Wireless Routers: The Truth About Superfast Draft-N

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Asus 240 MIMO Wireless Router (WL-566gM)

Asus 240 MIMO router: Fast, few frills.
Asus 240 MIMO router: Fast, few frills.
The Asus 240 MIMO is based on the same Airgo Gen3 chip set as the Netgear RangeMax 240 (with which it shared top performance honors), but otherwise it's quite different. Some of its features are better, such as a three-year warranty, support for authentication by a Radius server (an important feature for many enterprise customers), and a tool for wireless-encryption setup. In other respects the Asus suffers by comparison.

For example, its installation is essentially a manual affair, with no PC-based setup wizard or automatic settings detection. The quick-start guide's pictures are too small to decipher, and the Web-based quick-setup mode doesn't explain any of the required choices; we had to refer back to the printed quick-start guide for help.

Our chief complaint, however, has to do with the router's main configuration screen. Context-sensitive help comes solely in the form of roll-over pop-ups, which makes quick comparisons of options difficult. Also, when you type in an encryption passphrase, you see a series of asterisks--a common security precaution--and, for WEP, the resulting hexadecimal key. But because you aren't asked to enter the passphrase in a confirmation window, you can't know for sure whether you've input a long passphrase correctly. Even worse, we couldn't find any way to retrieve the current key information from within the router, a common task. The Asus does have an encryption setup utility, eliminating the need to enter codes on the client side, but it works only with Asus adapter cards.

We also had problems with this product's client card and connection utility. While equipment based on Airgo Networks' True MIMO Gen3 technology is supposed to be interoperable, the Asus card would not connect to the Netgear RangeMax 240 router with WPA2 encryption. The utility showed the encryption for the connection as WEP, and wouldn't let us specify WPA2. The same thing happened when we tried to use Windows to set up wireless encryption on the Asus card, and we had no way to resolve the issue without changing to the less secure WPA on the Netgear router (Asus says that its latest drivers, released as we neared press time, correct the problem). Another concern was that both the Asus and Netgear adapters connected to the Asus router only with WPA, even though we set the router to use WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK (it does not have WPA-PSK-only or WPA2-PSK-only modes); we would have preferred to use the stronger WPA2-PSK scheme.

We liked the nicely designed white plastic Asus case, with its band of indicator lights on the front edge. It's superficially like the Netgear RangeMax 240's, but bigger and heavier, and it has taller and beefier antennas that might account for its performance edge. The case also includes wall-mount holes. However, the Asus model's great price and performance do not completely compensate for its usability issues, and inexperienced users especially will be better served by the Netgear RangeMax 240.

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