|At a Glance|
|Product||SMC Barricade N ProMax Draft 11n Wireless 4-port Gigabit Broadband Router (SMCWGBR14-N)
SMC EZ Connect N Draft 11n Wireless Cardbus Adapter (SMCWCB-N2)
|Summary||Clone of the Trendnet TEW-633GR with multifunction USB print / scanner server added|
|Pros||• Gigabit WAN and LAN, excellent routing speed & jumbo frame support
• Top-of-chart simultaneous sessions
• WDS Bridging / Repeating
• Multifunction USB printer/scanner server
• Poor range with companion notebook client card
• High throughput variation
• Companion client does not properly support WPS
It has been years since we have reviewed a product from SMC, a company that once had the consumer router market in the palm of its hand with the original Barricade router. But it never seemed to recover from a botched product transition from the original to next-generation Barricade. And when they decided to stop pursuing the consumer market a few years ago in favor of carriers and resellers, I just let them drop from my "must review" list.
A recent change in SMC's PR representation, however, made me decide to take another look. They chose to send their top-of-the-line draft 802.11n router and a companion card, so let's see what they have to offer.
It turns out that SMC has taken the same approach with the SMCWGBR14-N as Trendnet did with its TEW-633GR, which I reviewed back in February. The FCC ID identifies it as a rebadged U-MEDIA WRT-390U, which is essentially a clone of D-Link's market-leading DIR-655 [reviewed].
The one difference between the TEW-633GR and the SMCWGBR14-N is that SMC chose to leave the USB connector on the WRT-390U's board, which provides a USB multifunction printer and scanner sharing server. Other than that, the feature set is the same and closely matches that of the D-Link DIR-655.
Since the SMCWGBR14-N and TEW-633GR both reference the U-MEDIA WRT-390U (the SMC carries the U-MEDIA FCC ID number;the Trendnet has its own FCC ID, whose documents reference the U-MEDIA product), I would expect them to be identical. But that was not what I found when I opened the product.
According to the FCC ID photo, I should have found a Ubicom 5160 processor, an Atheros 5416 baseband/MAC chip and AR2133 3T3R MIMO 2.4 GHz radio (AR5008 series) and Vitesse VSC7385 gigabit switch, as shown in the fuzzy FCC ID doc photo in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Internal board view of the SMCWGBR14-N and TEW-633GR - FCC photo
But when I opened the 14-N to take a clearer picture of its innards, I was surprised to find that it uses a Realtek RTL8366SR gigabit switch instead of the Vitesse. While this is surprising, I don't think it's a violation of FCC rules, which I believe require filing for a permissive change or new FCC ID only when there are circuit or component changes that change RF characteristics. Still, it was a surprise.
Figure 2: Internal board view of the SMCWGBR14-N - reviewed product
More significant, however, is that the 14-N doesn't have heatsinks on either the Ubicom processor or Realtek switch or even a thermal pad like the Trendnet product has on its Ubicom CPU (Figure 3). Given that both these components can generate a good amount of heat, I think this is a poor tradeoff of lower manufacturing cost for reliability and stability.
Figure 3: Internal board view of the TEW-633GR - reviewed product
I always ask vendors to send a "matching" or "recommended" client card along with routers for test. I do this because it gives the manufacturer the best chance of having good test results. SMC sent the SMCWCB-N2 EZ Connect N Draft 11n Wireless Cardbus Adapter, whose board is shown in Figure 4.
I was surprised to see that it used a Ralink RT2800 series chipset, consisting of an RT2860T Baseband/MAC and RT2820 2T3R 2.4 GHz Transceiver. As we'll see when we review Wireless Performance, this card did not show the 14-N in its best light.