Review: TRENDnet TEW-429UB
To get my new direction in life started, I am going to write about some gadgets I already have. Excuse the spelling mistakes and grammar errors.
The TRENDnet TEW-429UB is really two devices in one: a WiFi USB network adapter, and a WiFi Hotspot Finder. It is about the size of a pack of gum and plugs into any USB 1.1 or 2.0 port you might have on your laptop or desktop computer.
The instructions that came with the device were fairly explicit about what needed to be done and when. Plugging in the TEW-429UB and getting it operational was fairly straightforward.
Wireless performance was adequate, though most of the machines I tested on had USB 1.1 but was working with a typical hotel broadband connection, so I didn’t notice any performance issues. Since the device is capable of 802.11g speeds, you really want to consider using it with a USB 2.0 port.
What really shines with this device is the Hotspot Finder. With the device unplugged from a computer, you can flip a switch and the Hotspot Finder will come on. A small, two-line LCD screen will tell you all that you need to know. You will be able to see any WiFi access point that is within range and currently broadcasting its SSID. You can see each hotspot it finds by SSID along with whether it talks 802.11b or 802.11g, what encryption it is using (Open, WEP, WPA), what channel it is on, and how strong the signal is.
That’s just one mode, however. The Hotspot Finder has two additional modes: a scan mode, a “find an open access point” mode–the device will only show hotspots with no WEP or WPA, or the “test signal strength” mode where you can lock into a particular hotspot and do a kind of “site survey” where you can walk around and check the signal strength to make sure your access point is reaching where it needs to (and not where it doesn’t need to).
The Hotspot Finder function is powered by a battery that charges when the device is plugged into a USB port.
The main thing I was not impressed with this device was the software. While the provided software provided similar scanning capabilities as the device oes on it’s own, it was not entirely clear to me how you would connect with an access point that needed a WPA or WEP key. This will be a bit of a handicap for someone less technically inclined.
The other non-impressive thing about this device is the lack of Linux support. There seems to be a third party driver developing for this devince, namely the Zydas ZD1211 project on SourceForge, though because it’s not part of the standard kernel yet, I haven’t gone through the trouble of trying it out.
The physical dimensions of this device make it difficult to keep directly plugged into a laptop. It is just a little too big. If the laptop is resting on a table, the table will force the device upward a bit. If your USB ports are close together, you may not be able to plug in a device into that second USB port.
It is totally worth the $50 I paid for the device for the WiFi Hotspot Finder feature alone. For WiFi functions, I might consider a different device–one that works with Linux better and one with better Windows software.