Priced at AU$190, SMC's new EZ Connect G Wireless USB 2.0 adapter packs plenty of niceties into its compact thumbdrive form factor, including plug-and-play convenience, WPA encryption and 802.11g wireless compatibility. The EZ Connect G works on almost any modern computer -- thanks to the ubiquity of USB -- and you can use it on any desktop or laptop (except Macs) without needing a separate adapter. Overall, this sleek networking device is a well-priced and easy-to-use solution for most home and SOHO users but it's plagued by some niggling performance issues, notably tame signal reception and throughput.
Getting the EZ Connect G up-and-running is a simple two-step process: The adapter fits into any spare USB port and you install software drivers directly from SMC's supplied utility disc. Of course, the sight of a 9cm adapter sticking out of a notebook's rear will be an eyesore for many but the effect is not so bad in actual use. Besides, you can always use SMC's bundled USB extension cord to place the adapter at a less prominent location. After dispatching the few onscreen pop-ups, it takes less than a minute to load the proper drivers and SMC's EZ Connect utility.
The only hiccup we encountered occurred after the device's installation. Due to some unknown bug, the EZ Connect G failed to make an immediate association with our local wireless access point (AP) even though the adapter detected the AP's SSID. The quick remedy: Simply restart the PC. After rebooting and setting the proper WEP keys, our test laptop had no problems connecting to the local wireless LAN.
Although the EZ Connect G doesn't boast the tweak-friendly appeal of high-end adaptors, the device's base features should nevertheless suffice for most home as well as SOHO users. In addition to 64- and 128-bit WEP encryption, you also get WPA support, a stronger Wi-Fi security scheme that is overtaking WEP as the default standard. The EZ Connect G is WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs) certified, too, meaning it should work relatively problem-free out-of-the-box with nearly all versions of Windows. Apple fans, however, will still have to rely on their Airports and Belkins for wireless connectivity. Due to the EZ Connect G's lack of OS X drivers, the device won't work on any Mac hardware and SMC hasn't indicated any intention to make the EZ Connect G Mac-compatible, at least not in the foreseeable future.
The EZ Connect attained a decent transfer speed of 5Mbps in our 802.11b Q-Check wireless benchmarks. Performance in 802.11g, however, appeared much more restrained with the EZ Connect G only managing a mild 14Mbps for file transfers at a 15m range. This is plenty of bandwidth for video streaming and Internet surfing but demanding users will want speedier 802.11g cards such as Netgear's WG511 or Proxim Orinocco's ComboCard for handling large intra-network file-copying jobs. Note: The adapter needs to be connected to a high-speed USB 2.0 port to run at its optimal 802.11g mode.
Furthermore, the EZ Connect G's signal pickup was quite weak compared with some of the other adapters we tested -- our AP's indoor signal strength dwindled from Good to No Reception when we moved the test notebook beyond 20m.
SMC offers a three-year warranty on the EZ Connect G, which is on par with the coverage for similar products. Driver and documentation downloads for the adapter are also easily retrievable online.