Few broadband routers offer as broad an array of features as the Asus WL-500g wireless router. Asus's router is a little rough around the edges, but the Asus WL-500g's integrated print server and its ability to act as a surveillance device (with an attached Webcam) makes it attractive nonetheless. We're also impressed with the router's efficient design, which sports a foldout stand and a base that doubles as a mounting bracket. Considering its configurable firewall, virtual server support, and URL keyword blocking, the Asus WL-500g is a good choice for those looking for a combination router and print server, but its poor user documentation, weak phone support, and sometimes confusing browser-based configuration tool may frustrate those looking for a no-fuss solution. If you're new to networking, we suggest that you consider a more polished solution, such as the . The Asus WL-500g wireless router is easier to set up than many other routers we've seen--as least as far as hardware is concerned--because the router's clever design gives you a variety of positioning options. Four rubber feet on the base of the unit hold it steady in a vertical position and keep it from slipping, even on smooth surfaces. A foldout stand on the left side of the Asus WL-500g makes it easy to stand the unit up vertically, which may save space and can also elevate the antenna for better reception. Recessed holes in the base of the unit allow the bottom to double as a mounting bracket.
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|A foldout stand on the side of the router makes for easy vertical positioning.||A built-in mounting bracket lets you easily attach the router to a wall or the ceiling.|
The Asus WL-500g's software setup, on the other hand, is a little rough, mostly because of unpolished user documentation. You configure the router via its configuration screens, which you access by typing the router's IP address into a browser window and supplying the default username and password. Although the package includes a printed quick-start guide and a more thorough printed user manual, both documents read like poor translations, and they don't fully explain the setup processes and the features. This won't be much of a problem if you have a grasp of networking fundamentals, but for those looking for a plug-and-play solution, we suggest a more polished package, such as the .
The quick-start guide doesn't cover printer server setup, unfortunately. And while the user manual does address that topic, it doesn't list the printers that the Asus WL-500g wireless router supports. Thankfully, the &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex_1&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fusa%2Easus%2Ecom%2Fproducts%2Fcommunication%2Fwireless%2Fprinter%2Dsupport%2Ehtm">Asus Web site provides a list.
The Asus WL-500g offers one of the most impressive feature sets in its class. Although it sells for less than $100, this wireless router includes a four-port Ethernet switch, an integrated 802.11g access point, a removable antenna, a configurable firewall, a serial 25-pin D-Sub female printer port, and a USB port that lets you attach a printer or a Webcam.
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|You can attach a high-gain antenna to the WL-500g to extend its range.|
The Asus WL-500g's firmware is also chock-full of features. It includes WDS support, which allows the router to establish wireless connections with other Asus access points and is especially useful when you need to add access points to increase your range. It comes with embedded DynDNS and TZO clients for use with their respective Dynamic DNS, or &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex_1&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eelectriceyes%2Ecom%2Fdns%2Easp">DDNS, services. DDNS, in combination with the Asus WL-500g's virtual server functionality, lets you run Internet servers on your network even if you don't get a static IP address from your ISP. DDNS also allows you to access an attached Webcam via the Internet, which is handy for surveillance or if you want to monitor a room from afar. In addition, the Asus WL-500g lets you block access to keywords in URLs. The keyword filters can be set for specific times of the day and days of the week.
For a router in its price range, the Asus WL-500g's firewall is surprisingly configurable. The router blocks specified packets between the Internet and your own network, but you need to know a little about networking to use the firewall. The firewall does not give you predetermined security levels, such as high or low. Predetermined settings can be helpful if you don't know your ports from your protocols. Instead, Asus asks for specifics, such as source IP, port range, and protocol. And unfortunately, WEP is the strongest security that the WL-500g provides for a wireless LAN. Asus plans to release a firmware upgrade in the next few weeks that will add support for the stronger WPA encryption scheme. You can also turn off SSID broadcasts on the WL-500g, which can help conceal your network from others. The Asus WL-500g wireless router is a good choice if you already have existing 802.11b equipment. Our tests demonstrate that in a mixed environment containing both 802.11b and 802.11g connections, the WL-500g delivers the fastest aggregate throughput. Clocking in with a maximum throughput of 18.2Mbps in mixed mode, the WL-500g outruns even the and is significantly faster than the . With only 802.11g devices connected, the Asus WL-500g delivers a less stellar performance of 21.6Mbps, notably slower than that of the Motorola WR850G and a far cry from the enhanced speeds of the D-Link DI-624 and the Netgear WGT624.
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Range is another one of the Asus WL-500g's strong points. The router was able to maintain broadband connection speeds at further than 200 feet in our test environment. This matches the performance of the DI-624 and the WGT624, even when they are using channel bonding in their enhanced-g modes.
For more information on how we test routers, see the CNET Labs site. Tech support for the Asus WL-500g wireless router is a mixed bag. The company offers a two-year warranty on its WL-500g wireless router. That's shorter than the three-year warranty you get with but on a par with the two years that come with the .
Phone support is good for the life of the product, but it's a toll call. The Asus technical-support phone staff is elusive, though theoretically available, Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. PT. When we placed a test call, we listened to '80s rock music as we waited on hold for almost 10 minutes before we were told that a technician would call us back once one became available. That was several days ago, and we're still waiting. You can also access tech support via e-mail.
We were disappointed to discover that the online manual for the router was not on the CD. Fortunately, you can download the manual from the Asus Web site. The site also hosts free firmware downloads for the WL-500g, as well as detailed information about the product's technical specifications and features.