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With caution as its middle name, SMC Networks has waited for all the dust raised from the draft 802.11n debacle to settle before poking its head above the ramparts. Some six months after the big names such as Netgear, D-Link and Linksys have brought draft-n wireless routers to market SMC finally delivers with the SMCWBR14-N.
This is the first in its new Barricade N product range and reveals a new design direction as SMC moves away from the chunky Barricade-g boxes to a slimmed down and extremely lightweight silver plastic chassis. At the top of the features list is the draft 802.11n wireless access point which SMC claims supports speeds up to 300Mbps – more on that later. It comes with the standard quartet of switched Fast Ethernet ports which is disappointing as these will create a bottleneck. With this hardware setup it’s impossible to achieve speeds higher than 100Mbps between WLAN and LAN systems. The time is ripe to start equipping routers with Gigabit Ethernet as it’s cheap enough to be a feasible option for home users and small businesses – virtually all PCs now have an embedded Gigabit port anyway.
The router comes with an RJ-45 WAN port so you’ll need an external cable or ADSL modem with an Ethernet port. We asked SMC when a version with an integral ADSL modem would be available and it advised us it plans to release one in the next month or so. A useful feature is the small switch at the rear which allows you to physically disable the wireless access point. Plenty of indicators are provided at the front with status LEDs for the unit, LAN and WAN ports and the wireless access point.
No installation utilities are provided but none are needed as the router’s management interface provides plenty of wizard-based assistance for setting up Internet and wireless access. The latter commendably kicks off by recommending you change the administrative password and then takes you through picking from DHCP, PPPoE, PPTP, L2TP or static addressing for your Internet link. You do get a bunch of predefined ISPs to pick from but there’s nary a single UK provider among them.
The wireless wizard is quite slick as it asks for an SSID and offers choices of Good, Better or Best modes for security which equates to WEP, WPA or WPA2 encryption. There’s more for security as moving on to the main wireless configuration page allows you to set SSID masking and activate the WPA-Enterprise option which requires a RADIUS server to authenticate users to the router.