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.
The art of the PC upgrade is simultaneously an expression and a test of one’s diagnostic skills, computing savvy, and fiscal sensibilities. Identify the bottleneck. Research the parts that will fix the bottleneck. Remove the bottleneck.
As always, price and performance are the pivot points. After all, you can’t just toss $1,000 at your system to level it up. Well, you can, but in most cases you’d be a fool for doing so.
When the Maximum PC staff convened in conference room Spock to plan this story, we decided to establish some ground rules. First, we challenged ourselves to stick to our theme of a successful budget upgrade. This meant avoiding the tendency to fall back on the most expensive, best-of-breed components in each category.
Instead we forced ourselves to take a more nuanced approach. In each category, we expended considerable energy determining which product(s) owned the sweet spot—top-left on the 2x2 grid if you’re graph-happy—of the price-performance ratio. Staying consistent with our real-world theme, we used real-world pricing from sites like NewEgg and Amazon. Because we’re talking about upgrading an existing machine, you’ll find no case or mobo recommendations here.
Without further adieu, we happily present the results of our research. After the jump you’ll find a bevy of product recommendations that prove you don’t have to break the bank to achieve substantial gains in performance.
According to Jon James, Virgin Media's director of broadband, his company plans to release a modem and router capable of handling speeds of up to 400Mbps by year's end, putting the ISP in position to deliver 100Mbps service in the near-term.
"We want to be ready for the evolution of network speeds in the coming years as we roll out ever-improving services," James said.
Virgin Media already has about 70,000 subscribers on its 50Mbps service, the fastest tier currently offered by the ISP. It wasn't that long ago, however, that Virgin Media promised 100Mbps service before the end of 2010, and the company has already trialled 200Mbps service.
At 100Mbps, Virgin Media says Internet users would be able to download a music album in just 5 seconds, an hour-long show in 21 seconds, and an HD movie in a little under 7.5 minutes.
As we mentioned earlier, the Linksys E3000 is actually a rebadged WRT610N. We’re taking a second look at it now because it remains Cisco’s best consumer router; as such, we owe it to our readers to compare it to the best of what the rest of the industry has to offer.
We updated the router with the latest firmware for this review and downloaded fresh drivers for the Linksys AE1000 dual-band USB client adapter, so we were quite surprised to see the router perform more poorly than it did when we tested it several months ago. Cisco Connect remains the easiest tool we’ve ever used to establish a connection to a router, but Cisco’s “fix” for a problem we described in our initial review has rendered the router a whole lot less appealing.
There are three external antennas broadcasting on the 2.4GHz spectrum, each one with three spatial streams to produce a record 450Mbps theoretical wireless throughput, TRENDnet says. You'll also find Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) antennae technology to improve signal strength and boost wireless coverage.
"TRENDnet's ability to launch this ground breaking 450Mbps product ahead of other brands says a lot about our recent growth," stated Pei Huang, President and CEO of TRENDnet. "We are ecstatic to set a new performance threshold in the consumer wireless revolution."
Geeks like us invariably get sucked into providing tech support for less tech-savvy friends and family. You know the drill: “Hey, Mike. I just bought this new [insert tech product], but [insert problem]. Can you help me?” Fortunately, there’s a burgeoning class of tech products designed not for us geeks, but for geeks like us to recommend to friends and family. Cisco's’ new line of Valet Wireless Hotspots fits neatly in that category.
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.
Digi International, maker of commercial grade networking equipment, announced the Digi TransPort WR44 router this week. According to Digi, this is the industry's first enterprise class cellular router with Qualcomm Gobi technology built in.
"The Digi TransPort WR44 with Gobi provides anywhere global connectivity for the enterprise and greater flexibility for device deployment," said Larry Kraft, senior vice president of global sales and marketing, Digi International. "This makes it easier and more efficient for organizations to connect to their remote assets throughout the world."
The router comes with an integrated Wi-Fi access point, an Ethernet switch, a 50-channel GPS engine, and support for a host of signals, including TXD, RXD, RTS, CTS, DTR, DSR, DCD, and RI.
Since the iPad's release over the weekend, some users have started complaining that the integrated Wi-Fi is busted. Reported problems run the gamut from not being able to connect to their network after bringing the iPad out of sleep mode, to not being able to get a signal unless standing right next to the router. And of course there are the usual complaints of dropped signals that seem to accompany nearly every Wi-Fi enabled device.
According to Apple, there are a couple of things you can try if you're experiencing wonky Wi-Fi support. The problem, says Apple, is that under certain conditions, the iPad may have trouble rejoining a known network after restart or waking from sleep. These specific conditions include using the same network name for each network and/or using different security settings for each network.
If this applies to you, Apple suggests creating separate Wi-Fi network names to identify each band, which you can do by appending characters to the current network name. Failing that, be sure that both networks use the same security type (WEP, WPA, WPA2, etc). Failing both of those, Apple says to try resetting your network settings using Settings > Genera l> Reset > Reset Network Settings.
And if all that fails? Wait for HP's Slate (our advice, not Apple's).