November 30, 2008
These go to eleven
I've been looking at EnGenius products for a while, but I've not yet bought one for testing. EnGenius, also known as Senao in some parts of the world, is well known for making high powered long range access points, for both indoors and outdoors.
Fortunately, a friend got an ECB-3220 for one of his projects, and I borrowed it off him for testing. The ECB-3220 is a high-powered access point with 400mW RF output and bunch of other advanced features such as WDS, SNMP, virtual SSID, etc. Of course, all those advanced features can be had for free with DD-WRT. The only things I want with the EnGenius is the higher power output and PoE.
The body of the ECB-3220 is well constructed, and smaller than the standard Linksys WRT54GL. Which is to be expected, since the WRT54GL is half empty inside. The WRT54GL only remained that size to be compatible with older Linksys products and mounting frames.
Unfortunately, when I set it up for testing, it didn't seem to perform any better than the WRT54GL I have stacked below it. I kept getting the exact same signal strength level no matter what I tried. The ECB-3220 also has the same female RP-TNC antenna connector as the WRT54GL, so I also tried swapping antennas and changing orientation. I also have an ASUS WL-500gP (not pictured) which seems to give even better signal.
After some head scratching (and secretly glad that I didn't buy the more expensive ECB-3610S 600mW version for testing) I realized that the output power level options in the advanced wireless setup page has four values: High, Ultra High, Super, and Extreme. I had seen the options earlier but didn't change them because the default value is "High", and I thought it would default to the highest output value.
Once I set the output power levels to Extreme, everything worked as I had expected, I could get approximately three times the range of the WRT54GL when indoors. And when outdoors, I could go all the way up to nearly half a mile away. Testing was done with my ASUS EEE PC 701 with the Atheros wireless chipset.
Looks like I need to buy the ECB-3610S after all.