Product Review: Page (1) of 1 - 06/08/05

Ashton Digital's AirDash Wireless USB Stick

Wireless Internet access without a wireless router

By John Virata

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The AirDash Wireless USB Stick ships in single and dual configurations.
As notebook computers have outsold desktop computers, many users are taking advantage of the portability that notebooks offer and are going wireless. You can see these folks at the local coffee house or perhaps the bookstore, cruising the Internet while working wirelessly.

For these folks, the cost of entry is probably already built into the notebook. For others, especially those who have multiple computers at home and want to get them on the Internet without wires, costs can add up. Say you've got four computers at home and want to hook them up wirelessly, you have to figure $60 to $100 for the wireless router and another $30-$50 for the wireless card for each computer. That turns out to be some cash.

But what if you only have a notebook and a desktop computer, should you still buy a wireless router and the wireless cards to get on the Internet?

You don't necessarily have to, especially if your main activities are just cruising the Web and not downloading gobs of data. Ashton Digital, a purveyor of wireless connection devices for PCs offers a $129 solution that enables you to get on the Internet without having to buy a wireless router. Called the AirDash Wireless USB Stick, it is a fiendishly simple device that plugs into the USB port of the computer that is attached to your high speed (or dialup) connection, while the other USB stick attaches to your notebook computer (or other computer in the household), giving you access to the Internet as well.

Choose from a peer-to-peer or access point network

So how does it work? The AirDash Wireless USB Stick attached to your wired desktop PC acts as the access point. It then broadcasts the wireless signals from the wired PC to the computer that has the second AirDash Wireless USB Stick plugged into it. Not only can you access the Internet in this way, but the AirDash Wireless USB Stick enables you to share files between computers, just like a peer-to-peer connection.

Set Up
Setting up the AirDash Wireless USB Stick couldn't be simpler. You just need to Run the wizard on the install CD on the host and notebook PC, plug the AirDash Wireless USB Stick into the USB ports and you are good to go. In addition, the AirDash Wireless USB Stick can also be used at hotspots such as your local coffee shop, or anywhere there is a wireless signal that is freely available. Operating system requirements include Windows 98 or later and an available USB 1.1 port. If you only want the access capabilities, a single configuration is available for $69.

128-bit Security Encryption ensures a secure connection.

While the speed is not the fastest available, it is an 802.11b device that supports speeds of up to 11mbps (11Mbps, 5.5Mbps, 2Mbps, 1Mbps), making most web surfing and small file transfer fairly painless. However, if you are going to transfer large file sizes, it will take more time. A transfer of 8GB of data from the AirDash Wireless USB Stick-enabled PC to another PC was completed overnight.  The AirDash Wireless USB Stick supports an indoor range of about 100 feet and an outdoor range of 300 feet, so it has good range. The device can transmit wireless signals to any 802.11b/g compliant device, and can connect to wireless hotspots in infrastructure mode to the router in your home or any router at an available hotspot. It supports 64/128-bit WEP security that installs default at 128-bit. If you want to disable encryption or select 64-bit, you can make the changes in the encryption tab. All other settings can be adjusted via the Configuration utility.

The AirDash USB stick is a pretty nifty device for those who don't want to purchase a wireless router but want a wireless connection to the Internet either at home or at the various hotspots in the city. Although it is currently an 802.11b device, and runs on USB 1.1 ports, expect a faster device soon. The ease of which the AirDash USB Stick installed, coupled with the relatively low cost of entry and three year warranty makes this a must have solution if you want the wireless connection without having to shell out a lot of cash to get it. For more information, visit

John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at

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