When we looked at ZyXEL’s nifty little AG-225H we were sufficiently impressed with its wireless network sniffing capabilities that it garnered a well-deserved Recommended award. Well now we have a similar product from TRENDnet which delivers an equally useful set of features but adds a very handy 512MB of Flash memory storage into the bargain.
These types of devices could prove invaluable to mobile workers as they make identifying wireless hotspots a cinch. Rather than dig your notebook out, fire it up and wait for Windows XP’s zero configuration features to sniff around you whip out the 429UF and check its little two-line LCD panel to see if there is wireless activity in the vicinity. Thanks to the extra internal storage the TEW-429UF is slightly bulkier that the AG-225H and it’s not so nicely designed either. Even so, bar a couple of main features it is virtually identical.
TRENDnet supplies it with a short carrying cord and a short USB extender cable. The LCD panel is accompanied by a power switch underneath and a couple of buttons above for initiating wireless scans and scrolling through the WLAN information when more than one AP has been picked up. It comes in for the same criticism as the AG-225H as a backlight would have been handy. It may use up the juice a bit quicker but the device has a Li-Ion (Lithium Ion) battery that is charged whenever it’s connected to a USB port, so you should be able to keep it charged up without too much trouble.
The key difference is wireless capabilities as the 429UF cannot function as a wireless access point – only as a wireless client. The AG-225H comes with some extra features in ZyXEL’s client utility software that allows it to be configured as an access point. This requires bridging to be set up between the WLAN and LAN connections so that other wireless clients can use the AG-225H to access the main network that the system is wired to. It is handy to have but generally we can’t see this being a key requirement for most mobile users.
The 429UF uses exactly the same wireless hardware as the AG-225H so you’ll find the LCD panel display is identical. Three modes of operation are supported with the S mode displaying up to fifteen detected APs in the order of their signal strength. A Free mode only shows those APs that have no security enabled while the D mode locks on to the selected AP and periodically keeps track of it. The LCD display provides plenty of information about each AP as it shows the SSID, the channel in use, whether it is 802.11b or g, if WPA or WEP is in use and the signal strength. It also shows the state of the battery capacity as well.