Edimax claims that its new Edimax EW-7711UAn is the smallest USB adaptor on the market today. As it resembles nothing so much as a USB plug attached to a large conventional Wi-Fi antenna it's hard to argue with that assertion.
Clad entirely in white, the Edimax EW-7711UAn can also be said to be ‘cute' if you can publically say such a thing about network hardware.
The antenna is, of course, the main claim to fame of the Edimax EW-7711UAn - it's a 3dBi antenna and so somewhat more sensitive than the tiny antennae wrapped up in most USB Wi-Fi adaptors.
And unlike most such adaptors, which plug in horizontally (ie, the worst possible orientation for Wi-Fi reception) the Edimax EW-7711UAn Wireless nLITE's antenna is vertical and hinged, allowing you to vary the angle of the dangle to optimise reception. You also get a 1m USB extension lead with a stand and this can make a noticeable difference to your reception. So far, so good.
As well as supporting 802.11b and 11g, the Edimax EW-7711UAn nLITE supports the draft-n standard - and it's here that its antenna advantage starts to lose some of its sheen. Draft-n technology derives much of its advantages through MIMO and multiple antennas. The nLITE has but one antenna and as a result its claimed draft-n performance is roughly half that of its multi-antenna'd brethren, about 150Mbps.
"So what?" you might think, reaching for the salt cellar marked ‘claimed draft-n speeds'. Well, the Edimax EW-7711UAn nLITE uses the same Ralink chipset (and drivers) as the EnGenius and Hawking draft-n USB adaptors, both of which sport a pair of smaller antennae. And because there is a pair, MIMO swings in to action.
Simply swapping one of these for the Edimax EW-7711UAn nLITE more than doubled the signal strength to 90 percent, up from the nLITE's more modest 40 percent. The connect link speeds were similarly affected, 130Mbps vs 40Mbps. So, having one big antenna is no match for a pair of smaller MIMO antennae. Against this has to be set the fact the Hawking HWUN1 currently retails for about £30 while the Edimax EW-7711UAn nLITE is over a third cheaper, about £18.