As for wireless performance, just ignore the quoted speed of 300Mbps as this is a theoretical figure and is totally unachievable in the real world with any draft-n product. To test this we installed ZyXEL’s NWD-170n PC Card in a 1.6GHz Fujitsu Siemens notebook with Windows XP SP2 loaded. 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 67Mbps which dropped to 59Mbps with WPA encryption enabled. Real world speeds weren’t particularly impressive either with our 690MB test video file copied from the laptop to the PC at a rate of only 38Mbps over an encrypted link. Moving the laptop to the floor below the router and placing a few brick walls in the way saw signal strength and performance drop by around 50 per cent. Our compatibility tests also threw up a few issues as a TRENDnet draft-n card would only connect to the router in 802.11g mode and if we configured the router for 802.11n operations only it refused to connect at all.
General router configuration is easy enough as the web management interface is well designed. However, it’s very clear that to get into the draft-n wireless router market ZyXEL has used a shortcut as the features on offer are almost identical to those provided by a number of other vendors. Essentially, if you take D-Link’s DIR-655 and remove Gigabit Ethernet and the WISH (Wireless Intelligent Stream Handling) feature you arrive at the NBG-415n.
Nevertheless, features aplenty there are as you can pick and choose from port rules for hosting games, redirecting selected inbound traffic to virtual servers and the StreamEngine facility which automatically measures available Internet bandwidth and identifies and prioritises gaming applications over standard web traffic. We like the Internet access controls as you can create a white list of web site addresses which are used in policies that determine what your LAN and wireless systems are allowed to access on the Internet. This lets you run a much tighter ship making the router more useful if you want to implement strict parental controls. Usefully, time schedules can be applied to policies to determine when they are active and you can block all Internet access to specific IP addresses during set times of each day.
The NBG-415n is so similar to the draft-n routers from SMC and TRENDnet that it’s worth shopping around for the best deal. Wireless performance is nothing to write home about and if you fancy Gigabit Ethernet then check out D-Link’s DIR-655 as this only costs a few pounds more.
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