More and more games are dependent on fast Internet connections: for online play, to download updates, to download games or movies.
And these things can be taxing on most wireless routers.
But a new type of wireless standard, called Wireless-N, promises faster speeds and greater coverage in the home.
I recently tried a new Netgear RangeMax Wireless-N router and another new Netgear product, the Powerline HD Adapter.
Combined, these new products could make your life easier.
The Wireless-N router absolutely stomped my standard Netgear Wireless-G router that I've been renting from Time Warner Cable for several years. The wireless signal would often drop out in our house, and you could forget about gaming or downloading anything.
Some mornings, I'd walk into our office, where the modem is, and find my wife, Whitni, on the floor, her laptop wired to the router like an IV because she couldn't get a signal.
With the new N router, I got strong coverage throughout the house. The N routers are said to work better if you buy an outboard Wireless-N card, which I did not have, so my speed might've been better (they would also drive up your costs). The signal, though, was always solid and didn't drop via built-in cards. I was pleased with that.
As for the Powerline? It blew me away. It's plug-and-play simple, and fast. The adapter plugs into your wall socket, and you connect it directly to your router via an ethernet cable. Then you take the second Powerline and plug it into any wall socket in your home, connect your device via another ethernet cable and you're humming.
It sends signals over existing electrical wiring (I'm guessing the better your wiring, the faster your speed). I got speeds nearly as fast as a hardwired connection from all corners of my house. Back yard? No problem. Front yard? Great. Speeds were more than twice as fast as via wireless, which again might be faster with an N card. Xbox Live HD downloads were a snap.
I have a friend who was considering a $2,000 full-house wiring option who, when he saw what he could get for less than $300, couldn't get to CompUSA fast enough.
For heavy Internet users, this is a great setup. You have a great wireless signal throughout the home with Wireless-N, and for times when you really want to scoot across the Net, plug into the Powerline.
The only drawback is cost. The Powerlines are $79 each and the Wireless-N is $129. You will also need a switch (another $40 or so) if you're sending signals to a wireless hub, where you might have a DVR, game console and other devices hungry for an Internet signal.
Given that many Wireless-N users would want the N cards to maximize speed, I would sub out that cost and go Powerline. If need be, you can take one to any room in your house.
Later this month, DLink will offer another solution: a new Wireless-N router that will mate with what the company calls a "Media Bridge," essentially another Wireless-N router with multiple ports to allow you to hook up your gear in a "home run" setup.
The bridge, the company says, will amplify the original signal as well as give you a dedicated signal for media applications like HDTV downloads.
The new DLink router will go for $219. The router should be about $150.
More video game notes
One with everything
Back in the previous century, when I was an editor at Games magazine, we published a fake ad for a device that would play any kind of electronic game -- from PC disks to Nintendo cartridges to "Simon." We got hundreds of letters from people wanting to buy it, and the dream still lives.The ball got rolling again when Gerhard Florin, Electronic Arts' head of international publishing, told the BBC, "We want an open, standard platform, which is much easier than having five which are not compatible." Florin envisions a single set-top box that would have a Nintendo channel, a PlayStation channel and an Xbox channel, which each company developing technology for the unified console. He acknowledged that such a fantasy device is probably about 15 years away.
Dennis Dyack, founder of the Silicon Knights studio ("Eternal Darkness," "Too Human") chimed in with a column in Official Xbox magazine. The current console battle makes it impossible for publishers to decide which platform to focus on, he wrote; a unified console would make games "better in quality, cheaper and more widely available." Dyack added: "It can happen. Better yet, it's inevitable." -- ASSOCIATED PRESS
I'm with the band
Activision's "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock" is in stores this week, and most of the serious shredders we know have already plowed their way through its hefty playlist. They'll probably finish up the expert level around Nov. 20 -- just as the competition, Electronic Arts/MTV Games' "Rock Band," arrives.
EA and MTV want you to do more than just buy their game, however. They see "Rock Band" players as a potential community and intend to relaunch the rockband.com Web site as a hub for wannabe rock stars to create sites, blog about music and post "photos" of their virtual bands.
The publishers are also trying to duplicate one real-life aspect of the road to rock 'n' roll glory: the "musicians meeting musicians" classified page. The rockband.com classifieds will let you advertise your own skills or search for talent to fill out your own lineup. And since players around the world can hook up, a singer in Omaha could end up with a drummer in Osaka. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS
-- Langston Wertz Jr: 704-358-5133; firstname.lastname@example.org