Do you consider yourself a power user? It’s a tough question. After all, where do you draw the line? Hardware hacking? Command-line skills? Unix?
As we sat down to answer this question, the possibilities seemed endless, making our task feel more daunting. Windows registry hacks? Networking know-how? Upgrades? We even asked you, our readers, to contribute your suggestions. We received a bunch of great ones, but this only further broadened our pool of ideas.
Undeterred, we took a step back to consider the very essence of a power user. Eureka! A power user, we reasoned, is not a simple state of being. It’s a path, filled with accomplishments and achievements and failures and applied knowledge. And merit. We imagined a Boy Scout sash, filled with badges indicating various acts of heroism and knowledge, as well as empty spaces where future achievements will eventually reside.
On the following pages, you’ll learn what our version of this path is. Enjoy!
Trendnet can legitimately claim bragging rights for being the first company to bring a three-stream IEEE 802.11n router to market. Unfortunately, our first impressions of the TEW-691GR are not all that positive. While we never expected this router to deliver actual throughput of 450Mb/s (just as we never expect the far more common two-stream routers to deliver actual throughput of 300Mb/s), its sparse feature set and bipolar real-world performance left us unimpressed.
As you'll see from the benchmark charts, the TEW-691GR proved to be very fast, but only when our wireless client was in relatively close proximity. Trendnet recommends reviewers use a notebook equipped with Intel’s integrated Intel WiFi Link 5300 adapter, because you can’t buy a three-stream USB Wi-Fi adapter today. But since we can’t expect readers to buy a notebook based solely on which wireless network adapter is inside, we elected to stick with the TEW-664UB USB adapter that Trendnet provided.
Could any component in a router’s BOM (bill of materials) cost less than an LED? Don’t think so. So why the heck did Belkin design its Play Max wireless router to use a single LED to inform you of its operating status?
Granted, the Play Max’s street price is $20 to $30 cheaper than many other concurrent dual-band wireless routers, and there might even be a lot of folks who don’t pay much attention to details like the status of their router’s ports or whether or not both of the router’s radios are operating. We do though, and a single LED that glows green when the router has an Internet connection and amber if something is amiss doesn’t cut it.
Mvix USA builds an extensive line of home-theater PCs, so when we saw the massive antenna on its Solido USB Wi-Fi adapter, we assumed it would outperform any adapter we’ve tested in Maximum PC Lab North’s media room. As it turned out, performance only equaled the best. Where this device excels is at range.
If you’re looking for an adapter to stream media from the 5GHz radio on your dual-band router, you can quit reading now because the Solido operates on the more common 2.4GHz band only. It is, however, compatible with 802.11b, g, and n routers. If your client PC is located in an entertainment center, you’ll want to be aware that the Solido’s antenna is 6.7 inches tall; but if you’re doing that, you’ve probably left plenty of vertical space for ventilation anyway.
It wasn’t much of a contest: Netgear’s WNDR3700 V1 retained its crown as our Best of the Best router with spectacular TCP through-put, a strong feature set, and an even stronger price/performance ratio. It’s the second-most expensive router we tested, but it’s worth every penny.
The WNDR3700’s 2.4GHz radio delivered the best performance at every client location except one (where it placed second), and its 5GHz radio finished first in six of our seven locations. D-Link’s DIR-855 firmware is more customizable, but Netgear’s router offers several important features D-Link can’t match, including a DLNA-compliant media server, the ability to configure either radio as a wireless bridge/repeater, and NAS functionality that doesn’t require a client-side utility.
Of the three routers we’re taking second looks at, none has changed more than Buffalo’s WZR-HP-G300NH. That’s because Buffalo has thrown the firmware we tested earlier out the window and adopted the open-source DD-WRT.
Comparing our earlier benchmark numbers to the performance we recorded this time out, however, we much prefer the Kick Ass award–earning router we tested in January to the one in front of us now. That router turned in the best throughput we’ve ever seen with our client in our well-insulated media room and in our furthest outdoor location; this one took fifth-place finishes in both tests (in a field of seven). We have little doubt the reason for this performance discrepancy is due to the fact that no matter how we configured the router, we couldn’t coax Buffalo’s WLI-UC-G300HP01B USB client adapter to connect to it at a stated data rate faster than 130Mb/s.
Network hardware vendor TRENDnet on Wednesday announced the launch of its 450Mbps Wireless N Gigabite Router, model TEW-691GR.
TRENDnet says its new router is designed for "extreme performance and unparralled quality of service." It comes with three external antennas broadcasting on the 2.4GHz spectrum, with three spatial streams per antenna.
"The 450Mbps TEW-691GR offers unsurpassed wireless throughput and coverage," stated Zak Wood, Director of Global Marketing for TRENDnet. "If you are looking for the ultimate in wireless performance, look for TRENDnet’s 450Mbps Wireless N Gigabit Router."
In addition to the staggering 450Mbps theoretical throughput, the TEW-691GR also boasts Multiple Input Multple Output (MIMO) technology to boost wireless coverage, signal strength, and throughput speed, TRENDnet says.
TRENDnet says its new router will start shipping in May for $160.
Trendnet’s TEW-652BRP looked promising in our first benchmark test, with the client in the kitchen and closest to the router. Achieving TCP throughput of 68.4Mb/s put it in third place behind Belkin’s N Wireless and D-Link’s DIR-615. Performance went downhill from there, with the TEW-652BRP placing fifth, fourth, and last in our patio, bedroom, and media room locations, respectively. It couldn’t maintain a connection to the client at all in our most distant outdoor tests.
Feature-wise, the TEW-652BRP is about as basic as they come. You can establish routing rules for special applications, such as games, but QoS features are limited to the minimum required to achieve Wi-Fi Alliance certification.
Unlike the Linksys WRT120N, Netgear’s WNR2000 does carry the Wi-Fi Alliance’s 802.11n certification, but that logo didn’t help this router perform any better in our benchmark tests. On the other hand, this was one of the few routers able to maintain a usable connection in both of our long-range outdoor tests.
Netgear’s router was barely faster than the Linksys at close range, delivering anemic TCP throughput of just 47.1Mb/s, compared to the WRT120N’s equally paltry 45.4Mb/s. But the WNR2000 was slower than the rest of the field with the client on the patio (TCP throughput of 14.7Mb/s), and its performance dropped to the single digits when the client was located in the bedroom and in the media room (5.1- and 5.0Mb/s, respectively). We wouldn’t recommend this product to anyone interested in wireless media streaming unless the client is very close to the router.
We hope Linksys’s marketing effort with the WRT120N won’t blossom into an industry trend, but we know it will. Linksys advertises this router with the tagline “Step up to the speed of Wireless-N!” Read the data sheet, however, and you’ll find this: “Complies with IEEE 802.3u, 802.11g, and 802.11b standards, and [is] compatible with some 802.11n features” (emphasis ours). The 802.11n standard has achieved sufficient brand recognition that many consumers won’t look past the N in the product’s name, and they’ll fail to notice that the Wi-Fi Alliance certification logo on the WRT120N’s box extends only to 802.11b/g.
Yep, this is a single-stream router, and the benchmark numbers reflect that design: The WRT120N achieved less than half the throughput of our zero-point router, Trendnet’s TEW-639GR, in our kitchen, bedroom, and patio tests. It did beat the snot out of Trendnet’s other router, the TEW-652BRP (reviewed on the next page), but the Trendnet’s street price is nearly half that of the WRT120N.