Includes NAS support; WPA2 Enterprise and RADIUS; great speed at range; full-featured security and setup.
You can never have too much speed or too much storage, and the Linksys WRT350N makes it easy to have both. This router took first place while running in 802.11n-only mode and second place while running in mixed 802.11b/g/n mode. And its Storage Link feature enables you to plug in any USB storage device to add NAS functionality—the only router in this roundup to offer such a feature.
Linksys’s installation wizard prompts you to change the router’s password, and it encourages you to change its SSID and to set up Wi-Fi security, but it doesn’t push the issue or warn networking green peas of the consequences of not setting up security. The firmware-based help files were among the most comprehensive of any of the routers we reviewed, but inexperienced users will likely become lost if they rely on them to configure some of the router’s more advanced features.
Linksys supports not only WPA2 Personal security, but also WPA Enterprise, WPA2 Enterprise, and RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service) security. This is overkill, since most people will never go beyond WPA2 Personal, and if it’s at all responsible for this router’s steep street price of $195, it’s not worth it. The presence of a four-port Gigabit Ethernet switch inside its shell certainly doesn’t explain the price tag, because the far cheaper D-Link, Netgear, and Buffalo routers are all equipped with Gigabit switches.
Setting up the router to function as a NAS box is as easy as plugging a drive into the router’s USB port and configuring access. You can format a blank disk (but only as FAT32), create partitions, and establish share permissions so that other network users can access the attached storage. The router has a built-in media server, too, enabling it to stream music, video, and digital photos from the attached storage to media adapters compatible with Universal Plug and Play. This is great for streaming music you’ve purchased or ripped from CD, but it won’t be of much use if you have a music-subscription service, such as Rhapsody, which requires you to use its player.
You can also set up the router and its attached storage to function as an ftp server, granting access to individual folders, selected partitions, or the entire disk. Unlike Asus’s innovative WL-700gE 802.11g router (reviewed February 2007), however, the Linksys will not function as an independent BitTorrent client.
The WRT350N delivered very good speed at range, beating even the mighty D-Link DIR-655 when operating in mixed mode with the client 120 feet from the router. We thought this range could be attributed to the Linksys’s odd fly-swatter antenna, but the DIR-655 surpassed it in terms of long-range speed when both routers were running in 802.11n-only mode.
The WRT350N’s Storage Link feature is cool, but we’re not sure those factors justify this router’s premium price tag.