PROS / External Hi-Gain Antenna can increase signal strength. Compatible with most OSs.
CONS / Adapter has only single band connectivity and data throughput is limited to 150Mbps.
VERDICT / Very versatile for those who use various OSs. Band and speed limitations a drawback.
The Hawking Technology HWUN3 wireless n network adapter standouts out cosmetically due to its external antenna. It is perhaps the most flexible adapter we’ve found as a result of compatibility with a wide variety of Windows operating systems as well as Mac. To see side-by-side comparisons of highly rated wireless n adapters as well as objective reviews, we invite you to visit our review site.
Data Transfer Performance
Complying with the newest Wi-Fi n standard, the Hawking HWUN3 offers range and coverage that were out of reach with previous wireless products. Even as a single band adapter, the device has the ability to multitask transmitting data at speeds as fast a 150Mbps. Admittedly, we find it a bit incongruous that the manufacturer offers a 300Mbps wireless router while limiting the speed of the adapter to half that, but it’s still fast enough to be more than adequate for most users and, under ideal situations.
The most unique feature of the device is its external antenna. The wireless n standard in general does an excellent job of reducing or eliminating dead spots due to its MIMO, Multiple-input/Multiple-output, technology, which reuses deflected signals, but the narrow, adjustable beam of the hi-gain antenna can improve on that performance. That is particularly true if there is a specific obstacle, such as a masonry wall, that unduly blocks the wireless radio signal. The antenna is also removable and can be replaced by a number of different antennas from the manufacturer for special circumstances. It can even be coupled with an outdoor antenna that could be used to interface with a wireless network in a different building.
The HWUN3 has the capability of streaming high definition audio and video as well as voice applications like VoIP telephone calls and video calls. It is, nonetheless, less well suited for this sort of demanding network traffic than are adapters which include the 5GHz frequency range. The 2.4GHz band that it uses is simply less capable of handling the traffic and is more susceptible to interference from other devices.
Though the issue may not come up often for most users, the fact that theoretical data throughput is limited to 150Mbps as opposed to 300Mbps for more highly rated devices is a potential drawback. This is most likely to occur when multitasking and using applications that require particularly broad bandwidth.
Security vulnerabilities are well addressed by the Hawking wireless adapter. In addition to the Wired Equivalent Privacy protocol that has been around since the first generation of Wi-Fi devices and is now considered a good foundation but inadequate by itself, the adapter provides two levels of Wi-Fi Protected Access, WPA and WPA2. WPA incorporates TKIP, or Temporal Key Integrity Protocol to make communications over a wireless network private. WPA2 adds the Pre-shared key functionality which requires entry of a pass phrase in order to access the personal network. More importantly, WPA2 utilizes Advanced Encryption Standard, AES, which is widely used by government and industry to protect sensitive information.
Missing from the device’s feature set is an option called Wi-Fi Protected Setup. Most devices in this review offer this feature which makes securely establishing a connection between adapter and wireless router simply a matter of pushing a couple of buttons.
Ease of Use
Lack of the WPS feature, mentioned above, is a drawback for the Hawking adapter with regard to ease of use. On the other hand, setup with the included setup wizard is simple and straight forward. In the device’s favor, it is the one product in our review which is compatible with all versions of Windows from 2000 through 7, i.e. Widows 2000, XP, Vista and Windows 7. It’s also compatible with Mac OS X versions Panther, Tiger, Leopard and Snow Leopard. Drivers for all versions are not likely to be included on the setup CD but they can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.
Help & Support
Hawking tech support can be contacted by email or 24/7 toll-free telephone line. The website features a searchable knowledge base and FAQ section. The product is covered by a 1-year limited warranty.
The Hawking Technology HWUN3 wireless adapter is an eye catcher if only for its unique external antenna. The antenna configuration is more than for looks, however, and will be valuable for some users in meeting special connectivity requirements. The extensive selection of compatible operating systems is also a plus. Conversely, the device is limited by operating only in the 2.4GHz frequency range and by limiting data throughput to 150Mbps.