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EnGenius Technologies registers barely a blip on the UK consumer networking radar and yet its latest ESR-9710 wireless router looks to offer a fine range of features at a very competitive price. This wholly owned subsidiary of the Taiwanese Senao International company has always focused primarily on the North American market and it's mainly through the efforts of UK distributor Solwise that it has achieved any exposure on this side of the pond.
The ESR-9710 is a compact box of tricks that incorporates an 802.11n wireless access point that's Draft 2.0 compliant. Sensibly, the router has a quartet of switched Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports so if the claimed 300Mbps wireless-N speeds were ever actually achievable in the real world you won't have the bottleneck between WLAN and LAN systems that routers with slower Fast Ethernet ports will create. For Internet access you have an RJ-45 WAN port so you'll need an external cable or ADSL modem with an Ethernet port.
For installation you don't get any smart utilities that search for the router on the network but its tidy web interface offers a wizard for setting up Internet access. For testing we used an intelligent ActionTec ADSL modem and had web access up and running in a matter of seconds. Make it a priority at this stage to secure the router from unwanted intrusion as by default it's left wide open. Administrative access starts with a blank password and the wireless access point is switched on but with no encryption applied. Once again, a wizard makes light work of the latter and asks for an SSID and offers choices of Good, Better or Best security modes which equate to WEP, WPA or WPA2 encryption. There's more as the WPA-Enterprise option uses an external RADIUS server to authenticate users to the router. It may be excessive but the router even allows you to nominate a backup RADIUS server if the primary server goes down.
Wireless security goes one step beyond as the router also supports WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) which allows you to swiftly add a wireless client that supports a PIN or a button press. For performance testing we used the EnGenius EUB-9701 USB wireless-n adapter (£41.76 from Solwise) and were disappointed to find that it doesn't support WPS making this a largely redundant feature. Nevertheless, we installed the adapter on a Boston Supermicro workstation running Windows Vista without any problems. We also successfully tested compatibility using a Fujitsu Siemens LifeBook running XP SP2 and equipped with a TRENDnet 802.11n PC Card.
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