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Friday, October 10, 2008

Linksys WAG160N ADSL2+ Gateway [Review]

The Linksys WAG160N is an ADSL2+ gateway that combines the full functionality of an ADSL2+ Modem, Router, Switch, and Wireless Access Point. With this offering, Linksys joins vendors such as Belkin in bucking the trend of unattractive grey boxes. In doing so they've come up with something quite aesthetically pleasing.

With its all-in-one design, the WAG160N can happily take the place of up to 4 individual network components, leaving you with one neat and tidy package. The gateway is quite slim and comes with a petite power adapter which won’t block your neighbouring wall sockets. However, be aware that this setup also means that you are creating a single point of failure in your network.


One of the first things to notice when looking at the WAG160N is the lack of external antennas. The unit comes with two internal diversity antennas, further adding to its style. The downside here is that you can not enhance your wireless speed and coverage by adding or modifying external antennas, or by changing their orientation. The WAG160N comes with frontal LED indicators to show the status of LAN, WLAN, DSL Link, and Internet Activity.

Another key wireless feature: the WAG160N is a Wi-Fi Certified 802.11n (Draft 2.0) device. This means it has been tested with other units and is certified and approved by the Wi-Fi Alliance. If you have compatible wireless clients, the gateway supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup.

It also supports VPN passthrough for IPSec, PPTP and L2Tp protocols, along with remote management. On top of that, there are some basic access control and content filtering capabilities which you can control by time, machine, IP address, or a combination of the three.

The WAG160N operates in mixed wireless mode only, which does prevent it from being used exclusively in any particular mode. According to PC WORLD tests, the WAG160N's communication speed with 802.11n clients does not degrade significantly when 802.11g wireless adapters are added to the mix.

With regards to troubleshooting the broadband connection, we found only a limited amount of information about the current ADSL connection was available on the WAG160N's DSL connection status page. Available details include status, downstream rate, upstream rate, encapsulation, multiplexing, and some VPI, VCI, and PVC status details. We couldn't find any statistics regarding the current signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio, attenuation, or data errors.

[WAG160N DSL Connection Status]

Linksys decided against including a gigabit wired LAN facility on the WAG160N, so users will be stuck with a 4 port 10/100 switch. A separate gigabit switch would be needed attain gigabit LAN speeds.

[The Rear ports on the WAG160N]

Tech-savvy people will be able to set up the WAG160N via the web interface, simply by pointing their browser to 192.168.1.1. The gateway also comes with an easy-to-use setup CD, which significantly simplifies the setup and configuration process with an initial setup wizard.

The CD also includes a network monitoring tool called LELA (Linksys EasyLink Advisor). The version on the CD is Windows only, so MAC users will need another option. LELA can monitor your network and alert you to any new devices, potential problems, and security breaches. One of LELA's main features is the ability to automatically generate a network map of connected machines. However, when we tested LELA on a machine connected to the WAG160N via Ethernet, it failed to detect either of the two wireless clients we had connected at the time.

We also found that the WAG160N does not need to be restarted on every little change made in its configuration. This is a great advantage, compared to a number of other routers we have configured.

When we tested the unit's ADSL2+ capabilities, it achieved over 18 Mbps download speed, and an upload rate of 850 kb/s when tested with speedtest.net at a distance of less then 1km from the exchange.

[Linksys WAG160N Speed Test]

The WAG160N has an AUTO option, where you do not explicitly define your maximum upload and download speeds. When we enabled the unit's QoS capability with the AUTO option also enabled, we found that our ADSL2+ web download speed was throttled down to less then 2 mbps. Hopefully this issue is resolved in a later firmware update.

We picked the review unit up for NZ$180, which is a bargain when you consider the features you get for the price. A similar gateway from Belkin might cost twice as much. But, to take advantage of the 802.11n capabilities available, you may need to invest in ‘N’ compatible client adapters, unless you have them already.

If you currently have an ADSL2+ modem and are simply wanting to add router/switch and wireless functionality, then I would strongly recommend looking at the Linksys WRT310N Wireless-N Gigabit Router as an alternative.

Summary

The Good: Aesthetically pleasing design, small power adapter, internal aerials, 802.11n (2.0 draft) support, fast ADSL2+ connection, excellent interface, very well priced.

The Bad: Operates in mixed mode only, lack of DSL connection information, 10/100 port switch only, LELA unable to detect all clients, QoS throttling issues.

Specifications

Standards - IEEE Draft 802.11N v2.0, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.3u,
g.992.1 (g.dmt), g.992.2 (g.lite), g.992.3, g.992.5, T1.413i2,
U-R2 for Annex B

Ports - Power, DSL, Ethernet (1-4)
Buttons - Reset, Wi-Fi Protected Setup
LEDs - Power, Wireless, Ethernet (1-4), DSL, Internet
Cabling Type CAT 5 UTP, RJ-11, RJ-45

Number of Antennas 2 Internal
RF Power (EIRP) in dBm 17
Antenna Gain in dBi 2

Security Features
Password-protected Configuration for Web Access
PAP and CHAP Authentication
Denial of Service (DoS) Prevention
Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) Firewall
AP Isolation
Website Blocking by URL Address or Keyword
Java, ActiveX, Proxy, and Cookie Filtering
ToD Filter (blocks access by time)
VPN Passthrough for IPSec, PPTP, and L2TP Protocols
WPA/WPA2 Personal and Enterprise
128, 64 Bits WEP with Passphrase WEP Key Generation
SSID Broadcast Disable
Access Restriction by MAC and IP Addresses

Environmental
Dimensions 202 x 34 x 160 mm (8.0” x 1.3” x 6.3”)
Weight 362 g (12.8 oz)
Power 12VDC 1A

Test Unit Details
Firmware Version: V1.00.09

7 comments:

julianz said...

The WAG160N is cute looking, but it has some major problems. If you use a VOIP adapter through it you may experience call dropouts for which the only fix is permanently forwarding a bunch of ports to your VOIP box.

In addition I've had trouble with 2 Dell laptops that have different Intel wireless units. One can now connect, the other machine just can't, no matter what I try.

Linksys also now seems to have dropped the model from their support pages -- today if you try to type WAG160N it asks you to enter a valid model number. Time to flick this unit and get a real one I think.

abrooks001 said...

My lynksys WAG160 is subject to constant dropouts of both the adsl and the wireless link. I can stop the wire less dropout only by using static IPs, but the ADSL has no fix yet. This unit is unstable, I currently keep it going by pulling the power daily.Despite its having an auto reconnect setting it does not reconnect after losing adsl. check the web I,m not the only person who's got problems.

steffen said...

You can access DSL line info at a "hidden" page at the address:

http://192.168.1.1/setup.cgi?next_file=adsl_driver.htm

If you use the 192.168.1.xxx ip-range.

julianz said...

(I'm the same commenter as julianz above but for some reason that login no longer works)

I sold my WAG160N 6 months ago, got more than I bought it for (yay Trademe) and bought a Netgear DGFV338 - more expensive but completely bulletproof, works fine with VOIP, lifetime warranty and has not skipped a beat since the day it was plugged in. Recommended.

Nuff Said said...

Thanks Steffen, I'd been through several "helpful" suggestions to find attenuation stats etc, but your advice actually worked!

I would echo the comments about the unreliability of this router. Pile of poo IMHO. Back to Netgear next time!

Andrew said...

Linksys have just announced their replacement for this model, WAG320n.
Basically the same but has dual band N and gigabit ports.

PFREN said...

It's very stable with the last official firmware ( 1.00.15 ) - actuall more stable that most.
However, QoS still is behaving crappily.
You can get extended info for that device in a hidden page:
http://192.168.1.1/setup.cgi?next_file=adsl_driver.htm