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Apacer Wireless Steno 128MB Apacer Wireless Steno MB112: Need some easy and portable storage? How about a quick wireless network connection? We look at a device that can handle both.
Date: May 12, 2004
Provided By:
Written By:
Price:


I have used a number of USB flash drives, and have found them to be a lifesaver in many situations. I always keep one of these drives on me whenever I'm at a client site, just in case they don't have a CD drive, CD burner, or, *gasp* a simple floppy. There have been rare cases where the network is down, or not working properly, and copying 5MB on a flash drive is faster than burning it on a CDRW.

There may be a situation where a 128MB or 256MB flash drive may not be enough though. Of course, you can choose to buy a bigger flash drive, or use a network connection to transfer the files. If you're unlucky, there will be no Ethernet cable based connection on the PC, but if there is a wireless network, the can save the day. The idea behind the device is not only do you have up to 1GB of storage, depending on the unit, but you also have 802.11b wireless connectivity (up to 11Mbps) for those situations you need a quick wireless connection. Today, we'll be looking at the 128MB model provided by our friends at .

Specifications

Host Interface USB 1.1
Dimension 26.0 (W) x 80.2 (L) x 12.0 (H) mm w/o cap
26.0 (W) x 87.5 (L) x 14.1 (H) mm w/ cap
Weight Approx. 25 g (w/cap)
WLAN Frequency Rang 2.4 ~ 2.4835 GHz
2.497 GHz (14th channel)
WLAN Transmission data rate 11Mbps, 5.5Mbps, 2Mbps, 1Mbps, auto-rate
Operating System No driver CD required for Windows 2000, ME, XP;Support Windows 98 / 98SE with CD driver **Driver and utility are stored in USB storage**
Memory Capacity 128MB
LED

Blue LED (for WLAN)
-Off : Power Off
-Blinking : Power On and search AP before connection
-On : Power On and Connect with AP or setting at Ad Hoc model
Green LED (for Memory)
-Off : Power Off / Standby / Power Saving
-Blinking : Read / Write in process

The Apacer Wireless Steno MB112

OS support covers Windows 98/ME/2K/XP and above, though out of the box, only ME/2K/XP recognize the device. There is a driver disk included for Windows 98, and the networking software is preloaded on the Steno. Neither ioCombo or Apacer make mention if Linux or Macs are supported, but I'd imagine that if you have the proper USB drivers and wireless support, it should work. It's best to check with the OS distributor beforehand.

The Steno is quite compact, about the same size and weight as the Crucial Gizmo! drive. The piano black is eye pleasing, and the flash drive looks quite elegant. There is a small hole to loop a strap for carrying opposite of the drive's cap. This will minimize the chances of losing it as at the worst, you'll only lose the cap.

The extra connection is for cases where the Steno may not fit into a certain space. It also serves to position the Steno better if the reception isn't as strong as you would like... much like an antenna.

The LED serves a couple of purposes, both of which indicate the Steno's function at that time. Green means the wireless is "off" (with a switch of the tab indicated in the image to the right), whereas blue means the drive is searching for a wireless connection (on).

The software included with the Steno is very helpful for setting up your wireless connection. If you're at home, or work, it isn't really necessary, but outside of those areas, the software seeks out WLAN hotspots in the immediate area, though if the administrator is smart, it will require a proper access key to get into the network.

Testing

MSI K8T Neo-FIS2R: Athlon 64 3200+, 2x512MB Kingston HyperX, 120GB SATA Seagate, ATI AIW 9600 XT.

For storage performance, we'll be copying a folder with 9 mixed media files, totaling ~108MB (small files), and a zipped folder of the same files, totaling ~105MB (large file).

The comparison device will be Mushkin's 256MB Flashkin USB flash drive, as well as the Crucial Gizmo 128MB drive. The Crucial Gizmo!, like the Steno, is a USB 1.1 device, and the Mushkin is a USB 2.0 device.

For the networking tests, I will be using our FIC Ice Cube's 10/100 connection, and a Linksys Wireless-B PCI card to compare network performance with the Steno MB112. We will be moving an uncompressed 500MB (an Office 2000 installation) folder, as well as a zip file totalling 300MB. We will be using a SMC EZ Connect 11Mbps Access Point for wireless connectivity.

Write Speeds - Small File Test

 
Time in Minutes:Seconds (Lower is Better)
Apacer
2:16
Crucial
2:13
Mushkin
0:36

Read Speeds - Small File Test

 
Time in Minutes:Seconds (Lower is Better)
Apacer
2:04
Crucial
2:06
Mushkin
0:22

In the small files test, both the Steno and Gizmo! have comparible performance. The Mushkin's USB 2.0 interface totally blows the other two out of the water though.

Write Speeds - Large File Test

 
Time in Minutes:Seconds (Lower is Better)
Apacer
2:13
Crucial
2:09
Mushkin
0:26

Read Speeds - Large File Test

 
Time in Minutes:Seconds (Lower is Better)
Apacer
2:03
Crucial
2:04
Mushkin
0:20

All three flash drives show improved performance when moving a large archive file, but it's no surprise that the USB 1.1 interface is not ideal if you're in a rush to back up that data.

Network Performance - Small File Test (kB/sec)

 
AVE Download
AVE Upload
Apacer
225.5
481.1
Linksys
236.3
445.7
10/100
2450
2420

Network Performance - Large File Test

 
AVE Download
AVE Upload
Apacer
229.8
487.4
Linksys
237.3
476.9
10/100
6150
7250

The above results come as no surprise, as no wireless connection at the moment is going to be faster than a good ole fashioned Ethernet cable. That being said, the Steno performs on par with the Linksys card, and for chores such as Internet surfing, I found the speed to be quite acceptable.

Final Words

As a standalone wireless connection or USB storage device, the Apacer Wireless Steno MB112 performs on par with similar devices in its class. It is no faster than our 802.11b card, but no slower either. Flash drive performance is similar to that of the Crucial, which isn't very fast when compared to the Mushkin, but it gets the job done.

Where the Steno shines is that it does 802.11b and flash storage in one package. There are similar products in the market, but the price of the Steno, at ioCombo, is quite competitive when you consider the convenience of the product. It's handy when you need portable storage, and/or wireless connectivity on the go.

The speed issue is something that prevents VL from passing along any awards at this time. Certainly an upgrade to the faster Wireless-G will make the Steno more attractive as a wireless connection, and USB 2.0 for making the storage performance up to five times faster.

Pros: Multiple applications (WLAN adapter or flash storage). Compact.

Cons: USB 1.1 and 802.11b affect the performance.

Bottom Line: I can certainly recommend the product as it stands now, but only if your needs dictate it. There are of course two obvious areas the Steno can improve, and that's moving to Wireless-G and USB 2.0. Improving the product in those areas would be a great move.

If you have any comments, be sure to look us up in our forums.

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