So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Linksys Dual-Band Wireless-N ADSL2 Modem Gigabit Router (WAG320N)
A Linksys ADSL2+ modem/router capable of dual-band operation
- Well-implemented storage port, excellent long-range speed in 5GHz band, easy to set up, very responsive Web interface
- Can't simultaneously run 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands, poor long-range performance in 2.4GHz band
Linksys' WAG320N is an ADSL2+ modem, Gigabit Ethernet and dual-band wireless router in one compact body. It's easy to configure and it has some very nifty features, such as a USB storage port and keyword filters. However, it can't run both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless networks simultaneously, which is an inconvenience for those of us who need to run a mixture of those types of devices. If you want a strictly 5GHz router though, this one is very fast over a long distance, so it's still worth considering.
Price$ 279.00 (AUD)
The Linksys WAG320N is a dual-band wireless ADSL2+ router with slick styling, good ease of use and four Gigabit ports. However, it's not a good dual-band Wi-Fi router — you can't run 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks simultaneously.
Linksys WAG320N: wireless performance
Because you can't run both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands simultaneously, the Linksys WAG320N is of limited use in a mixed environment: if you have 2.4GHz and 5GHz devices that you want to use at the same time, you're out of luck. It's even more limiting than the Netgear RangeMax DGND3300v2, which is a dual-band router that allows 2.4GHz devices to run at a maximum of 54 megabits per second (Mbps) when the 5GHz network is on. With the WAG320N, you'll have to manually switch the router from 2.4GHz to 5GHz whenever you want to use 5GHz devices, and this isn't a very efficient way to run a Wi-Fi network.
In our wireless tests, in which we copy a 1.5GB Xvid-encoded file from our file server to a notebook equipped with a dual-band Intel wireless adapter, the WAG320N's 5GHz short- and long-range performance was excellent. From two metres, the 5GHz network averaged a transfer speed of 10.5 megabytes per second (MBps), which is a very fast time compared to other 5GHz routers we've seen, such as the Netgear RangeMax DGND3300v2 (6.41MBps) and the Belkin Double N+ wireless router (7.47MBps). From 15m away, it achieved an average transfer speed of 7.32MBps, which is 0.73MBps faster than the Netgear and 1.71MBps faster than the Belkin.
Using the 2.4GHz band, the close-range performance was also excellent — it averaged a transfer rate of 10.06MBps — but it was dismal in the long range test. From 15m away, the 2.4GHz network averaged just 1.56MBps. The Belkin Double N+ recorded 3.37MBps in the same test.
If you're considering implementing a 5GHz network in order to give you more speed over longer distances, the WAG320N will be perfect. However, you'll have to make sure all your devices support 5GHz. If you plan to use the WAG320N's 2.4GHz wireless network for anything other than close-range transfers, you may suffer slow and unreliable performance.
Linksys WAG320N: ADSL2+ performance
The built-in modem supports ADSL2+ connections and it performed solidly during our tests. We experienced a couple of overnight drop-outs during our test period using our iiNet ADSL2+ connections, and these could only be fixed by restarting the modem. Using the PC World Broadband Speed Test, the modem averaged a download speed of 15.4 megabits per second (Mbps), which is 1.3Mbps slower than the fastest modem we've tested to date, Billion's BiPAC 5200S RD ADSL2+ modem/router. This is still a very good speed, and above the 14Mbps average we expected. Upload speeds were solid at 846 kilobits per second (Kbps), but a little slower than expected.
Linksys WAG320N: file sharing and media streaming
The WAG320N has a USB 2.0 port on its spine that can be used to connect an external hard drive. It will support either a powered 3.5in external drive or an un-powered 2.5in external drive. We tested it with a 500GB Samsung S2 Portable hard drive and it worked like a charm.
By default, a connected hard drive will have its root folder shared across the network and this can't be removed, but its access can be made read only. A connected drive can be set up to stream content to a DLNA-certified device or to your PCs through Windows Media Player — it will show up as a media device in Windows 7's Network browser. You can add user credentials to the drive so that not everyone can access it and you can change each user's read and write permissions, too. It can also be set up as an FTP server for remote access over the Internet.
Linksys WAG320N: URL and keyword filtering
For safe Web browsing at home, the WAG320N has a built-in firewall, but it also supports keyword and URL filtering. These can only be implemented by specifying which computers on your network will be affected by those filters. This means that you can add terms or URLs only to the computers used by your kids, and your own computer can remain unaffected. You can add computers by using their MAC or IP address, but unfortunately the router doesn't give you a list of connected devices so that you can easily add them — you must add them manually.
Linksys WAG320N: conclusion
We like the WAG320N's ease of use, and its interface is one of the swiftest we've seen — the router doesn't need to restart anytime you make a change to its settings. The USB storage port works well, the router supports DynDNS and forwarding ports is easy. The modem was fast in our long-range tests and the 5GHz wireless performance is the best we've seen so far. However, it's not a simultaneous dual-band router: you can run either at 2.4GHz or at 5GHz. This is a limitation that's unfortunate as most of us still need to run a mixture of devices. As such, we only recommend this dual-band router if you're going to solely run 5GHz devices with it.
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