The Cisco Valet Plus will change the way you think of setting up a home network in a big way. Not only is it the easiest to use wireless router that we've seen, but it also offers great range and wireless throughput performance, and it comes with a very handy tool to control your network. It also includes a parental control feature.
The router's short list of downsides includes the lack of support for dual-band and USB devices. However, its sleek, compact design and the street price tag of just around $130, more than make up for that.
If you are a non-savvy computer user looking to setup a wireless network for your home or a home office by yourself, the Cisco Valet Plus is the best choice. It's really the prime example of wireless networking made simple.
Design and setup
Unlike any wireless routers we've seen before, the Cisco Valet Plus comes in a fancy-looking, yet simple package. Inside, you'll find the router, a network cable, the power adapter, and the Easy Setup Key. There's no manual or software CD; this is all you need to get started.
The setup process is as simple as it gets. You plug the Easy Setup Key--a 1GB USB thumb drive that contains Cisco Connect software--into a computer, PC or Mac, and follow the instructions. The first time, the instructions will include steps to connect the computer to the router, plug it into the power, and turn it on, etc.
Depending on the computer, you will need to interact with the setup process about two or three times via a few mouse clicks. The first time is to agree to launch the software, the second time is to accept the software user agreement, and the last time to start the setup. After that, the software takes a few minutes to do all the necessary configurations and you're done. Repeat this on any computer that you want to connect to the router wirelessly.
Though everything is transparent to the user, the very first time you run it, the Cisco Connect software basically detects the router, creates an SSID (or network name), turns the encryption on, and chooses an encryption key. After that, any subsequent times you plug the Key into another computer that has a wireless adapter, it will apply the settings to the computer and connect to the wireless network with a few mouse clicks.
The Cisco Valet Plus has the same design as previous Linksys by Cisco routers, such as the Linksys WRT320N and the Linksys WRT610N. It comes in an aesthetically pleasing, sleek, flat, UFO-shaped chassis. The router's antennas are hidden within the chassis, making it look much more compact than other, similarly sized routers. It's also wall mountable.
The Valet Plus' layout is straightforward. On the back it has four Gigabit Ethernet ports, for local wired clients, and one Gigabit WAN port to connect to a DSL or cable modem.
On the front of the router is an array of blue LED lights that show the status of the ports, the wireless network, and the Internet. In the middle of the LEDs is the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button, which initiates the window of time when you can hook other WPS-compliant wireless clients to the network without having to manually enter the encryption key. This is a nice design touch, as the Setup Key can only be used with computers, not with other devices such as printers or game consoles.
Apart from making the router setup easy for home users, the Easy Setup Key can also be used for a few other features. You can use it to change the network's name or to create a guest network, which is a useful feature if you want to share the Internet connection with others while keeping them from accessing your local resources, such as printers or files.