One of the things that Santa brought over the holidays was a new Wifi access point. Back in November our Netgear router/AP just up and died. In fact, that was the third time in 18 months that the Netgear device has failed. It was twice replaced under warranty. On the occasion of this third failure it, and others of its kind, were not welcome to return….at any price.
Thinking that I’d had enough of cheap consumer routers being repurposed as APs I picked out what looked like a good SMB offering from Cisco, the WAP4410N.
Like the Netgear AP I was replacing it was an N type, with a lot of nice features. It could be powered via P.O.E. so I could run it from my UPS even while locating it in a more idea spot for RF performance. It supports four separate SSIDs allowing you to have secure and guest wifi with different levels of access, even different QoS settings per SSID. Since it was an N type AP it supports WMM, which is a must for streaming media like music or VoIP.
The WAP4410N was around $170, but since it was a business grade offering I thought it worth the investment to get a device that wasn’t going to die in 6 months. While the logic of that decision may have been sound, our experience with the WAP4410N over the past month was simply terrible.
The WAP4410N was simply unreliable. I’d reboot it and it would work adequately for a few hours, but later in the day it would essentially drop off the network. My laptop and netbook could get connection to the radio but internet access was so slow as to be unusable.
At one point I ran a test on my wife’s desktop (Hard LAN) and it measured 20 mbps x 2.5 mbps. I then ran the same test on my laptop connected to the wifi and it returned a paltry 180 kbps x 100 kbps!
I experimented with the AP for a couple of weeks trying to find a way to make it work reliably. I tried updating the firmware. I periodically power-cycled the AP. I tried various combinations of wired and wireless network settings. None of it got around the problems.
So Friday I called BUY.COM and arranged an RMA so that I could return the WAP4410N. They balked at first, citing their 30 day return policy and the fact that it was now seven weeks since I had purchased the device. I told them that I had all the original packaging, and further that IMHO the device was faulty…if they didn’t take it back I would turn the matter over to American Express. They were pretty quick to agree to issue an RMA.
Say what you will about American Express, they’ve stood by me on numerous occasions when I needed to return faulty merchandise to a reluctant merchant.
In part 2 of this little saga I’ll reveal what I learned when I polled friends and associates for recommendations of a better wifi solution.