We've never seen as much excitement surrounding a router/modem as there's been around the Fritz!Box. Long before its release people were excited by the specs alone, and they do read very well indeed. It's a good thing that so much enthusiasm preceded the Fritz!Box's arrival, as it came in a box that looked like it belonged in a crazy bargains shop, the first part of the name in English usually means something that's broken down and the cheap plastic design didn't bode well at all. Good thing it defied expectations then, eh?
Specs at a glance
|Annex M||No (firmware update available to add this)|
|3G modem||Through USB|
|Highest wireless security||WPA2|
|Ethernet ports||4x gigabit|
|USB print sharing/storage||Storage, printers, 3G, passthrough|
|Accessories||Ethernet cable, phone cable, PC Range ADSL/phone splitter, RJ45 Y cable, RJ45 > RJ12 converters|
Connections? The 7390 has a few. This is a fully fledged VoIP-enabled modem/router, with many features above the norm. One thing it doesn't have, though, is a power button, requiring you to pull the power cord to force restart it. You can even tell the first LAN port to act as a WAN port if you so desire, meaning that if one day the fabled National Broadband Network does come to your house you'll potentially be able to pull the fabled 1Gbps that should one day be available using this very box.
The two USB ports are flexible by router standards, understanding storage, printers and 3G broadband sticks. It even has a "remote" feature if the router doesn't understand the device, making it act as if it's connected directly to a machine on the network. However, you'll need to install AVM's software on the intended client computer for this to work.
DSL/telephone line in, phone 1 and 2 connections, ISDN connection, USB port, 4x gigabit Ethernet ports and power socket. There's another USB port on the right-hand side.
What you can't see is perhaps the most interesting part of the Fritz!Box 7390: a DECT base station, which can sync with up to six phones. While the Fritz!Box already commands a hefty fee, if you want a Fritz!-branded phone that handles both PSTN and VoIP calls it'll set you back AU$129 per handset and base station (although if you buy a handset with a 7390, the first one will only set you back AU$100). The Fritz!Fon is excellent, with an easy to understand key layout, high resolution screen and the ability to make phone calls using the G.722 codec for higher quality audio — so long as the receiver's handset is also capable of this. The weedy ear speaker on the Fon doesn't do G.722 justice over the standard telephone call quality; however, if you pop it into speaker mode or use your own headphones through the 3.5mm jack, you can gain an appreciation for new-found quality. It's not a revelation by any means, but it does make phone calls much more pleasant.
Fritz!Fon abilities, like the Box, go beyond the norm. On top of the usual phone book, call history and answering machine settings, you can check your email on it, get internet radio on it, read RSS feeds or playback podcasts. You can even control the Fritz!Box from the Fritz!Fon, allowing you to turn off the wireless, or update the firmware. We're not finished yet, though — you can also get the Fon to act as an alarm to give you a wake-up call (with two separate alarms available, scheduled on specific days if necessary), and a baby monitor that reacts to sound. Exceed a certain noise level for long enough, and the Fritz!Fon calls a predefined phone number.
The Fritz!Fon is a lovely piece of equipment, but sure isn't cheap. Internode sells them for AU$129 each, or if you bundle one with a Fritz!Box, it adds an extra AU$100.
(Screenshot by CBS Interactive)
If all this isn't compelling enough for you, the Fritz!Box will talk to a number of existing DECT phones, supports SIP calls, and there are even apps available for Android- and iOS-based devices so you can make calls through your mobile phone. While it doesn't pull in your mobile phone's phone book (AVM, consider it on our wishlist), it does list your most recent calls and pulls the phone book you've created on the Fritz!Box itself.
Everything attached to the Fritz!Box will be treated as part of an internal network as well. Sick of yelling to the kids upstairs that it's time for dinner? Just ring their phone for absolutely no charge, as everything's being conducted over your local network.
The modem/router offers more options on top of this. Call diversion is included as is call through; that is, you can call the Fritz!Box first, enter a PIN and then a destination number to be routed to. This is mainly used as a way of turning a fixed line call into an internet call, potentially reducing costs.
There are a myriad of other options for the configuring and setting up of voice services on the Fritz!Box, but the remaining big feature is simply blocking: allowing you to either block incoming numbers, or block phones that are connected to the Fritz!Box from calling certain numbers. There's even support for ranges, so you can easily prevent calls to things such as premium phone services (yes, those ones on ads after 12am) or the local Domino's pizza.
Oh yeah — want fax capability? It's here too.
UI and features
Sit with us, this might take a while.
Unlike the garish blue, yellow and red design of the cardboard box, the FritzBox's user interface (UI) is comparably muted, allowing the three disparate colours to work well together. Beyond that, it's also an extremely easy and useful UI to use. If you're stuck, there's usually a help button in the bottom right, too, that gives you access to the manual ... so long as you're online. While we like the idea that having a manual online allows the company to update the documentation, if your problem is that you can't get your modem online, well, you're screwed. Our review sample included no software or printed manual.
AVM loves stats and details, and so do we!
(Screenshot by CBS Interactive)
Live updated diagnostic graphs are everywhere, as is information you'd usually have to pull out through SNMP or set up some sort of intermediate Linux box to grab. Even stuff you usually wouldn't see, like who the manufacturer of your DSLAM is. For diagnostics, the Fritz!Box also separates your logs into Telephony, Internet, USB devices, WLAN and System, so you can quickly track down your problem. It's all incredibly readable and useful. The AVM engineers deserve a round of applause.
Stat, stat, stat
(Screenshot by CBS Interactive)
AVM is also mindful of upgrades — while the German version of the router gets firmware in advance of Australia, it's interesting to see what's down the pipeline, and AVM has recently allowed international users to test the features earlier, if they feel ready. With the tested firmware, the limit of "child protection" was a per-device schedule for when the internet was on or off. With an upgrade to newer firmware, you now have access to block specific websites or ports, or set up a whitelist — something sorely missing at the time of testing.