The WRT350N is one of the latest in the Linksys line of wireless routers. It has three main features that interested me:
- Wireless-N support, for my new laptop, and Wireless-G for the rest of the wireless devices around my house.
- 10/100/1000 wired ethernet, since my new laptop has a Gigabit wired ethernet adapter
- Storage Link for sharing a USB disk
However, the one thing above all else that made me decide on this particular model was the large/strong antennas it has. I have learned the hard way that in my solidly-built Swiss house, where there is lots of concrete and reinforcing bars for the wireless signal to get through, there is no substitute for good antennas. This one didn't disappoint me, either, I get a "Very Good" or "Excellent" signal wherever I go in the house.
Since I was replacing an existing Linksys WRT54GX4 router with this new WRT350N, I simply set it up with the same SSID and WPA/TKIP configuration as the old one and everything in the house connected right away without problem. However, as I learned from Fujitsu Technical Support, to get a Wireless-N connection above 54 Mbps, you have to use WPA2/AES security and encryption. This concerned me at first because I have quite a few devices around the house which can't do WPA2, but I found that when the WRT350N is configured for WPA2 (Linksys calls it PSK2), it will also still accept WPA, and you can select either AES encryption only or TKIP and AES. With that setup in the router, I was able to connect everything in the house, and the new laptop connected at 130 Mbps.
I was still running Vista on the new laptop when I first set up the WRT350N. After the initial success with the Wireless-N connection, I started having major problems getting the laptop to connect again after a suspend/resume or reboot. I eventually learned from Linksys Technical Support that Vista will often "auto-tune" a connection to the point where it doesn't connect any more... that's a rather unusual interpretation of "tuning", to say the least. After disabling this with the "netsh" command, I had no further connection problems.
It is worth noting that while Windows Vista has WPA2 security included, it has not yet been made a standard part of Windows XP. You have to download and install Windows XP update KB917021 to add WPA2 support. I suppose that this might become standard with Windows XP SP3, but I don't know that for sure. Anyway, I have installed that update on a couple of XP systems, and WPA2 then works just fine on them as well.
I was disappointed to find that the older Linksys SRX400 adapters that I have, which used a proprietary protocol to get Wireless-G connections faster than 54 Mbps, only connect as standard Wireless-G 54 Mbps devices with the WRT350N. I suppose this just reinforces the basic advice that I always give people, and which I violated myself. Stay away from proprietary protocols, because you are likely to be left behind when the standard catches up with you. In this case it was particularly irritating, because Linksys never released Vista-compatible drivers for any of the SRX400 adapters, either.
There's not much to say about the 4-port wired hub in this router, other than it works just fine. I actually use both wired and wireless connections on a regular basis - wired when I am at my desk and the laptop is on the port replicator, and wireless when I am anywhere else in the house. So having the combination of Wireless-N and Gigabit on this router was a double win for me. The hub also has auto-cross wired sensing, so you don't have to worry about crossed cables even if you want to connect a mix of computers and other hubs to it.
The big bonus with the WRT350N is the Storage Link feature. There is a USB port on the router, where you can connect a USB disk or flash drive, and it will be available as a shared disk on the network. I had a 350Gb USB disk that I had been using to backup the laptops; now I have connected it to the WRT350N. Now I can back up any and all of the computers in the house without having to carry the disk drive around. I have also moved all of the digital camera pictures to that disk drive, so they are immediately accessible from any of the computers in the house, without having to be duplicated on each of them.
Getting the Storage Link working wasn't very difficult, but of course it did require that Microsoft File and Printer Sharing be properly configured on all of the computers. That involves making sure that the Microsoft File and Printer Sharing protocol is installed and active on the network interface(s) you are going to use - in particular, if you are using both wired and wireless connections, as on my laptop, make sure that it is active on both. Likewise, your firewall has to be configured to allow that protocol. If you are using the Windows XP firewall, then the Windows Network Configuration Wizard will set that up for you. If you use some other firewall (I use AVG Internet Security), you will probably have to configure that yourself.
In summary, I am very pleased with this router. It does just what I wanted, on both wired and wireless connections, and I got even more than I expected because of the Storage Link feature.