Just Mobile 802.11g Wi-Fi SDIO Card Review

by Brighthand Staff Reads (11,691)

The claim to fame of Just Mobile’s Wi-Fi SDIO card isn’t just its low profile, but the fact that it supports both 802.11b and 802.11g wireless standards with a minimum of fuss.

802.11g Wi-Fi hardware and support has been slow to trickle into mobile devices. Part of this is the lack of a significant performance boost (a fact that we’ll talk about later) but part of it is also issues of implementation. Just Mobile, at least, seems to have no trouble with the latter.

For supporting both 802.11b and 802.11g, its Wi-Fi SDIO card is remarkably compact, extending out from the slot only about a quarter of an inch, the length of the top label. Right at the base of its protrusion, on the left hand side, is a small blue LED which lights up to indicate link activity. On the reverse side is a sticker listing the device’s MAC adders and serial number. According to the manufacturer, it’s the smallest available Wi-Fi card with an integrated LED. I haven’t measured, but I suspect they’re right.

Performance

The lack of a large external protrusion doesn’t significantly decrease signal performance however, at least as compared to most Wi-Fi devices with internal antennas. It does not, of course, compare too favorably to integrated stub antennas and cards with larger external antennas, such as my Symbol CF card. You do pay some price for size.

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Power usage is about typical for a modern Wi-Fi device, perhaps a bit better. The Just Mobile card does an impressive amount of power saving while idle, down to the point where you’d barely even notice it was there, but the more you use it, the faster your battery will drain.

Due to limitations of current handheld hardware, even a card with support for the much faster 802.11g wireless networking is unlikely to provide a significant increase in performance over an 802.11b card. What you do get out of the added support is the ability to connect to 802.11g-only networks. Some networks lock out 802.11b devices due to concerns over performance issues, but a G-capable card enables you to get online with any Wi-Fi net, without even the minor performance hit of using the B/G "mixed mode" common to most APs. You’re also equipped for the latest security protocols; not just WEP, but also WPA and WPA2. Slightly more exotic setups such as LEAP may require third-party software.

Software

The drivers for the card are somewhat predictably limited to Windows Mobile support. It does however support all recent versions of this operating system, from 2003 on up to 5.0.

The aforementioned drivers are so extremely minimalist in nature that they hardly seem like drivers at all. Unlike cards which have their own configuration or status programs, the Just Mobile card has nothing of the kind. Instead, it relies on Windows Mobile’s own Wi-Fi support screens and dialogs. Just pop the card in, and the networking code takes over. Configuration is through the network settings screen, and detection of a Wi-Fi hotspot is noted by a small pop-up window. While this does prevent you from getting at some fine details about signal strength and technical information, in practice it’s a surprisingly efficient and easy to use way to manage your connections. Of course, it also has the benefit of seamlessly integrating into the rest of the operating system. If that’s not simple enough for you, though, the driver CD comes with a pretty extensive user guide aimed at idiot-proofing your Wi-Fi setup.

Conclusion

I can’t think of any reason not to recommend the Just Mobile Wi-Fi card if you’re in the market. Despite the small market these days for SDIO Wi-Fi, it manages to be a stand-out product for more than just its rarity.

 


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