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Wireless Reviews

Performance

Some testing and analysis by Tim Higgins

The 2910G was tested by Tim using the standard SmallNetBuilder router and wireless performance tests and added to the Router and Wireless Charts. Routing throughput test results are summarized in Table 1 below. The results reflect the relatively old Samsung CPU used and won't win any speed contests.

Test Description Throughput - (Mbps)
WAN - LAN 27.5
LAN - WAN 27.9
Total Simultaneous 27.8
Max Simultaneous Connections 40
Firmware Version 3.2.3.1
Table 1: Routing throughput

Wireless performance is in line with other 802.11g routers. There is only one other 802.11g product in the Wireless Charts with open-air test results—the Cisco / Linksys WRT54G2. The performance comparison table for both products (Figure 15) shows similar performance, with perhaps a slight edge for the 2910G at the weaker signal test locations E and F.

Wireless performance comparison - Cisco / Linksys WRT54G2

Figure 15: Wireless performance comparison - Cisco / Linksys WRT54G2

Tim's testing didn't cover VPN performance or performance with all the 2910G's security features kicked in. So I used jperf with its default settings as my TCP throughput measurement tool.  I used two laptops with a measured minimum throughput between them of 350 Mbps as my endpoints.  

In other security-focused routers I've tested recently, I've seen significant differences in upstream versus downstream throughput.  The 2910G's throughput were so close between upstream and downstream  measurements, I listed them as a single value in Table 2. 

Table 2 shows that the 2910G passes data between the LAN and WAN interfaces at 30.2 Mbps with its Security features disabled, and at 24.1 Mbps with its Security features enabled.  The Security features I enabled and disabled are the Firewall Call and Data filters, all DoS protection, and all CSM Features.  In the last column, I measured VPN throughput on a site-to-site 3DES-encrypted tunnel between the 2910G and a SonicWall TZ100W at 5.3 Mbps.

Table 1

Table 2: 2910G Routing and VPN throughput

Competitive Analysis

For a competitive measure, I compared the 2910G to a couple older routers with similar components.  I used the TZ190 from SonicWall, a dual-WAN firewall security router to compare wired performance and the WRT54G2 from Linksys, a basic 802.11g wireless router, to compare wireless performance.

Table 2

Table 3: Competitive performance comparison

As shown in Table 3, the 2910G's wired performance is comparable to the TZ190 and the 2910G's  wireless performance is comparable the the WRT54G2.  The key point is although the 2910G has solid security capabilities, it is running an older processor and wireless radio, which limit its routing and wireless speeds.

I recently reviewed Unified Threat Management devices including Netgear's UTM10 and SonicWall's TZ100W.  Those two devices have significantly more security features than the 2910G, such as anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-spam, and Intrusion Protection/Detection.  Their price tags are also significantly higher!  Take a look at Table 4.  As you can see, the 2910G holds its own for router features and supports more VPN tunnels. 

Table 2

Table 4: Competitive Feature Comparison

Certainly, the price on the 2910G is an eye-catcher.   At only $178 (Draytek devices are only sold at a couple locations to US customers, including GuideBand.com and DSL-Warehouse.com) with no annual subscription fees, the 2910G presents a very economical solution.  The content filtering from WebSense for no extra charge alone is a heck of a deal!  Equivalent content filtering capability on the TZ100W runs $95/year. 

I asked Draytek how they can deliver the Content Filtering for free, and found that is is probably a temporary situation, judging from this reply:

"I'd like to inform you that we don't need to pay for Surf Control's Web Content Filter service for the moment since Surf Control was merged by another company.  The server is still under maintenance and we could use this services till we change to another service provider."

Closing Thoughts

As a firewall, the 2910G has as many options for traffic filtering as some more advanced Cisco routers.  But as a security device, the 2910G's main value is its content filter.  Even though I made comparisons to UTM devices earlier, the 2910G isn't a UTM, nor does it pretend to be. It doesn't scan traffic for malware and other malicious software, nor does it scan for viruses.

But it does have subscription-based content filtering, which provides a step up in security over other routers. Malware is often picked up through web activity, so a quality content filter blocking access to unnecessary and unacceptable web sites is a good step toward preventing malware from ever reaching your network.

In all, I was pleasantly surprised by the Draytek 2910G.  Having never heard of the company before reviewing the device, I didn't expect much.  Draytek isn't as well known in the US as Cisco, SonicWall or Netgear. But among the in-the-know folks who do know the company, their products have a reputation for reliable performance and plenty of features.  And after spending a few weeks testing this device, I can see that reputation is well earned.

If you're looking for a relatively inexpensive, yet effective solution to control web traffic on your small network, I recommend the 2910G.  Its routing and firewall features are impressive, its content filtering is effective and it's priced right. The only downside is its performance, which isn't fast enough to keep up with any connection over 25 Mbps or so. But Draytek has plenty of other products that are built with more current processing cores that are up to the task. So we'll be putting some of those to the test on SmallNetBuilder in the near future.

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