Fastest Wi-Fi router weve testedat least at close range.
Terrible performance in some test locations; expensive; no USB port or DLNA media server.
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 (150Mb/s per stream), its sparse feature set and bipolar real-world performance left us unimpressed.
As you can 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 WiFi Link 5300 three-stream 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 dual-antenna TEW-664UB USB adapter that Trendnet provided.
In our first test, with the router operating in a bedroom with the client 20 feet away in the kitchen (with one insulated interior wall and a set of plywood cabinets in between), Trendnet’s router out-performed Netgear’s WNDR3700—our current best-of-the-best pick—by a whopping 33 percent. In our second test, we moved the client onto an attached, enclosed outdoor patio, 35 feet from the router with two insulated separating the device. The Trendnet delivered a great performance here, too, besting the Netgear by 58 percent.
In fact, the TEW-691GR’s benchmark numbers in these two locations are the highest we’ve recorded using any router. The Trendnet didn’t perform as well in our bedroom location (60 feet from the router and separated by two insulated walls), but it wasn’t a total blowout. When we moved the device into our well-isolated
, however, the client adapter could barely maintain its connection to the TEW-691GR. Many a router has had trouble penetrating this room-within-a-room, which is designed to deliver great acoustics (it was constructed using double framing, multiple layers of sheetrock and insulation, and acoustic caulking), but we’ve not seen anything fail as badly as this. TCP throughput of 3.0Mb/s might be fast enough for reading static websites, but you can forget about streaming media. And when we moved the client completely outdoors, we couldn’t connect to the router at all.
The TEW-691GR is encased in the same shiny black plastic case as most of Trendnet’s other routers, but this one houses Ralink’s RT3883 SoC (system on chip). According to Ralink’s data-sheet, the RT3883 is a dual-band part (2.4-and 5.0GHz), but the TEW-691GR is strictly a single-band, 2.4GHz, 802.11b/g/n router. The RT3883 supports a USB interface, too, but Trendnet doesn’t make use of that feature, either. As a result, you can’t plug in a USB storage device into this router or use it to share a printer. You won’t miss the print-server feature if you have a networked printer, and you won’t care about NAS support if you have a stand-alone NAS or a home server; but we expect to see at least one of these features in a router at this price point. By the same token, we think a top-dollar router such as this should have a DLNA -compliant media server; this one doesn’t.
The TEW-691GR does come with a UPnP server, wireless guest networks, a four-port gigabit switch, and support for WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup, for push-button-simple hook-ups). You can also disable DHCP and run the router as a wireless access point; enable
(Wireless Distribution System) and operate it as a relay base station or a remote base station; or flip the switch on the back and turn off the wireless network altogether.
So, is the TEW-691GR a lousy router or just a little ahead of its time? We’ll revisit its performance as soon as Trendnet releases its first firmware update, and again when the first three-stream USB adapters hit the market. But we know at least two shortcomings that will never be remedied: This router will never have a USB port, and it will never be capable of running a wireless network on the 5GHz frequency band.
|Belkin Play Max (2.4GHz Band) ||Netgear WNDR3700 (2.4GHz Band) ||Belkin Play Max (5.0GHz Band)||Netgear WNDR3700 (5.0GHz Band)|
|Kitchen, 20 feet (Mb/s) ||60.7 ||84.7 ||69.5||78.0|
|Enclosed Patio, 38 feet (Mb/s) ||41.4 ||43.9 ||30.2||46.8|
|Media Room, 35 feet (Mb/s)||31.2 ||33.4 ||19.9||20.7|
|Bedroom, 60 feet (Mb/s)||32.2 ||41.1 ||30.9||40.9|
|Outdoors, 85 feet (Mb/s) ||10.5 ||5.2 ||12.2||N/C|
Best scores are bolded. TCP throughput measured using IPerf. N/C indicates no connection at that location. Read more about our testing methodology at http://bit.ly/16w27O.