Wireless Networking: Nine 802.11n Routers Rounded Up

Linksys WRT610N

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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  • Dandalf
    I'd buy the Linksys if it didn't have a bloody spoiler on it. Chavviest router I ever saw.
  • madskillz12_1
    £20 cashback on the Linksys until 30/4/10 as well. You'd be mad not to.
  • daglesj
    Belkin routers are a joke. I bought a low end one as a spare. It couldnt get a speed of higher than 2Mbps. Any other router would get 6Mbps+. After several attempts of getting a sane response from Belkin India, one of their techs finally admitted that model has an issue with the Firewall. Switch it off and speed goes back up. He said a firmware update would sort it. Nearly a year later...yup no firmware. A couple of my customers have the new Belkin N spec routers. Really bad.
  • chronicbint
    Surprising, I am on my second Belkin N router and they have all worked perfectly well.
  • hairystuff
    I've realised with Belkin routers they sometimes have multiple revisions of the same product code/model number, some of the revision work really well and others are pure trash, I've noticed this with D-Link aswell but generally the differences are marginally acceptable.
  • gagaga
    I'm not normally a fan of Apple gear, but I can get 14MB/s (equal to 112Mb/s) from my airport extreme (the older 2 aerial one) on big files.

    Guessing the laptop (Vaio TZ) has a big influence - that has three separate aerials and the top-end Intel card, and the fact mine is the only 5GHz network in the area...
  • Accurim
    What did you use with the WRT610N? I'd be interested in getting it based on the benchmarks but I'd have to get the same client adaptor also.

    I believe you did your testing with a laptop also, if I were to get a desktop adaptor would this be fine: