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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Features

The 120N's wireless controls are also Linksys standard. Figure 6 shows the Basic Wireless settings once you switch from the default Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) mode to the Manual setting mode. Network Modes are Disabled, Mixed (default), BG-Mixed, Wireless-B only, Wireless-G only and Wireless-N only.

Basic wireless settings

Figure 6: Basic wireless settings

You can select channels only when in 20 MHz only or 40 MHz only Channel Width modes. When the Auto (20 or 40 MHz) Channel Width mode is chosen, the channel selector is forced to Auto.

I successfully made a WPA2 / AES connection to the 120N using the WPS PIN method supported by my standard Intel 5300 AGN WiFi Link test client using the Intel PROSet Wireless Connection Utility (version 12.4.0.0).

Figure 7 shows the Advanced Wireless Settings that include Transmit Rate and AP Isolation, which keeps wireless clients from communicating with each other. I almost reused the Advanced Wireless screenshot from the recent WRT160NL review. But the 120N has a Frame Burst control (enabled by default) that the 160NL doesn't. Neither, however, allows you to set the transmit power level.

Advanced Wireless Settings

Figure 7: Advanced Wireless Settings

Wireless Performance

As I explained in the Belkin N150 review, the maximum link rate that a draft 802.11n client or adapter using single-stream N will report is 65 Mbps with the 120N in its out-of-the-box configuration. This what you'll see displayed in Windows' Network Connection Properties or any client utility that reports the client link rate.

You only get the 150 Mbps shown in the Speed icon on the side of the product box (Figure 8), when you set the router to the spectrum-hogging 40 MHz bandwidth mode.

WRT120N routing performance
Click to enlarge image

Figure 8: Speed and Coverage Icons

Note that this is the only place that there is any reference to the 150 Mbps connect speed limitation of the 120N—or any speed reference, for that matter. When I asked Cisco why these handy icons were not displayed on the 120N's web page or on the data sheet, they said only that they "don't show these on any of the products".

I tested using the open air test method described here and performed two full test runs, plus other spot testing. I used my standard test client, an Intel Wi-Fi Link 5300 AGN mini-PCIe card and 12.4.0.21 driver inside a Dell Mini 12 running WinXP Home SP3.

I first performed test runs with the adapter Draft 11n mode and throughput enhancement enabled with both 20 and 40 MHz bandwidth modes set in the router. I then disabled the Intel client's draft 11n mode and throughput enhancement, essentially converting it into an 802.11b/g client. I then ran tests with the router set to 20 MHz and 40 MHz modes. Note that with an 802.11b/g adapter, it shouldn't matter whether the router is set to 40 MHz mode, since the adapter doesn't know how to speak that "language".

In all tests, I left the router set to its default Mixed Wireless mode, since that's what most users would do. I also set the router to Channel 1 for all tests (Wide Channel 3 when switched to 40MHz only Channel Width).

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