TRENDnet 300Mbps Dual Band Wireless N Gigabit Router
How do you decide which router to buy in this day and age? Is there one product that has it all? You'll be hard pressed to find a product with all the bells and whistles, but we may have one here today that comes close to the mark.
With so many routers to choose from, it can often be a daunting and hard decision to make when met with many options on the store shelf. We make no guarantees of making the decision any easier with the introduction of yet another router to the scene, but we will take a close look at one of your options that shows some potential which has recently hit the market.
Today we get up close and personal with TRENDnet's very latest router, the 300Mbps Dual Band Wireless N Gigabit Router sporting model number TEW-672GR. Specifically, we are looking at version 1.0R, which is the shipping version you'll find in the stores when buying.
It is the first Dual Band wireless router we have looked at so far and there is a good chance it is the first time you've heard about a product with this type of technology. Dual Band means that the router offers both 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio signal bands on a single device. Routers traditionally offer one radio signal limiting the amount of different wireless clients that are able to connect. Dual Band is still an uncommon feature, as this is new technology, and only a few router makers have cottoned onto it so far.
With two bands to work with, the TEW-672GR not only supports 802.11b, g and n wireless modes but also 802.11a wireless mode. The marketing here is somewhat deceptive as you cannot run both 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios simultaneously, which is a disappointment. The good news, though, is that there are many different wireless mixed modes that you can choose from and as long as at least one is suitable for your home or office requirements, it may not be a huge pitfall that both radios cannot operate at the same time.
TRENDnet's TEW-672GR also manages to pack in a few other nifty features which we also haven't seen before. Read on and we take a close look at this router and decide if it is worth the cash and if it is a hit or failure.
Once we move the TEW-672GR router to one side, we are left with the smaller items that are left in the package.
First up, there is a multi-lingual Quick Installation Guide. It basically tells you how to connect your broadband modem up to the TEW-672GR router, how to login to the web-based interface and finally how to setup wireless with security.
Next up, we have the included CD-ROM which includes the more in-depth User Guide, but that is in English only. There is also an included utility providing information about your network.
Moving on, there is a 1.5m (or 4.9 feet) CAT5e cable included. As was the case with the TRENDnet power line kit that we reviewed recently, we would have liked to have seen a CAT6 cable included just for the fact that it is the latest and greatest in Ethernet cabling. On the other hand, chances are if this is your first router, you will use this included CAT5e cable to connect your broadband modem to the 10/100/1000Mbps WAN (Wide Area Network or Internet for new users) port. Unless you are in a country such as Sweden or some others where you can actually subscribe to Gigabit internet connections, it's not going to make any difference in performance at all, since most of us are bound to ADSL2+ 24Mbit speed connections or slower usually.
Finally, we finish up with the AC power adapter where we need to mark down TRENDnet for including an adapter which supports an input of only 120 volts. When I buy any new electrical product, this is the first thing looked at - I want to make sure any product bought will work in any country I visit. TRENDnet should really consider including a slightly more expensive 100 - 240 volt adapter, which will make the router usable in all countries.
If you intend on buying this product and using it in Australia (or many others), you'll be sadly disappointed unless you go out and buy a step converter - and they aren't cheap and are usually bulky and annoying.
Move onto the next page where we get down and dirty with the router.
Our opinions are based on firmware version 18.104.22.168, 20-Jun-2008, which shipped installed with our review sample. There were no newer firmware updates online at testing time.
TRENDnet's lightweight 350 gram TEW-672GR 300Mbps Wireless N Gigabit router comes dressed up in a stylish black colour box with a glossy black plastic material top surface. It looks rather nice but smudges easily with fingerprints. The built-in NAT and SPI firewalls are said to protect you from 2000 different cyber attacks - yep, that many. You get four auto-MDIX 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit LAN (Local Area Network) ports which are conveniently coloured orange and one auto-MDIX 10/100/1000Mbps WAN port that is coloured blue to easily distinguish the difference.
Being a 300Mbps 802.11n Draft 2.0 router, there are three fixed antennas attached, each rated at 2dBi. We tried detaching the antennas with no success - you won't be able to attach bigger and more powerful antennas to increase the range of the signal.
TRENDnet's TEW-672GR router is the first which we've tested that includes Dual Band technology. It has two radios inside with one operating in the 2.4GHz frequency range band and the other operating in the 5GHz frequency range band. This means that the router is good to support all wireless modes including 802.11a, b, g and n. Do not be fooled though - you cannot operate both radios at the same time and that is a real shame. You must choose either 2.4GHz or 5GHz, which presents itself as a range of different modes in the routers' web interface, as you can see below.
You are able to choose from eight different wireless modes - missing of course from the list is the 802.11a/b/g/n mixed mode.
You will also notice the Radio On/Off section in the screenshot above. This router includes a simple yet genius manual wireless on/off toggle switch on the back of the router, easily allowing you to turn the wireless radio on or off in an instant. The beauty of this feature is that you don't need to turn the router on and off for it to take effect, nor do you need to reboot the router. This feature is extremely handy as you can quickly turn wireless on or off without having to go to a computer and log in to the router's web interface.
Another handy feature included on the TRENDnet TEW-672GR router is Wireless Protected Setup (or WPS for short). WPS allows you to quickly allow other wireless clients to join your network - providing they also have WPS support - all with the touch of a button. The TEW-672GR is also the first router we have seen that allows you to run multiple SSIDs (visible or non-visible network name). You can run up to four SSIDs, each with different security settings and MAC address filtering abilities. This is super handy if one of your wireless devices doesn't support a particular encryption security method that other devices use or if it doesn't have any wireless security at all. You don't need to leave your wireless network open to the world.
On the front of the router there are a whole bunch of various activity lights telling you what is happening. From left to right there is the power indicator, LAN1, LAN2, LAN3 and LAN4 indicators, WAN indicator, WLAN indicator and finally the WPS indicator. When powered on, the "Wireless Router" logo also lights up in an orange colour.
There are air vents on each side of the router and evidently they work well, as the router barely got warm during our testing - just a tad underneath but nothing to cause any concern.
On the back of the router we see nothing out of the ordinary with the labelling showing the serial number and MAC address. There are two mounting holes which allow you to mount the router to a wall, but the clips were not included in the package. However, some 3M non-stick hooks will easily do the job.
Setup and Installation
Routers are not usually extremely difficult to setup and make operational and this is also the case with setup and installation of the TRENDnet TEW-672GR router.
We noted no difficulties when setting up the TEW-672GR. Do note, though, that TRENDnet has opted to use the default IP range of 192.168.10.x. Normally we see IP ranges of either 192.168.0.x or 192.168.1.x being used, but this won't influence anything and you can always change the IP range in the router web interface, if you feel the need to do so.
Once you've got the router powered on, broadband modem hooked into the WAN port and a PC connected via one of the four LAN ports, go to your browser and type in 192.168.10.1 and you'll get a popup window (as you can see above) asking for the username and password.
By default the username is "Admin" and the password is blank. The first thing you should do when buying any new router is setup a password, so that any nosey neighbour cannot login to your router and wreck havoc.
The router's DHCP server is enabled by default and as you can see above, our test PC was allocated a LAN IP address of 192.168.10.100 on first use. The default DHCP start IP is 192.168.10.100 and the DHCP end IP is 192.168.10.200, of course meaning you could have up to 100 clients connected to the router.
As you can see from the screenshot below, we had no issues connecting to the router at 1000Mbps using regular CAT6 cabling.
Once you are logged in, you are granted access to the web-based interface where all the fun begins.
Web Based Interface
One of the most important features of a router is its web based interface - the place where you go to control the firmware and important settings.
Once you login, you are greeted with the above screen - the status section of the admin section. It displays all the usual information you would expect with just one exception. It has a cable status section which displays LAN port connection status - a very handy feature. It automatically refreshes every three seconds.
On the WAN screen there is nothing spectacular that stands out and we have all the usual options we expected. We did note that there is no WAN configuration option selectable for Telstra Bigpond (for Aussies) which is a requirement for their cable broadband Internet service. Combine that with the 120 volt only AC power adapter and its clear this router was not designed for the Australian market.
On the LAN screen there is nothing that stands out, but again everything we need is there.
Now we move to the wireless section and this is where things start to heat up. The first shot above shows the vast amount of different wireless modes that you can choose.
As mentioned earlier in the review, here you can enable up to a total of four SSIDs which is a stunning feature. Most routers only allow a single SSID but TRENDnet excels here. In this shot you can also see the auto channel scan feature which first examines your area and selects a wireless channel with the least amount of radio interference.
Here we get a look at the advanced wireless settings area which is also very common from what we've seen before.
Now we move onto the all important wireless security section. You have a range of options available including WEP, WPA Enterprise and Personal and also WPA2 Enterprise and Personal using either AES or TKIP ciphers or mixed mode. Since there are multiple SSIDs to choose from, here you can adjust which SSIDs have what type of security and which do not. You can also control MAC address filtering from this area which is another very handy feature, but also common amongst almost all routers.
You also get another common yet handy feature on the TEW-672GR called De-militarized Zone (or DMZ for short) which removes a single connected client from being protected by the built-in firewall. This is handy for when running uncommon programs, file sharing or gaming.
Here we get a look at the port trigger section which allows you to forward certain ports, also handy for file sharing.
Finally, we get a look at the system management section.
We used PerformanceTest 6.1 by PassMark which you can find out more information about here. It has a handy Advanced Networking section which is perfect for our testing.
Doing our best to emulate a real-world performance scenario, my main desktop PC was connected to each router directly with standard 10m long CAT6 Gigabit cable and it acted as the server (Intel Q9450 quad-core CPU and 4GB DDR3 RAM running RAID 10) and the client PC was a brand new high-end Hypersonic notebook with built-in Intel 802.11n and Gigabit adapter kindly provided by the friendly folks over at OCZ. Results were gathered by sending data from the Hypersonic notebook to the server at different distances / with different routers and determining the average transmission speed.
We compared the TRENDnet TEW-672GR router against the popular D-Link Xtreme N Gigabit DIR-655 router (you can see pricing here). All wireless tests were completed with WPA2 Personal (with the AES cipher as is proven to provide better performance) and 802.11n only wireless mode enabled on each router. Each router was placed in the exact same position as well as the notebook at its various testing locations for fair comparison.
We tried disabling security on the TEW-672GR router and noted a rather large performance decrease of exactly 10Mbit at 1m range. It was an easy decision to enable WPA2 security.
- Connection Speed
In our first test we get a look at the connection speeds for each test setup. As you would expect, we see 1Gbit connection speeds when using the CAT6 connection on both routers.
When we begin to talk about wireless, the TEW-672GR offers a higher connection speed at 1m range, but at 10m range the lead goes back to the DIR-655 and on the second floor things are dead even.
Let's make some sense of these results. First up, when we look at CAT6 speeds we can see that the DIR-655 is out in front offering 52Mbps (or 6.5MB/s) faster transfer speeds over a 60 second period.
When we begin to look at the wireless transfer speeds, we can see that the TEW-672GR beats out the DIR-655 by 8.4Mbps or about 1MB/s. However, when we move the client system 10m away from the router (non-line of sight), we see the DIR-655 jump back in front beating the TEW-672GR by 1.8Mbps or 225KB/s.
When we put each router to the test and move the client system to the second floor, the TEW-672GR is back out in front beating out the DIR-655 by a seemingly small amount - about 75KB/s. But considering the TEW-672GR is only capable of 2.4Mbps or 300KB/s vs. 225KB/s at this distance through thick walls and ceiling, it's quite a win.
Now that we've finished our exhausting long look at the TRENDnet TEW-672GR router, we are left with mixed impressions regarding our final thoughts of the product. Here's why.
On the high notes, the TEW-672GR router manages to pack in many very useful and interesting features, which we've never seen before. We really liked the ability to manually turn wireless on and off at the back of the router. We liked the fact that it is Dual Band but weren't so keen on the fact that you cannot operate 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands at the same time. We liked that the WAN and LAN ports are different colors to easily differentiate. We liked the style of the router and the fact that it doesn't generate an abnormal amount of heat.
On the not so good notes, though, Gigabit LAN performance is a good way behind the D-Link DIR-655 router and that is something we didn't expect to see. Even after re-testing many times, the results were the same. If you are the type of person that does a lot of transfers from PC to PC over the LAN, this is something you should keep in mind.
When we begin to examine wireless performance, the results are really inconsistent with no real clear cut winner between the two runners. At 1m range the TRENDnet router is out in front by a fair margin, but at 10m range the lead goes back to the DIR-655. When we move the client system to the second floor, TRENDnet is back out in front again. It's difficult to pick a winner when it comes down to wireless performance between the two, but considering that the TRENDnet router won two of the three tests, it has to take the first prize, even though it's not entirely convincing. I personally use the D-Link DIR-655 router and even after seeing the TEW-672GR perform slightly better overall in the wireless tests, I still use the D-Link product by choice. It will all come down to your individual needs - be it better LAN performance or better WLAN performance.
TRENDnet has done a good job with the web-based interface of the TEW-672GR with some good features and a couple that are unique such as multiple SSIDs on a single router (D-Link DIR-655 has a "Guest Zone" feature but that is only one extra SSID and it doesn't include zoned MAC filtering) and cable status indication, but the D-Link router still feels more intuitive and has more options and settings. Since TRENDnet doesn't go as deep as D-Link with the amount of options and features available, the TEW-672GR interface does feel easier to use and somewhat less cluttered than the D-Link router, which might be just perfect for users looking for a less comprehensive interface. Another thing I didn't like about the TEW-672GR interface was that there were no help links - D-Link has help links all throughout its interface which explain what each setting does.
D-Link has also recently dropped the price of the DIR-655 by $30 USD to around $100 USD, which makes it more affordable than the TEW-672GR by the same amount which costs a little over $130 USD - compare the prices here for reference. If the TEW-672GR was the same price as the matured and well rounded DIR-655 or better still, slightly cheaper, it would have gotten a higher rating. But with the current firmware, our opinion is that there are some better routers on the market even though TRENDnet has still done a mighty good job with the TEW-672GR.
TRENDnet would be well placed releasing a solid firmware upgrade for the TEW-672GR to fix the aforementioned issues and then I'll gladly replace the DIR-655 with it in a heartbeat, but until then we are unable to give it our very high praises.
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