Converting USB devices to wireless operation is one of those tasks that, if it was easy, would be very popular with an awful lot of people. Q-Waves claims that it has just the product for the job with its Wireless USB Data Kit.
Based on Wisair’s WSR601 Ultra Wideband (UWB) chip, the Data Kit is a Certified Wireless USB device that can connect to almost any USB peripheral at speeds of up to 480Mbps. It has a claimed maximum range of 10m.
It sounds almost too good to be true, but although there are some important caveats, the Data Kit delivers much of what it promises. UWB avoids interference with other signals by transmitting data using very low power radio pulses. The European version of the Data Kit operates on frequencies between 3.168-4.752GHz. This means it can peacefully coexist with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, DECT and so on; we certainly experienced no interference during testing. It’s also a low-power technology, with each adapter drawing less than 1W; when inactive they go into a sleep mode.
In the box there’s pair of pre-paired USB dongles, a DC power supply and a small powered base station with a USB connector (there’s no USB cable so you’ll need to provide your own). The PC dongle has a swivelling connector so you can position the antenna vertically.
The Data Kit certainly lives up to its ease of use promises: a Wireless USB Manager applet is installed in the taskbar notification area, but there’s no configuration needed. Just plug a peripheral into the remote base station, wait a few seconds to establish a connection and that’s it. It’s possible to connect one PC dongle to multiple remote adapters, but you can’t have multiple PC dongles accessing one remote adapter; each remote adapter can only pair with a single PC dongle.
The connections are transparent; devices operate just as though they were connected with a physical USB cable. We successfully used the Data Kit with USB memory keys, a printer, a scanner, a USB hard drive, a hub, a CD-ROM drive and a DVD rewriter.
The biggest caveat is that Wireless USB is a line-of-sight technology. It doesn’t like walls or glass of any thickness. Q-Waves sort of points this out in its marketing documents by referring to ‘full-room coverage’, but it’s certainly not clear on the packaging apart from a small disclaimer; those used to house-wide Wi-Fi will be disappointed. If you want to connect a NAS drive in another room, for example, forget it. We could very occasionally connect at 10m, but for a reliable data connection we found 5-6m to be the limit in our domestic test setting.
We measured data transfer speeds by copying a 4GB MP4 movie file to a USB hard disk. At close range (under 1m) it took 10m 05s (56Mbps). At the furthest reliable range (about 6m with clear line of sight) this took 14m 09s (40Mbps). This is much less than the link speed, due mostly to USB protocol overheads, but still compares favourably to real-world Wi-Fi throughput. For comparison, using a direct USB link took 2m 40s (211Mbps).
Q-Waves also sells a Wireless USB AV Kit for £99.99 that can stream up to 720p video and stereo audio to a TV via an HDMI or VGA connection.
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