- Review Price: £84.59
TRENDnet is starting to make a name for itself in the UK with a rapidly expanding range of networking products aimed primarily at the consumer and small business markets. It’s TV-IP201W IP Camera impressed us with its ease of use and low price and now we turn to its latest draft-802.11n enabled firewall router.
The TEW-631BRP offers a quartet of switched Fast Ethernet LAN ports and its RJ-45 WAN port means you’ll be needing a separate cable or ADSL modem equipped with an Ethernet port. ADSL users who don’t want to incur the extra expense might want to check out Netgear’s DG834N, which comes with an integral ADSL2/2+ modem and can be had for only a few pounds more. The router is available for around £85, while its accompanying PC Card can be found for around £70.
The TRENDnet router has a triplet of aerials at the rear and only the centre one is removable. A useful feature is the small switch next to the power socket, which allows you to physically disable the wireless access point.
It was at this stage we had a sense of déjà vu and after further investigation we confirmed that the TEW-631BRP is more than a little similar to SMC’s Barricade N Broadband Router. In fact, apart from the colour and TRENDnet’s natty backlit display on the top panel it looks virtually identical. You tread the same path for installation as the web interface offers a selection of wizards for configuring Internet access and wireless services. TRENDnet has added its own design touches to the interface but essentially it offers all the same features as the Barricade N.
The Internet access wizard steps through sensibly changing the default administrative password and if it can’t detect a connection it’ll offer a choice of DHCP, PPPoE, PPTP, L2TP or static addressing. A selection of predefined ISPs is provided but, as we found with SMC, none are UK based so of little value here. Wireless security is easy to set up as a separate wizard asks if you want Good, Better or Best modes which equate to WEP, WPA or WPA2 respectively. Few small businesses are likely to use it but the WPA-Enterprise option allows you authenticate users with an external RADIUS server.
One function we particularly like is the web access controls as it makes the TEW-631BRP more versatile if you want strict controls over what can be accessed on the Internet. From the Web Filter section you create a white list of web sites and anything not on this can be blocked making it great for implementing strong parental controls. You then create policies that contain the names of IP addresses of the PCs you want them applied to and this is made even easier as the router lists all those systems it has supplied an address to. Then policy can then be set to passively log web access, block all access or use the web site white list. Each policy can also have custom schedules applied so you can decide the times and days they are active.
If you’re hosting web or FTP servers and the like you can create multiple virtual servers which comprise single public and private port associations for redirecting inbound traffic to a specific system on the LAN. Rules can also be created for opening up single ports or ranges for games and other applications that access the Internet. The StreamEngine feature is used to prioritise traffic such as VoIP and can automatically classify this for you. Alternatively, you can add your own rules for prioritising certain traffic and these comprise a protocol plus source and destination port and address ranges.
With such a similar feature set you’d expect wireless performance to be in the same ball-park as SMC and you’d be right. We tested this with TRENDnet’s TEW-621PC 802.11n PC Card installed in a 1.6GHz Fujitsu Siemens notebook running Windows XP SP2. The PC Card’s client utility differs substantially from SMC although we did find it just as easy to use. Running the Iometer utility over a close range open link to a Supermicro Pentium D 3.2GHz PC on the LAN returned a raw read throughput of 68Mbps, which dropped marginally to 65Mbps with WPA encryption enabled. Real world speeds were in the same ball park too with our 690MB video file copied to the laptop over a WPA encrypted link at an average of 46Mbps. To test range we used a typical residential scenario with the router on the first floor and the laptop located on the floor below. This placed three brick walls in the way and reduced signal strength down to around 45-50 per cent. Copying our same large test file to the laptop with WPA-PSK enabled returned only a 25Mbps average speed.
There’s nothing to set TRENDnet apart from SMC with them both delivering the same range of features for a very similar price although we did find more retailers selling the former making it easier to get hold of in the UK. However, if you fancy the same feature set but with Gigabit Ethernet on the LAN then check out D-Link’s DIR-655 as it only costs a few pounds more.
TRENDnet gets you off to a flying start with plenty of wizard-based assistance.
The router’s SPI firewall can be customised with your own rules and one system can be placed in a DMZ.
Web access controls are a cut above the rest and you can set policies that passively log all web sites visited.
Wizard assistance makes light work of setting up essential wireless security.
The PC Card utility is easy enough to use but don’t for one minute believe the displayed connection speed.
Score in detail
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