Summary: With videogame consoles now discovering the wonders of the internet, we have another device that needs to be connected online. Consoles are almost always played on televisions, which are usually found in the living room. With the default hardware, those wanting to play console games online will have to find a spot that can accommodate both a television and an internet connection – which might be quite inconvenient. The answer? Wireless networking.
Computer hardware makers have learned that users like as much flexibility as they can get. Thanks to the recent explosion of wireless networking technology, users are now restricted by one less tether. Network companies now offer all sorts of wireless hardware at a small premium over their wired equivalents. It’s basically a requirement for all new notebooks to come with at least some form of wireless technology. In fact, Intel makes 802.11b wireless networking a requirement for all notebooks wearing the Centrino brand.
So, both our desktop and notebook computers are free from their shackles, but is that enough to satisfy us? No.
We must free our consoles!
With videogame consoles now discovering the wonders of the internet, we have another device that needs to be connected. Consoles are almost always played on televisions, which are usually found in the living room. With the default hardware, those wanting to play console games online will have to find a spot that can accommodate both a television and an internet connection – which might be quite inconvenient.
The Xbox comes with an ethernet port built in, and with the Network Adaptor from Sony, the PlayStation 2 becomes similarly equipped. Both are then ready to accept an ethernet cable plugged into the back. That’s all fine and dandy if you don’t mind having network cables running around your television.
In our experimentation with wireless online console gaming, D-Link provided us with a selection of hardware aimed at gamers. D-Link recognizes that gamers represent an important segment of the market. Its website has a special section called Gamers Haven, which is dedicated, oddly enough, to gamers and highlights tournament sponsorships.
SIDEBAR: D-Link provided hardware for the USA Final World Cyber Games 2003.
The front of the little grey box has two LEDs on the lower right hand corner. The green one on the left lights up brightly whenever it is plugged into a power source. The orange one on the right has two states of brightness: a dim blinking glow indicates wireless activity, which brightens up when an ethernet device is connected.
The rear has the connection for the power, the RJ-45 plug, a paper-clip sized hole for resetting the device, and an adjustable and removable antenna. The bottom is cushioned with four little round ‘feet’ similar to what you may have seen on top of AMD Athlon processors. Also on the bottom are a couple of mounting points for those who wish to hang the DWL-810+, but most shouldn’t have a problem just letting it sit on top of the console.
SIDEBAR: D-Link’s Gamer Haven front page features characters from NOLF, Tribes, and Counter-Strike.
The easiest way to do this is to connect the DWL-810+ directly to a port on the wireless router that it will be communicating with and plug in the power adapter. By default, the unit has an IP address of 192.168.0.30, which is entered into an internet browser to bring up the web-based configuration. In there you’ll be able to view the status of the device and configure the security settings so it can access the router wirelessly.
The paranoid types out there will be pleased to know that the DWL-810+ supports 256-bit WEP encryption; but in order to use it, the router and all other connected devices must also be 256-bit WEP capable.
Once everything is properly configured to match the settings of your wireless router, disconnect the ethernet cable from the router (and the power adapter, if it has to be moved to another location) and connect it to the RJ-45 port on the back of the game console. Cross your fingers and power on the console. The orange activity light should intensify as soon as the Xbox is on, or for the PlayStation 2, when a game attempts to connect to the internet.
SIDEBAR: Preacher is one of the best comic books ever.
While the main focus of this article is online console gaming, the DWL-810+ has many other practical applications. The DWL-810+ isn’t a product designed solely for gaming, rather it is part of the D-Link line up that fulfills the needs of console gamers. If you have a computer with an ethernet card in a ‘network inconvenient’ location, all you need is the DWL-810+ and you’re back online.
Because the DWL-810+ operates independent of software drivers, it can be thought of as just another router port.
Besides for connecting to a wireless router for internet access (infrastructure mode), the DWL-810+ is able to connect two systems together for head-to-head play (ad-hoc mode). Obviously, you will need two wireless units for ad-hoc mode.
Inside Pitch 2003
Midnight Club 2
Midtown Madness 3
Moto GP 2
NASCAR Heat 2002
NFL Fever 2003
NFL Fever 2004
Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War
Soldier of Fortune 2: Double Helix
Time Splitters 2
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Island Thunder
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2X
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4
Tony Hawk's Underground
For more complete information on System Link games, check out this FAQ. For a complete list of Xbox Live enabled games for online play, click here.
SIDEBAR: I am absolutely hooked on Microsoft’s XSN Sports games on Xbox Live.
Best. Online. Gaming. Ever.
Identifying all the PlayStation 2 games with LAN support is a difficult task. We’re currently working with Sony to get an official list of LAN support, but here’s a list of Network Adaptor games from the PlayStation site:
All-Star Baseball 2004
ATV Offroad Fury 2
EverQuest Online Adventures
Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm
Madden NFL 2003
Medal of Honor: Rising Sun
Midnight Club 2
NBA Live 2003
NBA Live 2004
NCAA Basketball 2K3
Need for Speed Underground
NFL GameDay 2003
The Sims Bustin Out
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs
SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs
Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 2004
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4
Tribes: Aerial Assault
Trivial Pursuit: Unhinged
Twisted Metal Black Online
If online gaming is your bag, you can find an exhaustive list here.
SIDEBAR: EA’s Online Service for PlayStation 2 games just can’t compare to Microsoft’s efforts.
Mind you, it’s possible that the hiccups in the wireless connection are due to interference and are to no fault of the DWL-810+. Tweaking wireless settings or even the environment for a better connection to the DWL-810+ is near impossible because of the unit’s lack of a signal strength meter. On the other hand, adding such capability to the unit would drive up costs, robbing the DWL-810+ of one of its most attractive features – price.
We did the next best thing and sat a notebook PC with a wireless PCMCIA card next to the DWL-810+ and did our playtesting while constantly monitoring the notebook for signal quality. Even with an excellent signal to the PCMCIA card, there was still the odd hiccup with voice over IP. Gameplay, however, seemed to be unaffected by these hitches.
One last thing: why not 802.11g? If one were planning to transfer large files over the network, then we’d definitely recommend going with a wireless-G device. For gaming though, the 3-4 Mbps offered by the wireless-B standard is sufficient.
Price: The DWL-810+ carries an MSRP of $69, but it can be found for around $10 less if you shop around. And for a limited time, D-Link is offering a $10 rebate for all DWL-810+’s purchased between November 16, 2003 and January 5, 2004 (restrictions do apply, so check out the PDF before buying).
Lack of signal strength indicator: We’re accustomed to USB adaptors and add-in cards with signal meters built-in to the drivers, and signal strength is like a constant itching mystery to us. If we could have one wish to change the DWL-810+, it would be to have some sort of signal strength indicator for tweaking purposes.
The Bottom Line
For around $50 after rebate, the DWL-810+ is an excellent value. If you’re looking for a way to free your console or any other online device from wires, then D-Link has a wireless bridge to sell to you.
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