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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Linksys WRT310N Broadband Router [Review]

The Linksys WRT310N Wireless-N Gigabit Router is a SOHO product that facilitates the sharing of a cable or DSL broadband Internet connection with both wired and wireless clients. The WRT310N includes a multitude of features and technology in a neat and stylish package.

The WRT310N differentiates itself from its cheaper WRT160N cousin by providing an Ethernet switch with Gigabit capabilities, and the grey trim which adorns the unit.

The gigabit switching is important to those who transfer large files or stream video over a wired network. You still get virtually identical wireless networking and security features as the WRT160N, which includes the emerging wireless 802.11n (draft 2.0) standard. The WRT310N can run in a mixed mode environment with existing 802.11g device and supports WPA or WPA2 encryption. The WRT310N also supports RADIUS authentication, and includes other higher-end features such as a Firewall, and VPN pass-through.

The WRT310N is both aesthetically pleasing, and the internal antenna design prevents the cluttering of ports on the back of the unit. You will find four LAN ports along with one WAN port on the rear to connect to your broadband modem. The back of the WRT310N looks virtually identical to the WAG160N ADSL2+ Gateway that we have also recently reviewed.

[The rear of the WRT310N]

On the front of the unit an array of blue LED's serve to indicate the status of the various services that the unit provides. A Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button is also present to allow you to quickly configure compatible wireless client adapters.

Due to all the hardware features that the WRT310N provides and the compact case it is packaged in, the WRT310N does tend to run quite hot when compared to other units. It is strongly recommended that you place this unit in a well ventilated area.

The WRT310N features Linksys' proprietary wireless technology called RangePlus, and when you pair this router up with compatible Wireless-G Linksys adapters also supporting this feature, you can enhance your wireless networks speed.

The WRT310N includes a web-interface which is consistent with other Linksys routers, and in fact most Linksys products that provide this such an interface. The WRT310N ships with an installation CD which you can use to configure the unit if you are not comfortable with the web-interface.

The CD includes an initial setup wizard and a network monitoring tool called LELA (Linksys EasyLink Advisor). MAC users won’t be able to use LELA as the version included is Windows only. LELA can monitor your network and alert you to any new devices, potential problems and security breaches as and when they occur. LELA can also automatically generate a network map of compatible network devices detected on your LAN.

The WRT310N includes some rudimentary controls to restrict or filter internet access on a per-machine, or per MAC address basis. The obligatory port forwarding/triggering capabilities are also well catered for. WMM and QoS features, along with the ability to set application priorities are also included. For example, you can configure VoIP traffic to have the highest priority and protect it from other traffic caused by behaviour such as downloading files, or P2P application usage.

[DHCP Reservation on the WRT310N]

The WRT310N does not include a USB ports to support features such as print serving, or the StorageLink feature seen on other Linksys units which would allow it to turn an external USB hard disk into a network accessible storage (NAS) drive. It would have been nice if this was included this as the WRT310N is at the higher-end of the spectrum. Additionally, the router will only operate in the 2.4ghz frequency band which means that it wont operate in the 5ghz band that is progressively becoming more popular as manufacturing costs decrease.

According to tests done by cnet, the WRT310N is a strong wireless performer. Tests for 802.11n performance resulted in an attainable rate of 110.6Mbps in pure 802.11n mode, and 95.3Mbps when operating in a mixed mode environment. It's great to see that 802.11n performance is not significantly degraded when 802.11g units are in the mix.

Linksys supply the WRT310N with a one-year warranty, and offers toll-free support in New Zealand and Australia between the hours of 8:30am and 5:30pm UTC Monday through Friday. Not as comprehensive as our American friends who receive 24/7 toll-free phone support. Your other support options are 24/7 online chat, the Linksys support website, or email.

The WRT310 is well priced and embodies a very stylish case design. Pair this unit with a capable broadband modem, and you have a competent and reliable combination.

Summary

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

The Bad: LELA unable to detect all clients, gets very hot and needs good ventilation

Specifications

Standards - Draft 802.11n v2.0, 802.11g, 802.11b, 802.3, 802.3u, 802.3ab

Ports - Power, Internet, Ethernet
Buttons - Reset, Wi-Fi Protected Setup
LEDs - Ethernet (1-4), Wi-Fi Protected Setup, Wireless, Internet, Power
Cabling Type - CAT 5e

Number of Antennas 3
Detachable (Y/N) No
RF Pwr (EIRP) in dBm 17
UPnP able/cert Able

Security Features
Up to 256-Bit Wireless Encryption, SPI Firewall
Security Key Bits 64, 128, 256

Environmental
Dimensions 7.95" x 1.34" x 6.30" (202 x 34 x 160 mm)
Weight 11.99 oz (0.34 kg)
Power 12V, 1A

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