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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Features

It may be helpful to open the wireless summary table in a new tab or window as a reference.

Like the routing features, the wireless features of this group are more alike than different. All support both 802.11n 20 and 40 MHz bandwidth modes and let you switch off the draft 11n features entirely by setting them to a mixed b / g only mode and in some cases b only and g only modes, too.

The D-Links and Linksyses will scan and automatically set themselves to a channel to try to avoid nearby networks, while the Belkin and Trendnet don't have this feature. All products let you shut off the radio completely, but none support WDS bridging / repeating.

The good news for wireless security is that all products support WEP, WPA and WPA2. Almost all support both "Home" (PSK) and "Enterprise" (RADIUS) modes for WPA and WPA2; the Belkin supports PSK only.

On the downside, all products, except one, exhibited a 50%+ throughput penalty for using WEP or WPA/TKIP. The exception was the Ralink-based Belkin F5D8233-4, which showed no significant throughput reduction in any of its wireless security modes.

While testing these products I stumbled upon the mess that is the current state of Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) implementation. That sorry tale is documented in the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) Need To Know. If you plan to use WPS, I suggest that you read the NTK, since there are a few "gotchas" that will prevent you from having success with this supposedly simple-to-use technology.

All products except the Linksys WRT150N support WPS, but they differ in where the settings end up after a WPS session. Table 2 is taken from the WPS NTK and summarizes what I found.

  D-Link DWA-642
[Atheros]
D-Link DIR-615 (B2)
[Atheros]
- Success. PBC and PIN
- AP always reports WPA-only / TKIP
- STA usually reports WPA / TKIP, sometimes reports WPA2/AES
D-Link DIR-625 (C1)
[Atheros]
- Success. PBC and PIN
- AP always reports WPA-only / TKIP
- STA usually reports WPA2 / AES
Linksys WRT160N
[Broadcom]
- Success. PBC and PIN
- AP reports WPA2, TKIP or AES
- STA reports WPA2 / AES
Trendnet TEW-632BRP (A1.0R)
[Atheros]
- Success. PBC and PIN
- AP reports WPA-Auto / TKIP
- STA reports WPA2 / TKIP
Belkin F5D8233-4 (Ver. 4000)
[Ralink]
- Success. PBC and PIN
- AP reports WPA / TKIP
- STA reports WPA / TKIP
Table 2: WPS Test Results

I must call out the Trendnet TEW-632BRP and Linksys WRT150N for their violation of their Wi-Fi Draft 2.0 certification. As I found with the Linksys WRT600N and Edimax BR-6504n, the Trendnet and Linksys improperly default to 40 MHz, channel-bonded operation instead of the 20 MHz bandwidth mode certification requirement. (Edimax has issued new firmware to fix the problem, while Linksys has not.)

I asked both companies whether they had plans to bring their products into compliance with their Certification. Linksys said it had no plans, since the WRT150N is being replaced by the WRT160N (which properly defaults to 20 MHz mode). Trendnet expressed surprise at my discovery, but then did not answer the question.

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