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Linksys Wireless-N

This is a solid wireless router in the familiar Linksys mould, which benefits from good interoperability with other Atheros-based products.
Written by Alan Stevens, Contributor

For reasons best known to itself, Linksys has developed two versions of its Wireless-N solution, one using the Broadcom chipset and the other Atheros based. However, to avoid confusion (not to mention possible interoperability issues), European buyers get the Atheros-based version while the Broadcom product is sold in the rest of the world.

You can tell the two apart easily enough as the European router is black and silver rather than the garish blue and purple used elsewhere. Colour scheme apart, though, the two Wireless-N products look much the same, characterised by a weird-looking arrangement of three antennae -- the centre one being paddle shaped. These can be aligned to allow the router to lay flat or sit upright on the stand provided, with the usual built-in 4-port 10/100Mbps switch for LAN connectivity and a separate port for an external broadband modem. A model with an internal ADSL modem is not currently available.

Functionally, the two routers are almost identical apart from minor differences in transmit power and antenna gain. A high degree of interoperability is also claimed, although as we were only provided with the Atheros-based European product we weren’t able to put this to the test. We did, however, have the Broadcom-based Buffalo Nfiniti Wireless-N, and interoperability with that solution left a lot to be desired.

Setup is via the usual web-based interface, which shares a common look and feel with other Linksys devices. It’s not the best we’ve seen, but it's workable: the wireless settings are a little confusing, with no real mention of the Draft-N capabilities apart from the ability to select either a standard (20MHz) or wide (40MHz) channel. We found the security options confusing too, although you do get a good choice with WEP and both WPA and WPA-2 options plus RADIUS authentication.

A firewall is included as standard, along with web filtering options. However, it’s clear that this product is primarily aimed at home users: for example, one of the setup tabs is labelled 'applications and gaming'. A more business-oriented wireless access point (the WAP4400N) is due for release shortly.

Because it’s based on the same Atheros chipset used in the Belkin and D-Link solutions, we were expecting the Linksys Wireless-N to post very similar performance figures. We weren’t disappointed, the Atheros trio all managing around 70Mbps. Neither were we surprised to find them able to reproduce this throughput in our interoperability tests. However, interoperability with the Broadcom-based Buffalo and Marvell-powered Netgear products was poor.

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