Product: Q-Waves Wireless USB Data Kit
Specifications: Wimedia-certified PHY and MAC; USB-IF Certified Wireless USB; Operating frequency 3.168-4.752GHz (Wimedia band group 1); power consumption: 1W per USB adapter.
System requirements: Windows XP/Vista/7
Price: £69.99 (inc VAT)
YOU COULD BE FORGIVEN for thinking that UWB-based Wireless USB was, if not quite dead, seriously ailing. But UK company Q-Waves has resurrected it with a pair of brand new products, one of which is the imaginatively-named Wireless USB Data Kit. (The other is an AV kit for wireless HD video, which we've also reviewed.) This lets you convert almost any USB device to wireless operation with no need for a network - it's a straightforward cable replacement technology.
Wisair is the fabless US chip company responsible for the WR601 single-chip solution that powers the Data Kit. It's a genuine Certified Wireless USB product, so in theory it's interoperable with other Wireless USB products, if you can find any.
Although UWB is designed to operate over a frequencies between 3.1 to 10.6GHz, in Europe the regulators have decreed that the Data Kit is limited to just a fraction of that spectrum - 3.168 to 4.752GHz - on a single PHY channel. Data link speeds of up to 480Mbps are possible at short range, and the maximum range is quoted as 10 metres.
Two USB dongles are provided, which are pre-paired. To re-pair a dongle you simply plug the remote dongle into the PC you want to pair it with. Point-to-multipoint connections are supported, so you could have one PC dongle working with several remote adapters.
Software is refreshingly basic - just a tray applet showing connection status, with no settings to configure. The remote dongle sits in a small powered docking station with a USB connector, and hooking up a device is as exactly the same as plugging it in using a normal USB connection. Pretty well any type of USB device is supported, including hubs - we tried a selection of printers, scanners, hubs, hard disks and optical drives and they all worked fine.
The downside of UWB is that being very low power it only works in line-of-sight. Even thin walls will kill the signal stone dead. Now and again we managed a signal at the full 10 metre range, but for reliability five to six metres was the upper limit. At this range, we measured data transfers to a USB hard disk of 40Mbps, increasing to 56Mbps at one metre. We used a 4GB video file for the test. To put this in context, using a USB cable gave us around 200Mbps. So the Data Kit has similar performance to a decent WiFi setup, but without the hassle of networking.
Overall, it's a mixed bag. Given a clear line of sight it works well and is simple to install and use. Performance is okay, but range is short. We're sure it's the perfect solution to someone's problem, and there aren't really any alternatives.
If you want to add fast wireless capability to almost any USB device without using a network, the Q-Waves Wireless Data Kit is for you. But only if your PC and the USB device are in the same room. µ
Simple to install and use, low power consumption, no interference.
Short range, line-of-sight operation.
If you're expecting WiFi-like range, you'll be disappointed.