Though it seems to be taking an interminable amount of time for the Wi-Fi Alliance to finally certify the new 802.11n wireless standard, there is no shortage of products already carrying support under the Draft N moniker - with no end of routers, notebooks and other paraphernalia all using it. If, however, you own a desktop PC or even a notebook that doesn't already have it then a Draft N USB Adapter, such as the Edimax one I'm looking at today, may prove to be just the tonic.
For those not familiar with the terminology, "Draft N" refers to 802.11n - the latest Wi-Fi standard that is meant to succeed 802.11a/b/g. It introduces a new modulation technique called MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output), which uses multiple antennas and a number of new technologies to improve wireless data rates dramatically. Indeed, the jump in both potential throughput and wireless range is a massive step up from previous standards. But, why is this important?
Well, although wireless networking is a great and very popular technology it does have its limitations. Before Draft N the theoretical maximum transfer rate was 54 Mbit/s, but in reality you were likely to achieve just over 20Mbit/s in perfect conditions. This is fine for Internet surfing and for streaming standard definition music and video, but with high definition media becoming all the more popular these data rates simply aren't enough to stream such content comfortably.
This is where Draft N comes in, since it boasts a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 300Mbit/s and typical throughput of 74Mbit/s. This is enough to comfortably stream high definition content wirelessly, while Draft N also boasts a larger range at 75 metres indoors and a maximum outdoor range of 250 metres. This more or less eliminates any potential signal problems within an ordinary sized house, even those with thick walls.
As a device the Edimax is fairly typical. It's large, but not as large as some wireless adapters. Its all white casing is anonymous enough and though it doesn't feel like the sturdiest casing, chances are it'll be plugged into the back a PC and forgotten about. Another small annoyance is the cap doesn't fit onto the end of the device, which means you're bound to lose it given enough time.
Again, though, this is a fairly minor complaint and otherwise there's little to complain about. In the box you get the device itself as well as an extension cable, allowing you to have the device sitting on your desk for easier access. Software and drivers are also provided in the box, so there's no need to have an already active connection to download them. This may sound like a simple thing, but you can imagine how annoying it could be to not have that software at hand when you don't have an Internet connection readily available.