Review: Linksys WRT610N, dual-n band networking is here

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Review: Linksys WRT610N, dual-n band networking is here

The arrival of dual-n band networking with 5GHz promises an end to crowded home wireless networks. Speed, range and technology is great, but the price is steep

In recent months, we’ve seen router after router appear on our desks sprouting new technology. From dual-band and push-button security, to ‘gaming’ routers, draft n 2.0 and gigabit speed, the competition to be the most fully featured and most powerful router on the market is fierce indeed. Which brings us to the WRT610N.

Linksys has scored two A-Listed routers in a row, the WAG160N and the WRT310N. The WRT610N promises even more than those two, and delivering is a tall order. But deliver it does.

The WRT610N is just as stylish as it’s two predecessors, for starters, with rounded edges and a deep blue shade making it one of the most attractive routers we’ve seen.

Technologically, it’s ahead of the pack. It the first router we’ve seen that can use both the older 2.4GHz and newer 5GHz simultaneously, rather than needing to switch between frequencies. That allows for newer laptops to take advantage of the relative lack of interference in the 5GHz spectrum, without leaving behind incompatible older laptops and devices.

Apart from the standard WEP and PWA security options, it also offers Wi-fi protected security (WPS), which with the supplied software allows you to secure the network and add new devices at the push of a button.

It has four Gigabit Ethernet ports as well as a WAN port. Installation through the wizard is simple and straightforward – the only difficulty we faced was deciding what to do while waiting for it to finish. As with other Linksys routers we’ve seen, it includes the excellent LELA network configuration interface, which makes managing the network, once set up, a breeze.

Advanced users can log in through the web interface for more granular settings than LELA provides, and all the usual suspects are here, from Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) firewall, port forwarding, VPN pass-through, and demilitarized zone (DMZ) setup through to Quality of Service (QoS).

The USB port at the rear of the device can only be used for network attached storage – not a printer, sadly. Instead of managing attached storage through LELA, you can only select folders to share and set read/write privileges through the web interface.

Performance at both frequencies is good, although it’s not the fastest router we’ve ever seen. We clocked around 20Mb/s in our large file transfer test for transfers at either 2.4GHz or 5GHz, and although the range on the 5GHz spectrum is noticeably stronger, we were able to stream video smoothly at 20M distances under both. At 5GHz, our video finally cut out around 50M, which should cater to the media server needs in most suburban homes with ease.

And that’s where the WRT610N really comes into it’s own. Simultaneous dual-band not only allows for differing speeds – you can set up either 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands for draft-n only, or a combination of a/b/g and n – but also lets you split your data from media traffic on the network.

For many, the lack of interference with video streaming will be the biggest selling point. Given the paucity of gigabit on laptops at the moment, and the availability of much cheaper models, the price of entry will be too steep for those who haven’t set up their ultimate media server.

That’s not to say that the WRT610N is overpriced – it’s a fully featured router that’s worth the asking price – it’s just that most of us don’t have the technology to take advantage of its full scope.

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