For the past several years, we’ve been testing routers at Maximum PC Lab North, a 2,800-square-foot home located on 10 acres of what was once a dairy farm. The new location is Maximum PC Lab Midwest, a 1,400-square-foot home flanked by houses on either side, a yard extending into a wooded area out back, and a semi-busy road in front. The new location offers a harsher, more real-world testing environment.
Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of the magazine.
Ballmer's Retirement, Nvidia Shield, and Netgear takes Asus to Court.
It’s time for episode #210 of the No BS Podcast, and this time we kicked things off by discussing Steve Ballmer's retirement as the CEO of Microsoft. Next Online Managing Editor Jimmy Thang shares his hands-on experience with Nvidia's Sheild, and we discuss the lawsuit between Netgear and Asus while pondering if we could ever quit the Internet. To wrap things up we handled some reader questions, and each editor delivered his or her editor's picks.
We weren’t impressed with the last Linksys-branded router that passed through Maximum Lab North. The dual-band Linksys E3000 (in reality, a rebadged Linksys WRT610N) delivered humdrum performance and lacked a number of important features we expect to find in a high-end router. The E4200 fares better, but we’re still scratching our heads over some of Linksys’s decisions.
Netgear has developed a bad habit of branding its new routers with two different model numbers. Take the WNDR4000—or is it the N750? Both names are printed on the box, and the router itself is labeled “N750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router WNDR4000.”
We don’t much care what our routers look like, because they’re usually hidden inside a closet (unless we’re benchmarking them). But Asus’s engineers lavished as much attention on the RT-N56U’s skin as they did its guts: This dual-band router is a looker, and it’s also pretty damned fast.
Belkin’s N1 Vision takes user friendliness to a whole new level. This is the first router we’ve seen that offers extensive installation hand-holding right in the firmware—there’s no need to drop a CD in your drive.
If you’ve already installed a Wi-Fi router, you don’t need the vendor’s installation software to help you through the process. So we weren’t surprised that Trendnet didn’t develop anything for its TEW-633GR 802.11n Draft 2.0 product, relying instead on Pure Networks’ Network Magic.
From the get-go, Buffalo’s Nfiniti WZR2-G300N installation routine prompts you to establish a new password for accessing the router’s firmware. Considering all the legitimate concerns about network security, why is this step the exception rather than the rule for router-installation wizards?
Belkin’s N1 router looks gorgeous, and the company has put a lot of thought into making it easy for greenhorns to build a home network, but the N1 was the slowest in this field and it delivered very poor range.
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.