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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Security

I tested for throughput reduction with wireless security set to WEP, WPA/TKIP and WPA2/AES and found a 60% penalty in WEP and WPA/TKIP (Figure 10). I also measured a 12% reduction when using WPA2 / AES.

Security mode comparison - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz channel, downlink

Figure 10: Security mode comparison - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz channel, downlink

Wireless Performance - Competitive Comparison

I chose the top three best-performing dual-band routers to compare with the WRT320N, i.e. the WRT610N, WRT400N and D-Link DIR-628.

Figure 11 shows that the 320N is the leader only in Location A, with 68.4 Mbps. In looking at the rest of the throughput vs. location plots, however, it doesn't look like the 320N is a consistent winner. So I'll use comparison tables to ease the burden of finding the best of the group.

Competitive comparison - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz channel, downlink

Figure 10: Competitive comparison - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz channel, downlink

Table 2 summarizes the highest downlink throughput product in each location for the four combinations of bands and modes tested and Table 3 compares uplink results. The chart was generated by going through the six-location comparison plots and putting an X in the product's box that had the highest throughput for each test. If values are within 0.5 Mbps of each other, they each get an "X".

Product 2.4GHz /20 2.4GHz / 40 5GHz / 20 5GHz / 40
A B C D E F A B C D E F A B C D E F A B C D E F
Linksys WRT610N             X   X                              
Linksys WRT400N   X X X X X       X X X   X X         X        
Linksys WRT320N X         X   X         X     X     X   X X    
D-Link DIR-628                                                
Table 2: Best downlink throughput summary

Adding up the checkmarks for each product shows that the WRT400N is the clear overall winner for both down and uplink in the 2.4 GHz band. But the 320N beats the crowd in 5 GHz, particularly running downlink.

Product 2.4GHz /20 2.4GHz / 40 5GHz / 20 5GHz / 40
A B C D E F A B C D E F A B C D E F A B C D E F
Linksys WRT610N X           X X X       X           X          
Linksys WRT400N   X X X X X       X X X   X   X       X        
Linksys WRT320N               X             X           X X    
D-Link DIR-628                                                
Table 3: Best uplink throughput summary

Closing Thoughts

The WRT320N is Cisco's attempt to lower the price of stepping up to a dual-band draft 11n router that includes a desirable Gigabit Ethernet switch by using a single, switchable radio and driving down parts count. Unfortunately, with the lowest current street price of $110, they haven't made it a good enough deal.

For only around $20 more, you can get the WRT400N, which allows simultaneous operation in both 2.4 and 5 GHz and was a better overall wireless performer in our tests. My advice is to give up on the Gigabit switch in favor of simultaneous dual-band and better wireless performance. Cheap gigabit switches are easy to find. Good, (relatively) cheap, simultaneous dual-band draft 802.11n routers are not.

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