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{mospagebreak toctitle= Introduction}

Introduction

Linksys appears to be readying a new wireless router that integrates a UPnP media server. This is a first for Linksys, which has previously stuck to the media adapter end of things with its WMA11B wireless media adapter for music and still images [reviewed here] and WMCE54AG Dual-Band Wireless A/G Media Center Extender.

The WRTSL54GS straight up

Figure 1: The WRTSL54GS straight up

The WRTSL54GS Wireless-G Media Storage Link Router with SpeedBooster (Figures 1 and 2) is packaged in the latest iteration of Linksys' enclosure design.

The WRTSL54GS

Figure 2: The WRTSL54GS in repose
(click image to enlarge)

The front panel (Figure 3) shows that it will support the SecureEasySetup feature [more info here] for setting up a WPA-secured wireless LAN with the push of a button that sports the SecureEasySetup logo instead of the Cisco logo used on the latest version of its venerable sibling, the WRT54G. The specs for the unit actually say it supports WPA2, but SecureEasySetup can't handle auto-setup of WPA2 yet.

WRTSL54GS front panel

Figure 3: WRTSL54GS front panel
(click image to enlarge)

The rear panel view (Figure 4) shows four 10/100 Ethernet ports, single 10/100 WAN port and one USB 2.0 port for connection of USB flash or hard drives that contain the content to be served.

WRTSL54GS rear panel
Figure 4: WRTSL54GS rear panel
(click image to enlarge)


Inside Story

The internal view pictures from the FCC ID filing aren't the clearest, but you can make out some construction details in Figures 5 and 6. The box is powered by a Broadcom BCM4704KPB wireless network processor, with a Broadcom-based radio (as you would expect from the "SpeedBooster" moniker). There is 32MB of Hynix HY5DU51622DT-J RAM (with an empty set of pads looking to be ready in case more is needed) and 16MB of Intel TE28F640 flash.

Covers off view

Figure 5: Covers off view
(click image to enlarge)

The USB port is handled by an NEC controller and I suspect disk drive functions might be the responsibility of the Broadcom chip whose number I can't decipher in the lower left corner of Figure 5.


Figure 6: Close up of main board
(click image to enlarge)

It's disappointing that there is only one USB 2.0 port and I hope that the design allows for the attachment of more drives by using a USB hub. But the User Guide consistently refers to only one disk, so we'll just have to wait until the product ships to know for sure.


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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