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Wireless Reviews

Introduction

Linksys Instant Wireless-G Broadband Router

At a Glance
Product Linksys Instant Wireless-G Broadband Router (WRT54G)
Summary Broadcom based 802.11g Router
Update 2/1/2004 Wireless bridging support for WAP54G added in Version 2.02.2 firmware.
Pros • No WEP enabled performance degradation
• Removable antennas
• Inbound and Outbound traffic logging
Cons • Mixed mode operation kills draft-11g client throughput

Linksys' WRT54G Wireless-G Broadband Router seems to be more popular than its WAP54G Access Point sibling, or maybe it's just the marketing push that Linksys is putting behind it. At any rate I received it a few weeks ago and used it extensively for the draft-11g performance testing that I did for the 802.11g NeedToKnow, and figured it was time to give it a review of its own.

Although both it and the previously reviewed WAP54G run on essentially the same Broadcom platform, the WRT54G came with newer firmware that yielded significant performance differences.

Basic Features

The WRT54G comes in Linksys' usual purple and grey plastic box. All indicator lights are on the front of the box and are bright and viewable from a wide angle. The indicators include Link/Activity, Full/Collision and 100Mbps for the four 10/100 LAN ports and one 10/100 Ethernet WAN connection, separate Activity and Link lights for the wireless LAN connection, and Power, Diag, DMZ general indicators.

The DMZ indicator is supposed to be lit whenever the DMZ feature - which opens up all ports to one selected LAN machine - is enabled, but I couldn't get it to light. Linksys appears to have improved the function of the wireless Activity LED, so that it blinks only when there is wireless activity instead of constantly as it did on the WAP54G. The wireless Link LED is actually more of a wireless On/Off indicator, and shuts off only when you set the Wireless Mode selector in the admin interface to Disabled and shut off the router's radio.

Four 10/100 LAN ports, one 10/100 WAN port and power jack are on the rear panel, along with the Reset switch, which serves both reboot and reset-to-factory-defaults functions. Note that all ports are auto MDI / MDI-X which means they'll figure out how to connect to whatever you plug into them, including switches or hubs if you decide to expand the number of ports.

Linksys includes a wall-mounting plate that does double-duty as an adapter to allow Linksys' smaller boxes (such as their 5 port switch) to be stacked with their "normal" sized boxes. Also included are a CD with the PDF User Guide and Windows-based Setup Wizard, normal UTP Ethernet cable, and second CD with a trial version of Symantec's Norton Internet Security suite.

Inside

The router uses a Linksys-branded WM54G mini-PCI radio. But a quick look at Figures 1 and 2 below reveals that Linksys hasn't strayed very far from Broadcom's BCM94306MP reference design.

Broadcom mini-PCI radio

Figure 1: Broadcom BCM94306MP mini-PCI radio

Linksys WM54G mini-PCI radio

Figure 2: Linksys WM54G mini-PCI radio

The radio card plugs into a connector on the main board, which is based on Broadcom's BCM4702 Wireless Network Processor, supported by RAM, Flash memory, and an ADMtek 6996 for the 10/100 WAN Ethernet port and four 10/100 switched LAN ports.

The radio is cabled to two RP-TNC style connectors (that Linksys uses throughout its 802.11b product line) which have two moveable, jointed dipole antennas attached.

That about wraps up the internal exam. Let's move on to the setup.

NOTE! Note: Since the WRT54G is based on a different processor platform, you should not assume that it has the same features as other Linksys routers such as the BEFW11S4. I'll point out some of the more noticeable differences during the review.

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