Accessory Review: Xbox 360 Wireless Network Adapter

Just like the original Xbox, Microsoft offers a Wireless Network Adapter for the Xbox 360. Also like the Xbox version, people are going to complain about the price. That said, the Xbox 360 Wireless Network Adapter supports more than its predecessor, and is worth the cost if running Ethernet is not an option to you.

While I don't mind running Ethernet across my living room floor, as it is there for my PlayStation 2 as it is, I prefer devices in my network to be wireless. I also want my Xbox 360 to have access to my PC and Mac (yes, even Macs can talk to an Xbox 360).

The Xbox 360 Adapter supports 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g. Without getting too technical, and therefore boring you to death, let me put it this way -- 802.11b is the slowest (11 Mbps) but is adequate, while 802.11g (54 Mbps) is what most people have. It is not likely that you have an 802.11a access point, but it is also 54 Mbps, but lacks the range and compatibility of 802.11g. This device supports all three standards, a definite plus.

The Wireless Network Adapter supports WPA, WPA-2, and both 64-bit and 128-bit WEP. Let me remind you that your wireless network should be locked down with some form of protocol; the above mentioned all work well. While WPA is more secure, WEP has broader support. I have found for all my wireless devices to be happy, 128-bit WEP fits the bill. It may not be as strong, but it is much better than a wide-open access point.

I have an AirPort Express, which is set to 802.11b/g compatible mode. Setup could not be easier. There are two holes in the back of the Xbox 360 that the Wireless Network Adapter snaps into. You then plug in the USB, right above the Ethernet port. Instillation is now finished. This adapter uses no external power supply; power is drawn from the Xbox 360 through USB.

The adapter is quite small, and the antenna is equally small, only a couple inches tall. I have not seen a wireless adapter with such a small form factor.

Once you power on your Xbox 360, the LED on the Wireless Network Adapter will turn green, which means it has received the signal from your router/access point. The adapter connects to the first open access point by default, this may or may not be the one you want. A flashing red light means something is not working correctly.

To configure this adapter, navigate to the System Blade and select Network Settings, followed by Edit Settings. If no wireless network is selected for you, select Wireless Mode. You will then see a list of all available wireless networks, along with the ability to specify a non-listed network, and create an ad-hoc network (use two Wireless Network Adapters to connect two Xbox 360s, for example).

Once you select your wireless network, you will need to provide your access key. Once this is input, you should see the name of your network, as well as a green light next to the "Link" and the signal strength along the bottom of the screen. Now select Test Xbox Live Connection from this screen. All tests should pass, and you are ready to go frag someone.

If your wireless access point is already setup and running correctly, you will not need to read the included instruction manual. Setup is just brain-dead simple. I was up and running in no time. It took me longer to get the device out of the plastic casing.

After testing a dozen or so Xbox Live and Xbox Live Arcade games, I have seen no difference in latency between a wired and wireless Xbox 360 connection. The first game I threw at it, Dead or Alive 4, worked with no lag at all. Downloading content from Xbox Live Marketplace performed equally as well when using a wired Internet connection.

With such an elegant design, and simple setup, it is very easy to recommend this adapter. Pricey or not, the advantages are worth it.

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