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Zonet Wireless USB Adapter: Worth it?

written by: Matthew Becker•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 12/31/2008

While looking at Wireless USB adapters, I took a chance with the Zonet Wireless USB Adapter, a brand I wasn't familiar with. It lured me in because of its reasonable price, but was it worth the risk?

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    I used to think that all manners of getting a wireless connection were fairly similar.  By which I mean, regardless of a brand name, I'm going to have to spend a certain amount of money regardless.  I was pretty much prepared to spend at least $40 for a Wireless USB adapter to connect to my wireless router.  It goes without saying that I was pleasantly surprised when I came across the Zonet Wireless (802.11b/g) USB Adapter.

    One thing that really thrilled me was the price.  It was about 25% cheaper than I've seen from other USB adapters, at least in recent weeks.  I've never heard of Zonet, and I'm usually pretty wary when buying from a brand I'm unfamiliar with.  Nonetheless, as inconvenient as a trip back to the retailer would be should the product function poorly, I took the chance.  When I popped it into my laptop, I believe I found out why it was so inexpensive.  Although it says that it is compatible with many Windows platforms, I got a notice when trying to install it that it hadn't been tested by Microsoft, suggesting that the adapter could be a security threat on my machine.  This may have to do with the reason the product is not as expensive as some of the other USB adapters, but I can't say for sure.  At any rate, the adapter did not cause a security risk.

    Essentially, all I had to do was use the installation disc, and I was on my way.  I typically keep my laptop about two floors up from where the wireless router is kept.  Without the range booster selected, I typically get a signal strength ranging from 70-85%, which isn't that bad two floors up.  But the range booster is really impressive, as suddenly now I get from 94-100% signal strength.  There was quite a noticeable difference with and without the range booster, because from time to time, the internet would kick out even for a brief instant.  But with the range booster on, the internet is far more responsive; I get a great signal, and haven't had a problem since.  It runs on 54Mbps, and it does so smoothly.  I'm connecting to a router of a different brand name (Linksys), so there have been no problems regarding compatibility.  Because of its dual-compatibility, I can connect to either a Wireless B or Wireless G router.

    It automatically enables WEP (Wi-Fi Equivalent Privacy), but at any time, if desired, I could disable this.  I don't know why anybody would ever choose to do this (unless there's a specific website that causes loading difficulties, but that doesn't seem likely), as this way I know my signal and internet connection is secure.

    The only issue I've had with this device was every time I placed it into a different USB port on the hub of my laptop, I would have to re-install the driver, otherwise I wouldn't get a connection.  It's a small inconvenience, but since I've had no problems with performance otherwise, I'll take the minute and dig out the installation disc.

    According to the packaging, this Zonet USB adapter is compatible with all versions of Windows from Windows Vista back to Windows 98SE, although it hasn't been certified and tested by Microsoft.  All this means is that you get to save a little bit of money not having to pay for extensive research. Is it a risk?  Possibly, but for the month that I've had this adapter, there have been no signs of unusual activity happening with my computer. Paired with a three-year manufacturer's warranty, Zonet's doing a lot to ensure satisfaction.  This goes without saying that I'm glad I took the risk with this product.  In the future, I will make certain to look out for this particular brand in other products.

    Sometimes I'm afraid of picking out products from brands I've never heard of.  Usually when it comes to devices such as this, you get what you pay for.  However, Zonet's USB adapter gives you incredible bang for your buck, offering dual-compatibility with a Wireless B or Wireless G router.  Topped with a range booster and a multi-year warranty, this shows that Zonet stands behind their product.  If I'm fortunate enough, I won't have to worry about the warranty because I've gotten nothing short of solid performance from this USB adapter.  Highly recommended.

    Rating:  4.5/5

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