Cisco found a way out of the consumer networking market, thanks to Belkin.
Call it an end of an era, if you wish, but Cisco is hightailing it out of the consumer space after selling off its Home Networking Business Unit to Belkin for an undisclosed sum of money. The deal includes the familiar Linksys brand, which Cisco acquired back in 2003. At the time, Linksys had 305 employees and revenues of more than $500 million. All of its products were branded Linksys by Cisco following the transaction, though Cisco has reportedly been looking to get out of the consumer space for some time now.
A new 802.11ac router from D-Link promises lag-free gaming and smooth video streaming.
D-Link today announced a number of new networking products and services, none more interesting than the cylinder shaped "Gaming Router" with Qualcomm StreamBoost technology (DGL-5500). From the pictures we've seen, it looks like a miniature version of an SVS PC12/PC13 subwoofer, but it's really an 802.11ac wireless router with specialized QoS (Quality of Service) controls for uninterrupted gaming and smooth streaming video playback.
Is there anything more frustrating than dealing with a wireless dead zone in your home or office building? Sure there are, but no matter how it compares to other unfortunate events, dealing with weak Wi-Fi signals can be a maddening affair. Amped Wireless set about solving this problem with its new AP20000G dual-band Wi-Fi access point. According to Amped Wireless, this high power device will extend the range of your Wi-Fi coverage by up to 7,500 square feet.
It might be awhile before there's an officially certified 802.11ac standard, but in the meantime, companies are ready and willing to forge ahead with router models based on draft specifications, just as we saw in the draft 802.11n days. Asus is one of them, having just announced the launch of its RT-AC66U 5G Wi-Fi router with greater than gigabit wireless speeds on the 5GHz band.
San Jose's networking kingpin Cisco is planning to hand out about 1,300 pink slips, which equates to 2 percent of its workforce, as it attempts to cope with a sluggish global economy and flat sales. The latest round of layoffs come just one year after Cisco announced 6,500 job cuts, but reducing jobs is not a cure-all to Cisco's problems, nor is a weak economy the only thing the company has to worry about.
D-Link just dove into 802.11ac territory with the introduction of its new Cloud Router 5700 (DIR-865L). This dual-band device takes advantage of the upcoming 802.11ac standard currently under development, which makes this a draft 802.11ac router. D-Link advertises up to 1750Mbps of throughput, though that's spread across two bands as 1300Mbps (Wireless-AC) and 450Mbps (Wireless-N).
Cool features don’t make up for mediocre performance
D-LINK’S DIR-827 WI-FI router boasts two features that our current favorite router, Netgear’s WNDR4500, lacks: a USB 3.0 port and an SD media card reader. Both products are dual-band models with radios operating on the 2.4- and 5GHz frequency bands, respectively. The DIR-827, however, supports only two simultaneous 150Mb/spatial streams on each band, where the WNDR4500 supports three.
D-Link positions the DIR-827 as a media router, optimized for streaming audio and video and delivering exceptional performance for online gaming. It’s the big brother to the single-band DIR-657 we reviewed in the December 2011 issue. Like that model, this one is fully DLNA compliant and features Ubicom’s excellent quality-of-service engine that assigns higher priority to data packets associated with those types of apps.
We expected the DIR-827 to be slower than Netgear’s best because it’s outfitted with only a 2x2 antenna array (two transmit and two receive), whereas the WNDR4500 boasts a 3x3 array. And while the WNDR4500 costs $30 more than the DIR-827, we didn’t expect D-Link’s router to be more than 50 percent slower in most of our test locations (although the DIR-827 did beat the WNDR4500 when the client was in close proximity).
Aside from loading alternative firmware (DD-WRT or Tomato, for instance), the easiest way to upgrade a router’s performance is to replace its antennas. That’s impossible with most of the routers we see these days, because manufacturers are using either nonremovable antennas or they’re putting the antennas inside the enclosure. So we were intrigued to see that EnGenius put upgradeable antennas on its extremely inexpensive ESR300H; this router boasts a street price of less than $45.
As you’ve probably guessed, you’ll give up more than a few features in exchange for that low price tag. This is a single-band router with only a 2.4GHz radio, so we wouldn’t recommend it for deployment in an environment crowded with other wireless routers operating on the same frequency band. The ESR300H also lacks a USB port, so you won’t be able to share a printer or storage device over the network. But the feature you’ll miss the most is a gigabit Ethernet switch—the switch on this router is limited to 100Mb/s. If you move a lot of large files around your network using wired connections, you’ll find this router to be agonizingly slow.
The networking gurus at ZyXEL Communications have home entertainment on the brain and announced a pair of five-port and eight-port gigabit switches specifically for that task. The new Aerobeam AVS105 and AVS108 switches automagically prioritize multimedia streams so if you're a Hulu or Netflix junkie, you can be assured of the best possible performance and quality, ZyXEL says.
Now that we've all been spoiled by the 802.11n WLAN standard, a standard that underwent significant growing pains to get to this point (remember all those Draft-n devices?), it's time to start looking ahead to 802.11ac. How far ahead has yet to be determined, but if you ask Broadcom, the company will tell you it could become mainstream by the second quarter of 2013.