Asus has solved one of the most common problems download junkies face: By marrying a Wi-Fi router with a hard drive and built-in BitTorrent client, the company has eliminated the need for you to leave your power-hungry PC running 24/7.
Asus doesn’t limit you to BitTorrent, of course; the device is capable of using ftp or http for file transfers, too. It’s also a decent solution for anyone interested in hosting their own website, blog, or online photo album. But with the wide availability of free solutions for the latter, peer-to-peer file sharing is this router’s obvious raison d’Ãªtre.
It’s equally obvious, however, that Asus didn’t spend much time designing the client software—optimistically called Download Master—which comes preloaded on the router’s 160GB PATA hard drive: The user interface is crude and there’s virtually no documentation. It’s easy enough to figure out if you know the basics, but green-peas will be lost.
Asus’s Photo Album Exporter is only slightly more refined: It allows you to create a crude online photo site by transferring digital photos from your PC or a USB memory key onto the router’s hard drive. Once there, you can add captions and then organize the images into albums. You can’t add borders or anything else, but the software does automatically rotate and resize every photo. In fact, you don’t need to fire up your PC to transfer files from a USB thumb drive, either—plug a thumb drive into one of the router’s three USB ports, push a button, and the router automatically sucks up the drive’s contents. Upgrading the router’s built-in hard drive voids the product’s two-year warranty, but you can plug in a USB drive or two to create a rudimentary array.
As a router and wireless access point, the WL-700gE is a solid, no-nonsense part. Asus shunned the shifting sands of Draft 802.11n in favor of the more predictable performance of 802.11g, and it installed a staid four-port 10/100Mb/s switch in the back instead of a sexier gigabit switch. One thing the WL-700gE is not is cheap: At press time, we found it street priced at $235.