Wireless gaming is on the rise. It seems the wired generation has been eclipsed by next gen wireless network adapters, wireless controllers, and wireless¦wires. Okay, maybe not. Still, the wireless generation is overtaking us faster than it took J. Lo to dump Ben Affleck. And now Actiontec's Wireless Bridge is here to affectionately jump-start the wireless age. Geared at internet gaming, Actiontec's 54 Mbps Wireless Bridge flies fast, but has trouble getting off the ground.
A wireless bridge, for you who consider yourselves tech aware but not tech savvy, is a neat little black box that connects (essentially bridges) a connection between a wireless router and an Ethernet card, between a wireless router and a separate network. It's really handy if you need to jump on the internet and don't have the necessary wire connections in the area, or they just don't stretch that far.
The diminutive black box (3 3/4 inches by 3 1/4 inches) sits only 1 1/4 inches high (not including the antenna). It's so small that you can easily lose sight of it - excellent for neat freaks - and the sleek black design looks sophisticated and important. For gaming, it goes nicely with both the Xbox and the PS2 (as they're both black) and looks like it's part of that electronic family. But don't discredit it for its size, because - at least in computers - size isn't everything.
If you like gaming on the go, carrying your Xbox or PS2 in a backpack over to your friend's house or to a LAN party, Actionec's Wireless Bridge is for you, provided you can deal with a few technical problems. You'll need essentially two things before you can use the Actiontec's Wireless Bridge: a wireless router (802.11b/g compliant - most are) and something to plug the bridge into - Xbox, PS2 with network adapter, or PC. You'll need a PC even if you don't have the others because you'll have to configure the bridge; here the problems with the bridge became glaring.
And not that there's any problem with the bridge itself - I have consistently received excellent pings on Xbox and PlayStation 2's online service, including the packet-heavy Half-Life 2 on the PC. No worse than the hard-line, anyway. But the setup for the device was nothing short of agonizing. The DHCP settings didn't work on two of the networks we tested it on, which is strange, so we had to manually direct the router to the correct IP of the gateway and enter all the DNS information. The manual that comes with the setup disc, while simple enough, can be unclear for those unfamiliar with networks. While it tells you that if the network to which the adapter is connecting is set-up with a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server, select the DHCP client it doesn't tell how to check if you're running a DHCP or a fixed IP. (For the record, most everyone, unless otherwise specified, will be running DHCP).
And if the DHCP doesn't work for you - as it didn't for us - you'll have to obtain your router information and enter that yourself. And if that is the case, you'll have to configure your Xbox or PS2 to the same gateway, enter the IP of the wireless bridge, and enter in the Xbox and PS2 network settings. This makes things complicated if, like me, you're the kind of gamer who totes his Xbox over to a friends house for a little LAN gaming. It becomes complicated because the static IP is not the same at your friends, and you must reenter the information in the wireless bridge and the console's network settings. Yikes.
Still, when it comes right down to fast gameplay, you could do much worse than the Actiontec Wireless Bridge. The connection supports 802.11b or g (g being the faster of the two) so you'll likely get a broad enough broadband for your gaming (2.4 ghz). On the PC, the bridge worked fine, but hooking up a network through a switch caused my PC to work, while causing my Xbox to be unable to find the Gateway. Strange.
There is a really handy Ad-hoc mode for the wireless bridge that allows other wireless adapters to connect to it without the use of a gateway. That means that if you had, say, four wireless bridges and four Xboxes you could play LAN gaming from anywhere in your house (within the range of the bridge: 300 feet indoors and 1750 feet outdoors). That's pretty far. And so, if you're looking for a great way to setup a LAN party, the bridge in Ad-hoc mode is the most painless way, hands down.
If you're looking for a way to hook up a LAN of Xboxes, PS2s, or even PCs, and you want something small and sleek, the Actiontec Wireless Bridge is most certainly a good way to go. But taking into consideration the possible labor associated with setting it up, you might be better going with a different model. If that was the only strike against the bridge, that might be fine, but unfortunately for the Actiontec Wireless Bridge, it is too spendy for the casual gamer. Draining $89.99 out of your wallet (or more depending on the store) might set off the casual gamer altogether. It is likely Actiontec will be pushing this bridge as a small, home office desirable. Still, it's a fast little internet bridge; it's solid, compact, and cool. A lower price (maybe around $50.00) and an easier set-up could make this the most important, one-stop purchase for any internet and LAN gamer, but as it stands this wireless bridge might only be a one-look.