Actiontec 54 Mbps Wireless Multiport Print Server

Reviewed by: Paul Schneider, September 2005
Manufactured by: Actiontec
Requires: Pentium CPU 200MHz or faster, 64MB RAM, CD-Rom drive, Ethernet network adapter, wireless router connection, parallel or USB printer
MSRP: US$129.00

Technology is certainly becoming ubiquitous! In today’s home you often find more than one computer located in a spare room, basement, workroom, home office, den/library, rec room and elsewhere in the home. In addition, with the growth of the Internet, we are seeing more and more small office networks popping up. One of the primary advantages of networks is the ability to share hardware resources, improving the efficiency of home and business computing. In a typical small office situation, most of the computers will probably need a monitor, but rarely is a printer needed for each computer, and this is where Actiontec’s Multiport Printer Server steps in.

Large offices typically have printers that are part of the office network and have built in print server capabilities. In smaller offices or home offices, it is more likely that an inexpensive inkjet or laser printer has been purchased that does not have a networking feature. Without a print server built into the printer, you would need to connect the printer to a computer on the network and then within that computer set up print sharing and share the resources across the office network. While this is certainly a workable solution, there are two main drawbacks. The first is, the minute you have problems with the computer that the printer is connected to or even if you turn that computer off, you are out of luck if you want to print from any other computer on the network. The second problem is that the printer must be placed within a short distance of the computer to which it is connected, as the connection is usually through a USB or parallel cable.

Actiontec’s wireless multiport printer server aims to alleviate these problems. The printer server is a small device which connects up to three printers, two USB and one parallel to your wireless network. Once the printers and server are configured, any users who are connected to your wireless network can add any of those printers and begin printing documents. With the print server you can print anytime, regardless of whether the other computers are turned on or not. In a small peer-to-peer network environment this is especially helpful as you don't need to leave any computers on to act as a print server. This easy access to multiple printers on your network allows you to choose the best printer for your output.

The print server is quite a capable piece of hardware , providing support for up to three printers, a 16MB print buffer, and a 54Mbps connection. The print server works well with both 802.11g and 802.11b networks and the device also supports Windows and Mac OS X printing for Postscript printers. In addition, the device it supports 64 and 128 bit WEP encryption.

The home network I tested this server on consists of three Windows PCs all running Windows XP and a single HP Deskjet printer with support for USB. When I first received the printer server I popped in the installation disc and begin to follow the multi-step installation instructions. The instructions are laid out quite clearly, but be forewarned it will probably take you longer than 5 minutes to get this going as there are about 20 steps.

At first everything was working great. The steps proceeded as planned until I arrived at the halfway point and then my computer did not seem to recognize the print server. Try as I might I was not able to make any further progress. Fast forward to my first free Saturday afternoon where I took action and called Actiontec's technical support. I don't know what your experience has been like with technical support, but mine ranges from great to lousy. In this case it was more like the former. Working with the technical support representative we eventually diagnosed the problem to be a conflict with my Belkin wireless router. Once this was determined (after quite a bit of patient trial and error) the rep instructed me how to set the printer server to a different IP address and thus resolve the conflict. From that point on everything, including my wireless router, has worked extremely well.

Overall I recommend the Actiontec 54Mbps Wireless Multiport Print Server. It delivers on its promise and provides a clean, easy solution to sharing printers in a small network. I can now print from anywhere in my home and I need not leave any computer on to accomplish the task. One word of warning though, if the installation is not working as promised, don't spend too much time troubleshooting. Give technical support a call and let them help! Recommended.

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