As you have heard us say before, the average home network is getting more and more sophisticated. As this happens the amount of traffic on these networks grow. We see gaming packets, streaming audio and video, file transfers, LPR (Line Print Requests), scanned documents and much more. All of this traffic begins to slow down the average wireless home network due to the sheer amount of packets flowing over the air.
There has to be a way to segment some of this traffic off and to make sure that different types of traffic do not overlap, causing lag and stutter in data throughput. Well, there is a way (I know you knew I was going to say that). The way to fix the issue is to operate multiple frequencies on the same access point. These frequencies (called bands) also need to run concurrent and to allow the same level of access to files (if desired). There are a few of these out on the market now and they are aimed at helping to sort out all that traffic on your home network.
Today we are taking a look at a higher-end model from TRENDnet; the TEW-673GRU. This features concurrent Dual Band radios, all Gbe (Gigabit Ethernet) ports (even the WAN) and a nice LCD display on the top. With a price tag of $164.99 at NewEgg.com it is not cheap. So let's see if the TEW-673GRU is worth the price and can help to unclutter your wireless network.
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
The box that the TEW-673GRU came in follows the same packaging style that TRENDnet always uses. The front has the usual image of the product with some short bullet points about major features.
The back goes into a little more detail. This includes showing the features off and then explaining where the product fits into a home (or office) network.
Inside you will find all the goodies you need to get your TEW-673GRU set up. One thing that I found oddly absent was the usual mounting hardware for wall mounting. I was surprised that I did not see the little plastic baggy with the screws and mollies. This is in no way a deal breaker or a problem; it was just something interesting to note.
The TEW-673GRU comes covered in plastic to protect the surfaces from scratches and dents. Of course, once you remove that coating it becomes a magnet for dust. But still, at least you know you are not going to have blemishes when it arrives.
The TEW-673GRU is a sleek looking product. The glossy outer shell combined with the LCD display does give it a very nice look. I would have liked it if the display was able to tilt freely, but again, that is not going to be a deal breaker.
The front and top are clean looking with a single power light (blue LED). All other information about what is connected can be found on the LCD display. There are four buttons that control navigation around the readouts here.
The back side has the four GBe LAN ports, a single GBe WAN port and two shared USB ports for drives.
The bottom is sort of boring, but does have vents for airflow.
As we mentioned above, there is a small LCD screen on the top that can provide you with continual information as well as a few options for managing the TEW-673GRU. This is further demonstrated in the shots below.
Wireless information is available and can be broken down by the band you are using.
You can even initiate WPS (wireless protected setup) from the LCD screen and view the current PIN.
In terms of specs, the TEW-673 looks pretty good on paper, especially for their wireless transmission. For the normal frequency range of 2.4GHz they are using the standard channels 1-11, while the 5GHz band uses channels 36 - 161, but each channel is four steps off, (i.e. 36, 40, 44, 48 etc).
Both of these represent differences in the actual frequency your router is using. The 2.4GHz range is also commonly used by newer cordless phones and is also the same range that almost every other wireless router uses. So you will find that you may need to change channels to get the best signal.
Finally! I can almost rejoice for the general consumer! The setup wizard for the TEW-673GRU asks you to change your admin password as part of the setup. This has been a very long time in getting here, but it is nice to finally see it.
Chose the time zone you are in right after you make sure you change your password from the default one that anyone can find out.
Next up, you can change the LAN and DHCP settings.
TRENDnet has included quite a few options for your WAN connectivity type.
If you chose dynamic IP you also have the option to clone or set a new MAC address. This helps with certain ISPs that run MAC filtering on their DHCP systems.
You can also setup both bands for wireless connectivity. Unfortunately you cannot setup the security for them from the Wizard. That has to be done in the regular Web UI.
The setup wizard on the TEW-673GRU is almost a complete one. If they would have added in security setup for the wireless (both bands), this would have been the best wizard I have seen on a consumer product.
The WebUI on the TEW-673GRU is well done. It is simple and easy to navigate. TRENDnet has provided the basics as well as some nice advanced functions for more extreme users.
If you did not use the wizard or wanted to change your WAN type, you can do it from the Main-WAN page.
The time zone settings are more important than many people think. With another wireless router we had sync issues that at times prevented clients from connecting until we forced it to sync up with the time server. We have also seen a few routers that reset back to default at random. This also can cause clients to drop off or to have slow transfer rates (media streaming is seriously affected), so being able to set these right and have them stick is a good thing.
The rest of the items under the main tab are self-explanatory.
The items under the wireless networking tab are pretty simple. After using the wizard you will want to head here and setup security for your wireless networks.
For Security Cypher we recommend you use AES for the best security and performance. However, there are some older adapters (even N adapters) that do not like this cypher mode, so you might end up back at Auto. You can also change your WPS PIN and settings in this area.
The Status pages have information on your TEW-673GRU as well as detailed information on the amount of traffic going over the different connectivity points (LAN, 2.4GHz and 5GHz).
As you can probably guess, the routing section is where you would setup any static routes needed for your network. It is also where you can view the existing routing table in use by the TEW-673GRU. For most people this section will never be used, but it is nice to have for more advanced users.
The WebUI - Continued
The Access pages are some of the most important for power users. Here you can tell your router what to let in and out, you can filter traffic based on protocol type, domain and MAC address. You also have options for setting up your firewall, a DMZ (for servers that cannot work through the firewall filters) and Quality of Service.
Blocking by domain is fairly easy as long as you know the full domain URL.
MAC filtering is one of the most common; when creating a whitelist you can often use the DHCP client listing found in the Main section.
Blocking by protocol can be quick and easy, but you can sometimes end up locking out items that you do not intend if you are not careful.
The virtual server settings tells the router what IP to send different types of traffic like E-mail (SMTP), FTP, HTTP(s), etc.
Special AP is a filter that allows you to setup wide ranges of ports for certain applications to use. This allows the firewall to understand the traffic it is letting out and to check the packets going through.
In the firewall settings you can open or lock down ports and port ranges for both the LAN and WAN side of your network.
QoS (Quality of Service) can be used to improve throughput of certain types of traffic or all traffic to a port or ports. The QoS engine on the TEW-673GRU is also a smart engine. It can learn the traffic in use on the network and automatically adjust to keep everything going over your network.
The only item under Management is remote management. Here you can setup some basic rules for what the firewall should do with traffic, like L2TP (Layer 2 Tunnelling Protocol), PPTP (Point to Point Tunnelling Protocol), UPNP (Universal Plug and Play), Pings (which is an ICMP Echo request) on the WAN port and Multicast streams. We recommend turning off UPNP and Pings at the WAN port.
The tools section is very simple. This is where you go to update your firmware, reboot the TEW-673GRU, backup or restore your configuration settings and send a Ping test.
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, I setup a server running Windows 2008 R2 (x64) Server, (2x Xeon Quad Core 3.0 GHz 1333MHz FSB, 4GB DDR2 FB-DIMMS, 2x 146GB SAS drives in RAID 1) and the client PC was an MSI Wind 200 With built-in Intel 802.11n (Intel WiFi Link 5100 AGN) adapter. The results were gathered by sending data from the MSI netbook to the server at different distances with the built in adapter, a TPLink TL-WN821N and then a TRENDnet TEW-644UB Dual Band Adapter so we could test both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Average transmission speeds were recorded for each.
We had some interesting results here. With the 2.4GHz band we saw the usual, between 64 and 150Mbps connections. With the 5GHz band we saw all the way down to 20Mbps. We also did not see anything above 81! - This began to worry us, so we tinkered around with some things in the setup for that band. What we found was using the default channel of 36 was a bad idea. It never got a decent connection and transfer speeds were in the single digits.
In the end we found that channel 153 (5.765GHz for us) was the best for connection and speed. With this channel going our 5GHz band stayed between 81-150Mbps and speeds were excellent, as you will see below.
*signal travelling through wet wall and main house electrical panel
Looking at the speeds here, the TEW-673GRU does not do too badly at all. Even when penetrating multiple walls and walls with electrical lines in them, we maintain good speeds on both bands. For laughs we ran some MKV files over each of the bands from the same NAS source (and in the same folder) and we had smooth playback on both. We also tried a large file move over the 2.4GHz band (again to the same NAS source) while watching the same HD MKV file on the 5GHz band and things were still quite stable and clean. I was very impressed.
I want to preface this conclusion with this. When I first received the TEW-673GRU I had heard there were issues with it running with both bands enabled. I had heard it had limited range and that the speed on it was not good. When I ran into the connection speed issues on the 5GHz band I thought I had found these claims to be true. However, with a bit of tinkering I was able to find a channel that worked well for me.
What I think the issue is here is that most consumers do not know how to, or even that they can adjust the channels on the wireless routers. They get something, it does not work and they complain. I have to say that with a little (ten minutes) effort, I now have one of the better routers I have worked with. I am able to see traffic at a glance on the LCD. I can easily stream even HD video over my network without compromising other traffic and I get all GBe ports to connect to the rest of my GBe network; all this at only $164.99 from NewEgg.com.
There are things I would have liked to see different; like a tilting screen and a more complete wizard, but overall I cannot complain about its performance. It has and still is doing everything I have asked of it without missing a beat. It is true that it does not have the range we have seen from a few routers with a G+N only setting, but this is across the board for WiFi Radios that lump B, G and N together and not a TRENDnet issue.