The Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti Wireless router and access point is the last of the Draft N routers to cross our desks. Like the rest of the vendors, Buffalo promises throughput that's five times faster than that of 802.11g, but like the other Draft N routers we've tested, the Nfiniti router doesn't quite live up to the promise of 802.11n. That said, it's quite speedy, especially considering the fact that it operates only in mixed mode. Still, we've said it before, and we're saying it again: hold your horses on the Draft N gear and wait until the 802.11n specification is finalized (about mid-2007) to see how performance shakes out. If you absolutely must have a Draft N router now, we really liked both the Belkin N1, for its user-friendly design and overall performance, and the router, for its speedy performance and wealth of configuration options.
Unlike most routers, which offer a single-mode operation, the Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti operates only in a mixed b/g/n mode; theis the only other Draft N router we've tested that does this. Generally, single-mode operation offers better performance, because in mixed mode, the older-generation products (such as 802.11b clients, which can sustain a slower throughput than 11g or pre-11n clients) become a network bottleneck. As with the Belkin N1, this discrepancy makes direct comparisons to the other Draft N routers impossible, except in CNET Labs' short-range mixed mode throughput test.
The Buffalo router's design also veers from the norm. The silver-and-black router is vertically oriented, with the three external antennas clustered at the top rear of the router. The antennas can be swiveled and pivoted to maximize the router's signal. The curved front edge of the router houses four LEDs to indicate activity and power, while the rear edge houses the standard four LAN ports for hardwired connections, one WAN port for connecting the router to a modem, and a power port. Though the front-mounted LEDs are the norm, they fall well short of the user-friendliness of the Belkin N1's network-status display. The only other feature of note is the top-mounted AOSS (AirStation One-touch Secure System) button.
AOSS is Buffalo's proprietary network-setup protocol. If you're trying to establish a wireless connection between your Buffalo router and an installed Buffalo client that supports AOSS, simply press the button on the router and within two minutes, press the AOSS button on the client; if the client is a PC Card or other such adapter, the "button" will be in the product's client manager software. The devices will take about 30 seconds to establish a wireless connection. If you have a non-Buffalo client or simply wish not to use AOSS, you can also manually establish a wireless connection.
Installing the Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti router is simple and straightforward: the printed quick-start guide walks you through the steps of connecting the modem, a router, and a PC via Ethernet cables and powering up each component. The Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti router supports only Windows XP/2000/Me/98 SE operating systems; Mac and Unix users are out of luck. After you've connected the router to your PC and modem, you can then point your browser to the provided default IP address to access Buffalo's configuration utility, where you can run the automatic Internet connection wizard to connect to the Internet.