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For wireless performance SMC joins the long list of vendors that claim 300Mbps but come up well short of the mark. To test this we installed SMC’s SMCWCB-N PC Card in a 1.6GHz Fujitsu Siemens notebook running Windows XP SP2. Running the Iometer utility over a close range open link to a Supermicro Pentium D 3.2GHz PC on the LAN saw an average raw read throughput of 70Mbps which dropped to 69Mbps with WPA2 encryption enabled. Real world speeds were similarly disappointing with a 690MB video file copied from the laptop to the PC at a rate of 48Mbps over an open link and 44Mbps with encryption switched on. Signal strength also took a nose dive as distance increased, with the PC Card utility showing this dropping by around fifty per cent with the laptop on the floor below the router.
The router’s web management interface is nicely designed and very easy to use although after browsing through the various features of the Barricade N it soon becomes clear that these are remarkably similar to D-Link’s DIR-655. Both provide the usual NAT/SPI combo for firewall protection and include a pile of ALGs (application layer gateways) to allow services such as IPsec VPNs and VoIP to function with NAT. We tested the latter using our SIP account and had no problems making and receiving calls through the router. It also supports a single DMZ (demilitarised zone) allowing one system designated by its IP address to step outside the firewall for full access from the Internet.
You get the same StreamEngine facility which automatically measures available Internet bandwidth and identifies and prioritises gaming applications over standard web traffic. Access controls are identical as you can also create a list of web site addresses and use policies that determine what your LAN and wireless systems are allowed to access on the Internet and when. For those that want strict parental controls this is a lot more useful than Netgear’s URL blocking list as it allows you to decide what can be accessed rather than what can’t. You can also set up policies that block all Internet access for selected systems during specific periods of each day.
For router security features there’s little between SMC and D-Link’s DIR-655 but the latter’s Gigabit ports make it look a far better deal – especially as it only costs a few pounds more. Wireless performance is in the same ball park but SMC is only worth considering if you don’t want Gigabit on the LAN.