USRobotics (USR) clearly moves at a more sedate pace to the rest of the world as it’s only now decided to deliver a 802.11n wireless router. Furthermore, the new Wireless Ndx Router is only draft 1.0 compliant, whereas vendors such as Netgear and Linksys have already brought 2.0 compliant products to market. As our very own Gordon Kelly reported back in May, the newer products will work with each other regardless of brand, as they have to be certified. Some 1.0 compliant products will be firmware upgradeable but USR has given no indication yet as to whether its Ndx routers will be amongst these.
And so to the router itself, which is an unassuming slab of silver/grey plastic with three removable aerials at the rear. Alas, Gigabit Ethernet isn’t on the menu as you get a standard quartet of switched Fast Ethernet ports which could cause a potential bottleneck between high-speed wireless clients and LAN systems. The RJ-45 WAN port means you’ll need a cable or ADSL broadband modem with a suitable connection but USR does offer a version with an integral ADSL2/2+ modem. The routers all have a single USB port at the rear, which is only for sharing a printer over the network.
USR handles installation nicely as on first contact with the router’s web interface you get a quick start wizard to help with initial configuration. As we were using an intelligent ADSL modem there was literally nothing for us to do as the router spotted that an Internet connection was ready and waiting. Next, you get acquainted with USR’s SecureEasySetup feature, which aims to make light work of wireless security configuration. Just press the SecureEasySetup button at the back of the router and it’ll automatically create a network name, set up WPA2 and WPA encryption and sort out a suitable passphrase.
This feature comes into its own when setting up your wireless clients. To test this we installed USR’s Ndx PC Card in a 1.6GHz Fujitsu Siemens notebook with Windows XP SP2 loaded. After loading the drivers the routine requests that you press the SecureEasySetup button on the router after which it will negotiate a secure connection. This is very similar to Buffalo’s AOSS (AirStation One-touch Secure System) and just as easy to use as it created a connection in a matter of seconds. The only problem is that it displays the passphrase it has discovered in plain text for all to see.
USR clearly hasn’t spent any time on design for the router’s web interface as it’s the most boring of all. However, it does provide easy access to all functions and opens with a handy status screen showing the status of wired and wireless connections. Make sure you secure the interface as again, it displays the encryption passphrase and administrative password in plain text.