EnGenius XtraRange ESR300H router review: Short on everything

CNET editor Dong Ngo reviews EnGenius' new ESR300H High Power 300Mbps Wireless N Router.

The EnGenius ESR300H High Power 300Mbps Wireless N router is supercompact, even with the 2 external antennas sticking up from its back.
The EnGenius ESR300H High Power 300Mbps Wireless N router is supercompact, even with the 2 external antennas sticking up from its back. Dong Ngo/CNET

Speaking of a total letdown.

I was very excited to get my hands on EnGenius' latest router, the ESR300H --the first in EnGenius' new XtraRange family --expecting to have some fun, at least with its range. There was no fun to be had at all.

The ESR300H is a basic single-band wireless router with almost nothing to show for itself. If it had come out two years ago, it would have been a decent router. Now that the Wireless-N standard has fully matured, the ESR300H is far behind its time.

The ESR300H is a simple single-band budget router with all ports supporting the regular 10/100 Ethernet standard.
The ESR300H is a simple single-band budget router with all ports supporting the regular 10/100 Ethernet standard.

The router offers 300Mbps Wireless-N on the 2.4GHz band. It indeed showed some extra range, being able to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal farther than others of the same pricing. Effectively, however, in my testing, it should be used within about 75 feet if you want decent wireless performance.

And even when used in close range, the connection wasn't guaranteed to be so decent all the time. I found that the router would randomly disconnect its wireless clients and then reconnect, causing applications that require a reliable Internet connection, such as large file downloading or online gaming, to fail. This didn't happen all the time, but in my trials, it happened as early as just 1.5 hours from the moment a connection was established.

To add to the insult, when I could get a reliable connection (which did happen, to the router's credit), the router's wireless data rate was mediocre, being the slowest I've seen. Again, two years ago, this performance wouldn't have seemed too terrible, but now this is borderline unacceptable.

The ESR300H router does manage to have a bright side, however. It's the first budget router I've seen that offers a built-in VPN server, similar to the business-class Cisco RV110W . This means if you don't care much about the wireless aspect but just want to get a VPN cheaply, the ESR300H might just be what you're looking for, since it only costs around $45. Setting up a VPN connection requires a good knowledge of networking, however.

For more information on how the router performs, check out our full review of the EnGenius ESR300H High Power 300Mbps Wireless N Router here.

About the author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

 

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