install a broadband connection, ELSA's Vianect WLAN Access Point is a quick and simple way of wirelessly networking your PCs and sharing an Internet connection.

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