Linksys Dual-Band Wireless-N Gigabit Router WRT320N
At a Glance
Linksys by Cisco Dual-Band Wireless-N Gigabit Wireless Router (802.11b/g/Draft N, 128 Bit WEP, WPA2)
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With very good performance and routing features, excellent software, and optional parental controls, the WRT320N is a great choice for families.
Priced at $110 (as of April 20, 2009), the Linksys Dual-Band Wireless-N Gigabit Router WRT320N is the sole router in this review that can operate on either the 2.4GHz or the 5GHz Wi-Fi band. Though we didn't test the WRT320N's 5GHz performance, the router exhibited very good throughput overall on the 2.4GHz band, at both short and long range.
If you're surrounded by neighboring Wi-Fi networks, and if all of your devices can operate over 5GHz (most newer laptops with built-in 802.11n adapters support both bands), switching to 5GHz could be the answer to your interference problems. Be forewarned, though: 5GHz 802.11n does not have quite as good range as the 2.4GHz band.
The WRT320N has a sleek spaceship-style design and very good features. It also has an excellent software utility called LELA that goes beyond standard setup tasks to include features like network maps and device information, making it useful for ongoing network monitoring.
What makes the Linksys interesting for families is its embedded Home Network Defender software from Trend Micro and Cisco. A $60 yearly subscription is required, but a 30-day trial is included. Home Network Defender provides flexible but strong parental controls, Web surfing protection against phishing sites and malware, and full Trend Micro Antivirus + Antispyware software for up to four PCs.
Centralizing parental controls for the entire network on the router yields far easier and stronger protection than putting them on individual PCs, where attackers have many ways to circumvent them.
We're still not convinced of the value of the 5GHz band option, but the WRT320N is a very good router even without it, especially for homes that can use the parental controls.