Room for Improvement
The latest Wi-Fi flavor--802.11n--kicks out some blazing wireless speeds, but official ratification of the standard is dragging. We've at least moved on from the pre-n gear that was part of an early mad rush to market. Draft-n gear is the latest in wireless networking, and it should be pretty close to matching the final specification. Some pre-n devices didn't play well together, but don't be too wary about jumping the gun on buying the new draft-n gear: The Wi-Fi Alliance is conducting certification tests that will guarantee interoperability and backward compatibility with other manufacturers. Look for the "Wi-Fi certified 802.11n draft 2.0" designation on packaging.
Wireless equipment doesn't always top the charts when it comes to ease of use, but there have been some welcome improvements. The Belkin N1 Vision sports an informative LCD screen that makes it easy to see what's going on with your router. It displays the number of connected computers, a guest key for guest access, speeds and trouble-shooting information. If you've already invested in gear from Buffalo, then you'll enjoy the setup convenience of its Air-Station One-Touch Secure Sys-tem, or AOSS. The Wireless-N Nfiniti Router (WZR2-G300N) comes equipped with AOSS so that secure connections with other AOSS devices are a button-push away. The tradeoff for this router's attractive price point ($100) is that it comes with 10/100 Ethernet rather than gigabit.
Most new draft-n routers will run you about $180 to $200, and the $180 D-Link Xtreme N Gigabit Router DIR-655 is no exception. But along with the increased speeds and range of draft-n, the DIR-655 offers Intelligent QoS Technology that gives priority to high-bandwidth data streams like video and VoIP to help keep streaming video from stuttering.
The Netgear RangeMax Next Wireless-N Router (WNR834B) also comes in a gigabit Ethernet edition. The preset internal antennas take the guesswork out of setting them and make for a compact device.
As with most manufacturers, 24/7 technical support is available to help you out should you need it. The Linksys Wireless-N Gigabit Security Router (WRVS4400N) comes stocked with four gigabit Ethernet ports and a VPN that makes it a good candidate for installation in a telecommuter's office or home office where you need to connect back to the main office securely.
The ZyXel NBG-460N has a removable antenna and plenty of easy-to-use features, such as a web wizard setup and one-button security between router and adapters. Yet an-other draft-n option to consider is SMC Networks' SMCWBR14-N Barricade N Wireless Broadband Router.
The wave of the future for Wi-Fi is 802.11n, whose increased range and capabilities are big selling points. It's backward-compatible with 802.11b/g devices, but you'll get the best performance by pairing a draft-n router with draft-n adapters on your devices. Consider paying more if you want gigabit ports or extra features. Otherwise, budget buyers can save with a basic 10/100 draft-n router.