We have had several WiFi finder reviews posted here on The Gadgeteer. They are great little tools that make finding a WiFi hotspot an easy task. At least easier than the chore of booting up your laptop and checking manually for available networks. Of the 3 reviews (Canary, Kensington and Smart ID) that I’ve personally written, my favorite has been the Canary device. It is fast and can display multiple networks on its small LED display. The only problems with this particular finder is the fact that it is a little bulky to be pocketable, and it runs on alkaline batteries. When the folks at ZyXEL contacted me to gauge my interest in reviewing the AG-225H finder, I agreed as I’m always eager to find a better finder for my gear bag.
Standard Compliance: IEEE 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g
802.11a: 5.15-2.25GHz, 5.25-2.35GHz, 5.725-5.825GHz
Data Rate (Automatic Fallback):
802.11b: 18dBm @ 11Mbps
802.11g: 15dBm @ 54Mbps
802.11a: 14dBm @ 54Mbps
Modulation Technique: Infrastructure & Ad-Hoc
Security: 64/128-bit WEP Encryption, WPA and WPA2
Host Interface: USB 2.0
CD with user guides and Windows applications
Quick Start Guide
USB extension cable
The AG-225H is more than just a WiFi Finder, it is also a WiFi access point and a USB WiFi adapter, all in one small thumb drive sized package. As you can see, one end pops off to reveal the USB connector. Since the whole module is pretty wide, you might have problems plugging it into a free port on your laptop or computer. For that purpose, a USB extension cable is included.
Along the bottom edge of the finder is the On / Off power switch. The AG-225H has an internal Lithium ion battery which is charged via USB. The battery seems to last pretty long as I didn’t use the adapter for a couple of weeks and it still had a charge when I did need to use it.
On the top edge is the Seek and Next buttons. Pressing Seek will cause the finder to do a new scan for nearby hotspots. Pressing the Next button will display the next found hotspot’s info (if there were multiple hotspots found).
When you first turn the device on, it will initiate a scan. Let me warn you now, scanning takes FOREVER. I guess I’m used to the Canary scanner which takes about 2 seconds to display a result. The AG-225H takes 25 seconds. It’s really painful to wait for the ..Scanning.. message to go away and real data to be displayed. And no, subsequent scans do not speed up. They are all that slow.
Once a scan has completed, the info for the access point will be displayed. Information includes:
Entry number (the finder can keep track of up to 15 networks at one time)
Detect mode: S = default mode, F = free hotspots or WLANs without any security settings, D = dedicated chosen network
Security information: WEP, WPA, or No security
Signal: Will show an A, B, or G to designate what type of band and then a 5 bar graph for signal strength
SSID: Name assigned to the hotspot
Channel: Radio channel for the detected network
You can see my unlocked (shame on me) 802.11g network called GadgetNet in the image above.
Below you will see the information I found when I scanned for hotspots at my day job. 5 networks were detected. This one is an 802.11b network with WEP security enabled. The SSID is hidden.
As a WiFi finder, the AG-225H is ok. I would be more enthusiastic if it were 2x faster than it is at scanning. As is, it’s just too painful to wait for it. I do like all the information that it provides though. Speed it up significantly and add a back light and I’d be a happy camper.
The AG-225H is more than just a WiFi finder though. It’s also a USB WiFi adapter and an access point. So, if you scan for an open network that you want to connect to, you hold down the Seek button until the S or F icon on the display turns to a D. At that point, you can plug the adapter into a free USB port on your computer and connect to that access point. Well, you can connect IF you installed the necessary drivers first. Yeah, this USB module is not completely plug and play. You must first install the adapter utility / driver from the included CD first. As of this writing, the CD only includes software for Windows. Today on ZyXEL’s website, I found Mac drivers though. More on that in a minute.
Installation is easy enough, just insert the CD and click the Install Utility button. Once completed, a Z icon in the task tray will show up.
Another utility called FUNK Odyssey Client is also included. I installed both apps on my PC at my day job. You can see some screen shots below. Unfortunately, the machines where I work are locked down pretty tight and as a result the adapter didn’t seem to work with the software. I kept getting popup errors (not shown).
Due to the locked down status of the computers where I did the install, I wasn’t able to test the WiFi adapter features of the AG-225H. You can see the some of different settings and info available in the utility.
Upon looking at the ZyXEL website, I noticed that they had Mac drivers available. I installed them to see if I could go ahead and test the WiFi adapter and access point features of this device. Unfortunately, I still came up short. Although the driver appears to install just fine, it never connected when I would plug the AG-225H into a free USB port. It would just be forever trying to connect. Yes, I did have the Airport turned off and I even had my Ethernet cable disconnected just in case. My Airport Express was powered on and working normally. I even used the AG-225H to scan for it and then lock on it by pressing and holding the Seek button.
As a WiFi finder gadget, the AG-225H does offer helpful information to anyone trying to scan for hotspots. You just have to wait for what seems like forever for that info to display. If you are a patient person, that shouldn’t be a problem. But if you’re like me, forget it. The extra benefit of having a WiFi adapter is negligible considering the fact that most laptops made within the last couple of years already have that feature built in. The access point feature is cool, but I’m not sure how often a person would actually use it. As a result, this $100 gadget isn’t something I would probably pay for. I’ll stick with the Canary finder thank you very much.