So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
- Fast 802.11g speed, well-priced, URL and keyword filtering, SPI firewall enabled by default, ran cool during our tests
- Slower-than-expected 802.11 draft-n performance, Web interface sluggish at times, Web interface doesn't have a 'restart' setting, lacks QoS settings
The WRT150N delivers plenty of features at a competitive price-point. Its 802.11 draft-n networking is slow, but its 802.11g performance is excellent. It ran cool during our tests, was easy to set up and use, but its Web interface is sluggish at times.
Price$ 179.95 (AUD)
The WRT150N is an inexpensive wireless router for those who want to move to 802.11 draft-n networking, but, don't expect a major improvement over 802.11g speeds yet.
The WRT150N supports 802.11b/g and 802.11 draft-n wireless networking standards, has a 4-port switch for wired 10/100 Ethernet connections, and can be used with either an ADSL2+ or cable modem. It's a fairly easy router to use, but its Web interface does, at times, get sluggish - sometimes it takes more than a few seconds before changes take effect and even navigating from one settings page to another is slow. Unfortunately, its 802.11 draft-n speed also isn't as fast as we'd hoped it would be.
Implementing an 802.11n network can be a little tricky, especially if you aren't sure which settings to use. The WRT150N allows either 20MHz or 40MHz channels to be used; the latter should theoretically provide much faster speeds than 802.11g. However, we couldn't get a fast connection when using 40MHz channels - in fact, file transfers using 40Mhz channels produced speeds slower than what an 802.11b connection can achieve. We didn't have any problems testing with 20MHz channels, and that's what we used to record our results.
Testing it with a Linksys WPC300N notebook adapter, with WPA2 (AES) encryption enabled and from a distance of 1m (in order to provide a best-case scenario), we achieved an 802.11 draft-n transfer rate of 2.99MBps. This equates to 23.93Mbps, which is a far-cry from the theoretical maximum of 300Mbps that the 802.11 draft-n standard can achieve, and it's not much faster than the 2.86MBps (22.86Mbps) that was recorded in 802.11g mode.
Its 802.11g speed is notably faster than Netgear's WNR834B (2.1MBps) and Belkin's N1 (2.5MBps) routers. It can easily be used for streaming most types of video files, and it's theoretically fast enough to even stream 1080p HD files from a server to a media centre PC.
The WRT150N offers a 'mixed' wireless mode, which allows 802.11b/g and draft-n devices to co-exist, as long as they all support the encryption method that's been employed. The WRT150N includes WPA and WPA2 encryption methods, which provide the most secure wireless networking environments. Encryption isn't enabled by default, but the built-in firewall is.
In addition to the firewall, security can be tightened by using the 'access restrictions', which allow you to block specific services and ports. A filtering policy can be applied to PCs on your network, with which you can block specific content by using a keyword or a complete URL. Sneakily, filtered content brings up an error page telling the user that the server might be busy, instead of notifying the user that the content is restricted.
For using Bittorrent and other applications that need to act as servers, you can use the router's port-forwarding function, in which you can specify either a single port, or a range of ports. This works best when you use static IPs for the PCs on your network. We used static IPs for our testing, but we also tried the router's DHCP function. It supplied IP addresses to all of our machines without any problems, except for one isolated incident in which one of our notebooks couldn't obtain an address.
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