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Functions, Pricing & Availability

The routing functions are the same as those found on other current Linksys routers and include scheduled Internet access policies, static and triggered port range forwarding, physical and logical port wired QoS, and Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) for wireless clients. There are also built-in dynamic DNS clients for DYNDNS.org and TZO.com, static routing, VPN pass-through and more.

Wireless features include MAC address filtering and the ability to tweak Basic and Transmit rates, Beacon and DTIM interval, etc. Kudos to Linksys for supporting WPA and WPA2, both Personal (PSK) and Enterprise (RADIUS), the latter of which requires an external RADIUS server for authentication.

But the real reason for purchasing this model will be its server capabilities, which include both data sharing and multimedia streaming. Some buyers will be pleased that the server uses a FAT32 disk format, which should allow the USB drive to be moved back and forth between a Windows PC and the SL. This should ease the pain of having to transfer all the content to be served to a single USB drive, since file copying will be faster to a directly-attached USB 2.0 drive.

The server controls appear to have the ability to define users and groups and use them for access control on multiple shares. File sharing is via SMB / CIFS only with no sign of share access via built-in FTP or HTTP server. And unlike Linksys' other wildly-popular BYOD storage product, the NSLU2 [reviewed here], there isn't a built-in backup feature

UPnP Media Server settings.

Figure 7: UPnP Media Server settings
(click image to enlarge)

Figure 7 shows the UPnP Media Server tab, which is pretty much an on / off switch. The only other controls are to scan all partitions on the attached drive for multimedia files, or to select specific partitions to scan. I couldn't find any information on the specific file types and encodings that are supported for streaming, by the way. The manual refers only to "music, video, and pictures".

If the product works well, it should provide a welcome alternative to having to install software on Windows machines in order to serve multimedia content to UPnP AV capable adapters. The downside is that you'll have to move the content to a single USB drive, which will be a serious drawback to those with large multimedia libraries.

I find it interesting that Linksys chose to base this product Broadcom's 802.11b/g SpeedBooster wireless, instead of making it a dual-band a/b/g device. I guess they've already forgotten the pitch that 11a is for streaming multimedia and 11b/g is for data that they used when trying to revive the dual-band wireless market last year.

Queries in Froogle and other on-line shopping engines came up empty, so it's safe to say that the product probably isn't in stores yet. But if Linksys is going to make it available for the coming holiday season, they'll have to announce it pretty soon. With average street pricing of the WRT54GS in the $70 - $80 range and the value-add of the built-in server, my guess is that the SL will street price in the $100 - $110 range.

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