TrendNET router delivers speed but little else. (August 8th, 2010)
TrendNET let us explore what it calls the world's first 450Mbps router. At up to 50 percent faster, it may have tremendous appeal for those who transfer large amounts of data between computers on their own network. The device did provide solid performance, but we'll find out in our TEW-691GR review if everything else is in line.
Product Manufacturer: TrendNet
- Easy to set up; no software install needed.
- Allows for quickly adding devices via WPS.
- Four Gigabit ports.
- Impressive peak performance.
- No USB ports for sharing printers, media.
- High price/low value compared to competitors.
- Large, bright LEDs may need to be covered depending on install location.
Hardware design and setup
The router operates on the 2.4GHz frequency and sends out three spatial streams from each of its three antennas sprouting out of the back of it. That rear panel is shared with four Gigabit Ethernet ports, the WAN connection, a power switch and recessed reset button. The 12V power connection is also back there, as is a toggle to turn off the Wi-Fi capability. This can come in handy if, for some reason, users don't set up the security of their Wi-Fi network or don't want their network broadcasting. It's akin to the old adage: the only foolproof form of birth control is celibacy.
The only control not at the back is the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button, which opens up a time-limited window that lets owners connect compatible devices to the wireless network quickly but also securely and without getting into the browser setup to muck about with the settings. The front of the router gets relatively large, bright status lights that include WPS, WLAN (wireless), LAN1 through LAN4 for the local Ethernet ports, WAN (the Internet link) and power.
Included in the box with the router itself is a short, 3.3-foot long Ethernet cable, a power adapter, and a CD that contains a PDF version of the also included paper quick-start guide. There is no software to install, making for a fairly straightforward setup, though users need to come prepared with basics like their IP address if it's not obtained automatically. Users simply need to type in the default 192.168.10.1 gateway into a browser and configure settings to their liking.
Subjectively, the router was a welcome replacement for the existing 802.11g/2.4GHz router in use, so we were prepared for a speed leap -- though it was a surprise at how even 802.11g was improved. YouTube videos on a nearby iPhone connected via Wi-Fi loaded much more quickly, without the need to pause them while the load bar catches up to progress. Its reach was also usefully enhanced, though the signal was artificially restricted in an older apartment with concrete walls.
Compared back-to-back with an 802.11g router, the TrendNET router streamed HDTV from a tuner at 117Mbps -- much faster than the 90-100Mbps we're used to from 802.11n routers. The slower router managed its peak of 54Mbps but with visible choppiness in the stream. A transfer of an 11GB, 1080p HD video was estimated to take 55 minutes by Windows at about 5MB per second with the TEW-691GR, and 4.5 hours at 734KB per second for the G router. Transfer of a 4.03GB file, estimated to take 13 minutes at 5.3MB per second, in fact took nearly 16 minutes with the TrendNET router.
Using the iPerf bandwidth test, we noticed quicker speeds when connected to the router with the adapter plugged in, even though the notebook has an 802.11n link of its own. Apart from the sheer size of the USB adapter and its more capable internals, the fact it was physically outside of the notebook probably helped its performance.
In the third and last B/G mixed wireless mode, the highest near-field with the dongle was 28.6MB each second. Without the USB adapter, it was only slightly slower, at 26MB per second. For reference, we even plugged a cable into the Gigabit port and ran the test, returning numbers of 399 megabits per second.
At $226, the TEW-691GR is fairly expensive and lacking in the value department, thanks to its lack of features. You don't get dual-band support, networked storage or printer sharing. It's tangibly faster than a number of routers, but is it worth the premium? We're not so sure: without a 450Mbps adapter, you won't see the best the router can manage even if you're just a few feet away. As such, we'd be cautious about jumping on TrendNET's entry unless the practical speed edge trumps everything.