PROS / Exceptionally easy setup. Mounting base is convenient and can reduce interference.
CONS / Single band connectivity may limit high bandwidth transmissions.
VERDICT / The easiest adapter to use we’ve found, but lacking 5GHz limits data throughput.
The Cisco Valet Connector AM10 stands out as the easiest Wi-Fi n standard adapter that we’ve encountered. It’s ideal for the user who doesn’t have much wireless networking experience and wants to avoid frustrations that can accompany getting started. While it takes advantage of the better range and coverage features of the newest Wi-Fi standard, the unit lacks the dual radio band feature that can help avoid interference and provide optimal data transfer rates. For side-by-side comparisons and objective reviews of other top rated products in this category, check out our wireless adapters review site.
Data Transfer Performance
The Valet line from wireless networking leader Cisco is designed to afford the flexibility and freedom afforded by advanced Wi-Fi technology to consumers who aren’t, and indeed don’t need to be, technical experts. In addition to the AM10 adapter, the line includes the Valet and Valet Plus routers.
The Wi-Fi n standard provides for operation in either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequency ranges, or both. The Valet AM10 is a single band adapter operating only in the 2.4GHz range. While dual band adapters offer some distinct advantages over single band models, wireless n technology still brings notable improvements over older Wi-Fi products. Central to the improvements is a feature called MIMO, or Multiple-input/Multiple-output. This technology allows the adapter to capture signals that are bounced off obstacles like furniture and walls and reuse them to increase range and limit dead spots. With this adapter, wireless connectivity can be achieved throughout most homes with a minimum of dead spots that were common with previous Wi-Fi products.
The device also incorporates Wi-Fi Multimeda, WMM, which allows for the prioritization of traffic types on the network so that the most critical data is transferred uninterrupted by less important information.
The 2.4GHz frequency range is rather crowded with wireless devices including Bluetooth and other Wi-Fi products, radio frequency remote controls and even electrical appliances. Wi-Fi’s good neighbor protocol is generally effective at rejecting interference but it remains a possibility in this range. The single band also lacks the broad bandwidth of the 5GHz range, so it isn’t as suited for streaming video or voice applications such as VoIP telephony.
Users of the Valet Connector can be assured that their sensitive data is well protected and that access to the network is blocked effectively from outsiders. It provides the multiple layers of protection that are included in the Wi-Fi n standard. That includes the marginally effective Wired Equivalent Privacy, WEP, plus the more advanced WPA and WPA2 encryption standards. WPA2 employs state-of-the-art AES, or Advanced Encryption Standard, which has no record of ever having been broken.
To assure secure and easy setup of the adapter, a feature called WPS, Wireless Protected Setup, is used. This functionality makes secure coupling of the adapter with a likewise compatible wireless router simply a matter of pushing a button on each device.
Ease of Use
Using any wireless adapter is a pretty simple matter but the AM10 goes a step beyond the norm in making the process easy. Whereas most adapters come with an installation CD, all of the software necessary for the AM10’s installation and setup is stored within the unit. Simply inserting the device into an available USB port starts the process. Following straightforward directions that then appear in the setup wizard will have the device operational in short order.
For most adapters, their proximity to the computer’s other electronics can be a source of interference which can adversely affect range. The Valet comes with a USB extension cable and mounting base that allows for some separation. It also allows for selecting placement of the device to achieve optimal radio connectivity with the router.
Help & Support
Cisco provides an unusually wide range of options to get product support. Their web site includes live chat, form driven email and a toll-free telephone number. We particularly like the site’s interactive Guide Me feature which allows the user to enter a question and then refine it to get to the very specific solution that is needed.
The device is compatible with Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP. Mac users and those with older versions of Windows will have to look elsewhere. It’s covered by a 1-year warranty.
We like the Cisco Valet Connector AM10 for its versatility and ease of use. It’s a good choice for most home networking applications but especially for those who aren’t comfortable with network setup. If graphics-intensive usage such as extreme gaming, streaming of HD audio/video programming or VoIP applications are to be used, a top rated dual band adapter will be more appropriate.