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Linksys WRT610N

Wireless Networking: Nine 802.11n Routers Rounded Up

Linksys has long been a popular home router brand. The products tend to be simple, durable, well-supported, and at least meet performance expectations. In working with prior Linksys models, we’ve had few complaints but also not many occasions to gush with praise. Just looking at the WRT610N ($169.99) out of the box, we wondered if things were about to change. This dual-band beauty doesn’t seek to distract with fancy LCD displays. Rather, a sleek profile, glossy and rounded like a fine sports car, conveys simple elegance and speed.

There are two kinds of dual-band routers: those that let you connect via 2.4 GHz or 5.0 GHz and those (like the WRT610N) that let you do both simultaneously. Simultaneous dual-band (SDB) doesn’t mean you get to bond both radios into one super-fast connection and get a 600 Mb/s router out of two 300 Mb/s functions. However, you can have different clients connecting to whichever frequency is better suited to the occasion. For example, you might want video streaming to a media extender running over 5.0 GHz, since there’s likely to be less traffic in this range, while general PC data goes across 2.4. Because of our test environment, we expected to see much faster performance on the 5.0 GHz band, but results showed similar numbers for both bands across several (but not all) tests. Perhaps this is why some people have written off SDB as an unnecessary expense. We disagree. In a setting crowded with 2.4 GHz traffic, having that full performance 5.0 GHz alternative can be a life-saver.

Under its gleaming hood, the WRT610N sports four gigabit Ethernet ports, custom QoS settings according to program and port range, and a single USB port for external storage. With this, you can create rights-based NAS, an FTP server, and a UPnP/DLNA media server. The WRT610N doesn’t dazzle with breakthrough features, but it covers all the basics, hits the extra server, QoS, and storage features power users want most, and, as we’ll see, has the performance goods that really justify its price tag.

Note: Just days before publication, Cisco unveiled its new E-series routers. The top-end model from this group is the E3000, which, except for a slight cosmetic change and the inclusion of Cisco’s Connect software (primarily for guest access and parental control setup), looks to be a complete repeat of the WRT610. In fact, Cisco Connect is simply a spruced up version of the Network Magic Basic software bundled with the WRT610. We can’t say for certain that the two models perform identically, but with both featuring six internal antennas in a 2x2 array configuration, an extreme similarity sure wouldn’t surprise us.

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