By June 27, 2006

Linksys Wireless Game Adapter Review

I’ve been living with two softmodded Xboxes for a month and a half now. One of the first things I needed to solve was how to connect the downstairs Xbox to the network. I didn’t feel like running cable through the walls, or outside of the house. I had a spare wireless access point lying around, and had hoped that I could use a crossover cable to connect the downstairs Xbox to my upstairs wireless network.

This turned out to be an impossibility, for reasons I am still too ignorant to understand. Suffice it to say, I stood on the shoulders of giants and gave up trying to rig a wireless bridge to my Xbox with what I had in the closet. All signs pointed to a niche device called a “wireless game adapter.” There were a few out there for the Xbox, including Microsoft’s own product, which retailed for about $100. Considering that I paid just slightly over that for my second Xbox, I didn’t want to shell out that kind of money. I dug around on Ars and a few other places and heard good things about Linksys’ Wireless Game Adapter. The unit had a few nifty features that I liked the sound of. They included “wireless,” “ad-hoc,” and “no drivers needed.” The Linksys product had a few drawbacks, though. Not the least of which was that I would have to disable all of the security features on my home wireless network.

I consulted my buddy Stilts. He said that if I was running any kind of wireless network at all, regardless of MAC address filtering, WEP/WAP encryption, or SSID hiding, I was vulnerable to unauthorized usage by anyone with something as simple as a wireless survey program. Oh well, who needs to protect your network anyway? :grimaces: I ordered the adapter from NewEgg and turned off all of my wireless security when the adapters arrived three days later.

Installation was easier than promised by the documentation. All I had to do was plug the included CAT5 cable into the Xbox’s built-in ethernet port, and then power up the WGA. The WGA can work in ad-hoc mode, wireless connecting it to other WGAs based on 11 (I think) channels, or the “In” mode, which means the WGA would link up via normal 802.11b. I selected “In” and then powered on my Xbox. My Xbox got an IP address from my DHCP server built into my router, and that was that. I was connected, and browsing my network shares on my fileserver.

However, into every day a little rain must fall. Like all wireless products, the reception and signal quality would randomly fluctuate. I’ve yet to own any wireless product that wasn’t like this. Sometimes the WGA would be just fine, and I could stream video over the network without a hiccup. Sometimes the network connectivity was so bad that I couldn’t watch anything at all, even after repeatedly pausing my video to allow the XBMC’s cache to fill again. I don’t think this is a failure of the Linksys in particular, I think it’s the finnicky nature of wireless in general. If I were just browsing the Internet on a laptop this would be fine. Dropping signal for a few seconds at a time while streaming video is a different matter. The Xbox’s cache would empty in seconds without a strong network connection.

After about two weeks, I had had enough. I ran a CAT5 cable under the trim and into our master bedroom upstairs. I have a 100′ CAT5 cable waiting to be run somehow downstairs into the living room. I think it’s going to involve the words “drill” and “outdoors,” but I’ve been reluctant to broach this subject with Lady Jaye yet. 😉

There is an updated adapter available that uses 802.11g. They’re over $100 retail, which gets us back to the same problem as buying a Microsoft-branded adapter. I’ll take the $12 CAT5 cable and no fuss, please!

Look ma, no wires!

  • Super easy set up
  • Much cheaper than the official Microsoft alternative.
  • When the network wasn’t being flaky, they worked as advertised.

It drops signal like shaken babies

  • Sporadic performance was maddening. It always seemed to occur at important scenes, like when Han and Leia are escaping from Hoth, or when Paris is about to put her mouth on something she shouldn’t be filming.
  • No wireless security = sad panda. Even if wireless security is mostly through obfuscation, it’s better than nothing.
  • It would have been nice if Linksys had designed the WGA with “feet” so that it would stand up better. I wound up propping the one in the bed room against the Xbox.

Linksys Wireless Game Adapter, I ping out
Three and a half out of five STFU mugs!

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Posted in: games, review, technology

1 Comment on "Linksys Wireless Game Adapter Review"

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  1. Bond says:

    Well, I’m sorry that it wasn’t an amazing success; your right, wireless can be very flaky. I just wanted to mention that my Netgear 802.11G adapter has been great, it retain a static IP as well as WEP/access control. All of this functionality is configured via the web admin, much like a router.

    So far the throughput has been outstanding.

    Not trying to one-up, just thought I’d recommend the Netgear if someone cannot run wires.

    Oh, $79.00 with -$40.00 rebate 🙂