Asus may be associated in most people’s minds with notebooks, motherboards, graphics cards and the like but it does have its fingers in an awful lot of other pies. Its networking portfolio is getting larger by the day and the WL-550gE is the latest to join an ever expanding range of wireless routers.
Coming in at a shade under £70 it looks good value, although bear in mind that it doesn’t have an integrated ADSL modem. Instead, it has a separate 10/100BaseTX Ethernet WAN port which is designed to accept an external cable or ADSL modem or it can be placed on a LAN where Internet access is provided by a gateway device. If you’re looking for ADSL2/2+ support you’ll need to source a suitable modem with an Ethernet port. Asus offers the AAM6010EV, although we couldn’t find anyone that stocked it. Alternately, you could go for the Linksys ADSL2MUE, which is available and costs around £30.
The router also offers a standard four-port Fast Ethernet switch and comes equipped with a wireless access point that supports 802.11b/g operations. It employs a Broadcom B5352E 54g chip which implements its BroadRange technology that aims to offer a 300 per cent improvement in range over standard 802.11g operations. This isn’t new, having first been launched by Broadcom over a year ago but it offers improved digital signal processing capabilities that increase the device’s ability to send wireless transmissions over greater distances. Naturally, to make the most of this you’ll need to use a compliant notebook adapter and for testing we were supplied with Asus’ WL-100GE PC Card which costs a mere £29 excluding VAT.
Physically, the router is a chunky desktop unit with a couple of small pull-out hinges at the base so it can stand vertically. Build quality is reasonably good and we did notice after testing it for a week that, unlike many routers, it runs quite cool. For testing we used a simple ActionTec intelligent modem connected to the WAN port and found installation only takes a few minutes. After connecting a PC to one of the LAN ports you can point a web browser at the router’s default IP address and fire up a simple quick setup wizard. There are a few choices for the Internet connection and we opted for the first, which enabled the WAN port to take its IP address and DNS details from the attached modem.