Netgear RangeMax Wireless USB 2.0 Adapter? Don’t Waste Your Money

So I’ve been looking for a way to get better wi-fi reception with my laptop and stopped by CompUSA on the way home from work on Friday to see what they might be able to suggest. The sales clerk at CompUSA (I know, perhaps the last person you should ever listen to) suggested that I try the Netgear RangeMax Wireless USB 2.0 Adapter. On the box the RangeMax Wireless USB 2.0 Adapter claims, “up to 1000% more coverage and speed than standard 802.11g.” It also has a claim to “turn dead spots into hot spots.”

My experience? The thing is completely useless. It works no better than the built in wi-fi that my laptop already had. Even when I plugged in the long USB cord and stuck the USB adaptor on the end of it (I assume so that the cable would act as an antenna of some sort), I still received no better reception.

In teeny tiny print on the box is a disclaimer by Netgear that reads, “maximum performance when used with WPN824 RangeMax Wireless router.” When I asked about the requirement to use this so called WPN824 RangeMax router at CompUSA the sales clerk said yes that it would be better with that but that it should boost reception for any signal. I didn’t actually need 1000% more coverage. I just needed a little more coverage to get the free wi-fi signal that now is being run in the Ferry Building (that I’ve yet to be able to connect to by the way even within proximity of the router which I’ve been told sits near the Ferry ticket stand downstairs — I can see the signal downstairs but it won’t connect).

So with this adapter I still can’t even see the free signal being broadcast inside the Ferry Building from the Ferry Building itself and it looks like I’ll need to make one more stop on my way home from work today to return this $110 gizmo back to Comp-USA.

I might not be as bummed about this except the last time I had to return something to CompUSA (a Seagate 300 gig external USB storage drive that was completely non-functional) it took me over 45 minutes to do so.

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7 Comments

  1. Brian Hoyt says:

    Before getting additional hardware if you haven’t yet try adjusting the antennas on your router. Sometimes a rotation of the device or different angle of antennas can make all the difference.

    Also the antenna is totally internal, the usb cable simply helps in placement. For the same reason above where location makes all the difference.

  2. Thomas Hawk says:

    Hi Brian, the problem is that I don’t control the router. It is a free wi-fi router that has been put in at the Ferry Building in SF. I can see the signal from downstairs, but not from upstairs in my office. I was hoping the adapter might somehow help my ability to receive the signal in the building.

  3. Mike K says:

    You’re really looking for something like this:

    http://www.oreillynet.com/cs/weblog/view/wlg/448

    You can build your own “Pringles can” wifi antenna, and belive it or not I saw one at CompUSA around the holidays:

    http://www.compusa.com/products/product_info.asp?product_code=315787&pfp;=SEARCH

    You’ll need an optional adapter and a PCMCIA card that supports an external antenna.

    I got sick of trying to get a signal or paying $9 to check my e-mai at airportsl, so I got Cingular Edge service (also looke at EVDO). It’s like a fast modem, but it works almost everywhere I get a cell cignal. I’ve been at two conferences with “free” wifi that didn’t work and I was one of the few people able to get online. It’s expensive, but I can work on the train to work (where I am now). It’s one of the few luxury expenses for blogging. 😉

    Let me know what you end up doing.

    – Mike K
    HackingNetflix.com

  4. eastlaker says:

    I agree with earlier comments from Brian–you’d be amazed at how much changing the position of the router and/or the antennas will change reception. Definitely give that a try first.

    Here’s a pretty good article from Microsoft with some other ideas:

    http://www.microsoft.com/athome/moredone/wirelesstips.mspx

    And here’s another one. Some of it is Media Center-specific, but parts of it are broadly applicable to wireless networking in general:

    http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/using/setup/networkperf.mspx

    Here’s a blog entry you might find useful. It discusses things other than wireless, but the background might be interesting to you, and it does get into discussing some newer technologies that potentially could improve things:

    http://www.networkgarage.com/2006/01/post_3.html

    And here’s a follow-up posting that gives actual recommendations (if you decide replacing the router/access point is the right thing to do):

    http://www.networkgarage.com/2006/01/routers_reccomendations.html

    Hope that helps. Keep up the great work!

    Thanks,
    Tim Ahlers

  5. Brian Hoyt says:

    I see your problem now. Your best bet is what Mike K said. If you know where the access point is or even the general location and have a window with line of site you can get on of the yagi (pringles can) antennas and point it at the location. To go along with it you will need a card or external adapter that allows for antenna attachment. Another option is to get a bridge adapter (ethernet to wireless) since many can use external antennas and may be easier to place.

  6. Thomas Hawk says:

    Thanks for the advice guys. I may try the pringles can approach but I actually sit out on a trading floor and would look awfully geeky. I may actually instead just look into Mike K’s Cingular Edge service.

  7. Troy says:

    I bought the RangeMax 240 Wireless Notebook Adapter (WPNT511) _and_ the RangeMax 240 Wireless Router as a set about eight months ago.

    I’m not arguing that the range is much better (I can get a moderately good signal three doors down at my neighbor’s house, while before I was barely getting a signal in my own backyard).

    But just the other day the adapter stopped working. Now, for some reason, it goes dead (no LED) and I have to tap it to get it to come back to life and reconnect. This is infuriating.

    While testing with my old IBM 11g adapter (to determine whether the problem is in the card or the slot), I discovered that I’m actually getting better speeds with my old 54Mbps card than I was getting with my 240Mbps RangeMax card/router:

    Last night I was transfering 500MB files from a wired machine to my wireless laptop. When the RangeMax card was operating, I was getting transfer rates up to 1.5MB/s, but today, with the old IMB adapter, I’m getting 1.78MB at the same location.

    Maybe the speed difference has to do with the RangeMax adapter being faulty. I don’t know.