The web interface is common to all the latest wireless broadband routers from Linksys although the home page has extra options for the Vodafone features. This shows the status of the connection, the network name and signal strength and a button for manual connections if this option was selected. A separate status screen is also available, which although somewhat basic does provide more details about the PC Card along with the connection duration and data downloaded and uploaded.
Security features are reasonably good as the SPI firewall is enabled by default and blocks all unsolicited inbound traffic. Up to ten access policies can be scheduled for specific days and times and can be used to allow or deny access to predefined or custom services. You can also apply these to lists of PCs that are described by their MAC or IP address or you can use an IP address range. Web filtering can also be applied but with entries for only four URLs and six keywords this is largely redundant. Wireless security fares a lot better and really does need to be implemented as you can’t switch the access point off. Fortunately, you can pick and choose from SSID masking, MAC address filter lists and WEP and WPA encryption, which is offered as WPA Personal and Enterprise with the latter requiring an external RADIUS server for user authentication.
With a 3G connection showing a good signal strength we tested download speeds using Intel’s Speedtest tool. This reported a healthy 363Kbps – not far off tops for a standard 3G connection although subsequent test shows this varying between 200Kbps and 350Kps. To get a more realistic feel for speed we downloaded the 42.2MB MSDE 2000 engine from Microsoft’s web site which took 1020 seconds for an average of 338Kbps. We then swapped over to a standard broadband connection with an intelligent ADSL modem attached to the router. Intel’s Speedtest reported a top download speed of 440Kbps and downloading the same 42.2MB file took 824 seconds for an average speed of 420Kbps. Overall, we found 3G performance to be comparatively good and you have the added bonus of being able to use the PC Card in a notebook for remote access if you don’t want to carry the router with you.
Linksys is offering a very smart and quite unique solution that can deliver shared Internet access to places where normal broadband can’t reach. We would recommend waiting for the Vodafone 3G broadband service which is significantly faster and doesn’t cost much more but even with the standard Mobile Connect card you’ll find performance isn’t much behind a basic ADSL connection.