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In the world of networking 3Com has always been a follower rather than a leader and so it is with wireless as only after all the furore has died down over the past 18 months does it step into the 802.11n arena. It does so with a complete family of Draft 2.0 compliant products with the ADSL Wireless 11n Wireless Router (3CRWDR300A-73) providing precisely those features intimated by its lengthy moniker.
3Com has been a little more adventurous in the design department as the boring white slabs from its older OfficeConnect range have been replaced with shiny grey units with plenty of bright blue status LEDs and even a backlit logo on the top cover. It offers a standard four-port Fast Ethernet switch along with integral ADSL2/2+ modem and teams these up with an 802.11n wireless access point.
3Com reckons the router can be up and running in as little as 15 minutes and we can agree with this as you simply point a browser at its default IP address and follow a quick start wizard. You can secure administrative access and set up wireless encryption during this phase and if you have problems finding the router on the network 3Com also provides a handy little finder utility which will locate it for you.
The router’s web interface provides easy access to a reasonable if somewhat uninspiring range of features. There are plenty of wireless security options as you have WEP and WPA/WPA2 encryption. Authentication via an external RADIUS server is possible, the SSID can be masked, and you can implement a MAC address filter list. 3Com’s WMM (wireless multimedia mode) feature could prove useful as it automatically prioritises four traffic categories including voice and video.
Support for WDS (wireless distribution system) means the router can act as a repeater to other compliant wireless routers for extending range. WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) using push button or PIN methods is also available and you can use a wizard to set this up or configure it manually. 3Com’s new client devices support this although for its 802.11n USB adapter we needed to download the latest driver version, which also adds a new connection utility for Vista users. It’s one of the nicest interfaces we’ve seen for while and we found that the WPS using the PBC (Push Button Configuration) mode worked perfectly.
Pressing the WPS button at the back of the router causes an LED on the front to flash and during this phase you select the PBS option on the client utility. There’s nothing else to do as an encrypted connection is automatically negotiated between router and client. If you wish, you can use the PIN method instead as both are available. It’s worth noting that the new client utility also supports 3Com’s WMM.