Published on August 16th, 2011 | by Greg0
TrendNet’s Fastest Dual Band Router: Speed But Restrictions
When you’re working with networking, it can start to feel like not much progress has been made in the past few years. Since the 802.11n standard was drafted, then finalized, it’s been primarily small evolutionary steps. But that doesn’t mean that nothing has changed- it’s only now that the first truly dual-band full-throughput, 450mbps routers are coming out that can offer support that pushes the bounds of 802.11n.
With that background, we’ve been trying out the TrendNET TEW-692GR Dual Band 450Mbps Router- a pretty straightforward device despite the lengthy name. While some routers have been adding USB ports or making the antennas invisible, TrendNET focused on speed and range, hitting raw targets that sound pretty good on paper. Like most routers today, the basics are all there- four gigabit ethernet ports along with another to connect to your DSL or cable modem. They claim that their “Advanced Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) antenna technology reduces wireless dead spots”, which we found to be more or less the case- most devices we had could connect quickly to the router and setup was simple. And WPS is pretty commonplace these day, but still handy for some folks who want a one-button quick wi-fi protected setup.
Of course, the key to any wireless network is making devices work transfer data as quickly as possible, and we’ll dive briefly into a bit of alphabet soup. To this end, you’ll probably want to see up one pure A/N network on the 5GHz band, along with a mixed 2.4GHz network to support your B/G and older N clients. Note that dual-band here means one band at 2.4GHz and another at 5GHz, and the advantages of the higher band are not so much because of the number itself, but because of the crowded 2.4GHz spectrum. The downside of a 5GHz band is that not everything can access it- for instance, your iPhone 4 (as well as previous versions) will see only the other band, despite their use of 802.11n. Our AppleTVs and iPad 2, as well as Macbook Air and Pro and two laptops connected smoothly though. Make sure you use different names for the two bands, and magically your devices will see two ‘different’ networks available- at least the ones that can see the 5GHz band. Anything that can see it, should use it, but it’s worth testing to see if it’s worth the extra money- if your devices won’t support 5GHz, you probably don’t need this router.
Whew. If that didn’t make sense, and you aren’t streaming a ton of video or large files around your network, then you’re probably fine with your current router or another, inexpensive model. But people with lots of clients, or lots of demand for throughput, should take a closer look here. It’s not all good- you can’t install any open source firmware like DD-WRT or Tomato, so you’re stuck with theirs. And, frankly, for power-users, the firmware is mediocre, lacking in many features that you may want. For instance, the unit oddly requires alphanumeric passwords only (no other secure characters like an !) we couldn’t figure out how to create other accounts (admin is the required username). Changing some settings required a complete reboot of the router, and there aren’t any help pages for the configuration settings. There aren’t names listed next to clients, leading to some confusion, and no links to a handy listing of MAC addresses which other firmwares provide. And some folks like to carefully monitor their bandwidth- they should look elsewhere, as the tools here were minimal, with no charts or graphs to help analyze traffic.
According to the company, this model is running a Ralink RT3883 (500 MHz MIPS CPU). In a LAN speed test with a 100MB file, we were able to reach about 113 M/s on the 5GHz band and about half that on the 2.4GHz band between two clients. This is pretty good- and better than most every other router we’ve tested. But the unit isn’t exactly pretty, and we always get a little bit sad when we see an MSRP of nearly $250 and a real-world pricing of about $135 right near release. For those in need of a solid dual-band router, it’s definitely worth looking beyond the usual players. Don’t worry too much about the numbers- they are theoretical anyway, and TrendNET’s newest router is decent even if you never see values quite up there.