Dell 2350 wireless broadband router review: Dell 2350 wireless broadband router

3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Low price; extremely thorough user manual; WPA support; parental controls; ability to act as a bridge or repeater; firewall protection.

The Bad Mediocre throughput; brief hard-copy setup guide; limited Web support.

The Bottom Line The Dell 2350 is a good stopgap router until standards-based MIMO products arrive.

6.3 Overall
  • Design and ease of use 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 5.0
  • Service and support 6.0

Dell 2350 wireless broadband router

The Dell 2350 wireless broadband router is like an old friend you've known forever: it offers a steady if not exciting experience. This 802.11b/g router ships with a long list of handy features, such as WPA security, parental controls, and the ability to act as a bridge or a repeater. Dell's 802.11g router moves data at only half the speed of the pre-802.11n routers that have begun to appear on the market, but at $59, it costs only half as much. Unless you need the fastest Wi-Fi router pronto, we recommend that you wait to buy a standards-based MIMO device, which will hopefully appear sometime in 2006, and use the Dell 2350 wireless broadband router in the interim.

The Dell 2350 wireless broadband router has a pearl-white and silver case that's shaped like a trapezoid, with a slight curve in its short sides. The design lends it a more sophisticated air than most Wi-Fi routers have, though the curved sides mean you can't stand the router up on its short end. However, you can save space another way--and strengthen your signal at the same time--by mounting the device on the wall, thanks to the brackets built into the base of the Dell's wireless router. The antenna on the rear edge flexes and rotates 90 and 360 degrees, respectively, letting you position it for maximum coverage.

We were disappointed with the Dell 2350 wireless router's brief hard-copy setup guide--but we got over it once we perused the awesome electronic user guide. The document offers a longer version of the setup guide that features big, colorful screenshots; it also provides plenty of additional information on how to use the router's extensive features. Highlights of those features include WPA encryption; parental controls to limit kids' access to the Web; bridge and repeater capabilities; DMZ support for gaming; firewall protection through NAT and SPI (Stateful Packet Inspection); and an intruder-detection log that sends you e-mail every time an unwanted system attempts to connect to the router. You can manipulate the device's settings either by logging in to its browser-based configuration tool or installing Dell's Control Utility--a more full-featured version of the standard wireless utility included in Windows XP. The user guide goes the final mile by hyperlinking potentially confusing technical terms to its informative glossary.

Though the Dell 2350's features cup runneth over, its performance glass is only half full. In CNET Labs' maximum throughput tests, the device transferred data at a very average 21.7Mbps compared to the doubly fast scores of pre-MIMO routers, such as the Netgear WPN824 and the Belkin Wireless Pre-N . The Dell 2350 also achieved a paltry 6.5Mbps at long range (200 feet) next to the Netgear's 34.8Mbps and the Belkin's 36.4Mbps. Keep in mind, however, that pre-MIMO routers will reach their performance heights only when working in tandem with pre-MIMO adapters--meaning you must shell out for both the adapter and the router. Compared to other standard 802.11b/g routers, though, the Dell 2350 is competent and keeps up with the pack. If you'll use your router only for basic tasks, such as Web surfing and e-mailing, then you can easily get by on the Dell 2350's pedestrian performance. For more details on how we test networking devices, see the CNET Labs site.

The Dell 2350 ships with a one-year warranty that's in line with its price; you can extend the warranty to three years for an extra $20. Toll-free tech support is available around the clock for the length of your warranty. Dell also supports the router through its Web site, though product-specific information is somewhat buried. One big plus is Dell's virtual, real-time chat option, which gives you instant access to a tech-support rep.

CNET Labs maximum throughput test (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

CNET Labs long-range test (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
measured indoors at 200 feet  

CNET Labs mixed throughput test (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Note: *These products were tested in a mixed 802.11b/g and MIMO environment.

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