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Published on August 16th, 2011 | by Greg

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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.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.



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