So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
- Simplified and boosted security for everyday Wi-Fi users
- No mounting bracket, slightly slower than competitors
Linksys has done a good job at simplifying the process of installing a secure wireless network at home with the WRT54GS, and though it isn't as fast as some of the competition, the bolstered security is worth the trade-off.
Price$ 419.00 (AUD)
Configuring security for home wireless devices used to be a difficult task. You needed to be an expert in networking in order to set up a simple home router, and as a result, many people didn't bother to configure security at all. In fact, as testament to this, many vendors prefer to ship consumer wireless hardware with security disabled to minimise technical support calls. A quick drive around suburbia with a Wi-Fi enabled notebook reveals countless unsecured wireless networks, and it's easy for hackers to log in and poach Internet access from across the street.
Linksys has come up with a clever solution to the problem by simplifying the process of configuring robust wireless security. The company is offering a technology called SecureEasySetup (SES), which is a software program that ships with some Linksys hardware to allow one-touch setup for Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security. All the user needs to do is press a button on the router, and a button on a SES-supporting Wi-Fi adaptor to establish an affinity and automatically configure security settings. It's that simple. A networking novice can go from having a completely open, unsecured network to one locked down to the same level as most business networks in a couple of minutes.
The first SES-enabled devices were Linksys' WRT54GS Wireless G router and WPC54GS Wireless G PC Card adapter. Both products also include SpeedBooster v.10 channel bonding technology to achieve a claimed 35% leap in performance.
The WRT54GS is designed to share an Internet connection, both wirelessly and to a wired network. It features four Ethernet ports, in addition to supporting both 802.11b and g networks, and we found SES works a treat. Both the network card and the router were able to establish a secure WPA-encrypted link and we were transferring data back and forth within minutes. A fast start guide is included, which helps navigate some of the setup pages.
During testing, the devices managed to communicate at a rate of 35Mbps (with a range of 5m).
The router incorporates a stateful packet inspection (SPI) firewall, offering maximum security to the network from Net-borne nasties. Unfortunately, the device doesn't feature a mounting bracket, which makes it difficult to install neatly in a cabinet.
Linksys is pushing out updates via its Web site so that existing owners of Linksys hardware can patch their devices to work with SES. Further down the track, the company will be working with other manufacturers to produce SES-enabled hardware.
With SES, Linksys has done a great job of simplifying a complex process for the mainstream consumer. Who'd have thought wireless security could be so easy?
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