Editors' note: The rating and/or Editors' Choice designation for this product has been altered since the review's original publication. The reason for this is simply the general improvement of technology over time. In order to keep our ratings fair and accurate, it's sometimes necessary to downgrade the ratings of older products relative to those of newer products. (12/9/04) br> br> The Linksys WRT54GS Wireless-G Broadband Router with SpeedBooster makes it easy to set up a typical home or office network, and it comes with all the documentation you need to get it up and running. It touts a wealth of advanced networking and security features, and it's fast, especially in networks with both 802.11g and 802.11b connections. The illustrated Fast Start guide for the Linksys WRT54GS Wireless-G Broadband Router with SpeedBooster walks you through the basic setup, which includes connecting the router to your computer and broadband modem, configuring all the computers on the network to work with the router, and configuring the router. The Fast Start guide is more thorough than others we've seen, with plenty of images and screenshots illustrating the setup process. We were glad to see brief explanations of basic networking terms, such as the difference between static and dynamic IP addressing and what to do if your DSL provider uses &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ewebopedia%2Ecom%2FTERM%2FP%2FPPPoE%2Ehtml">PPPoE.
The guide also describes how to connect to the WRT54GS's browser-based configuration tool if you need to tweak the router's configuration--for example, to supply the router with a static IP address. No quick-setup guide can cover all possible networking scenarios, but Linksys's step-by-step guide does an excellent job rounding up the usual suspects and making it easy for most homes and small offices to set up a network in a few minutes. In most cases, you need only to plug in the router and connect the cables. For more complicated setups, Linksys includes a thorough user guide detailing the WRT54GS's diverse features. Although the Linksys WRT54GS Wireless-G Broadband Router with SpeedBooster is easy to set up, you'll find a number of advanced features and configuration options under the hood. The Linksys WRT54GS's browser-based configuration tool gives you access to the router's networking and security settings, such as DHCP server and client settings, firewall settings, and wireless encryption settings. The router also comes with two types of firewalls. One is a Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) firewall that makes sure packets are part of a legitimate connection; the other is a NAT firewall that effectively hides computers behind the router. You can lock your network down even tighter by configuring the router to block services such as FTP and Telnet. A DMZ function located on the configuration tool's Applications and Gaming tab lets you place one computer outside the firewall, which can be useful for Internet gaming and videoconferencing. The Linksys WRT54GS also lets you set up access-control policies that grant Internet access to specific computers on your network at predetermined times of day and days of the week. If you telecommute, the router's VPN pass-through support will help get you to work.
The Linksys WRT54GS router also has good wireless security. You can configure it to use WEP or WPA. WPA is stronger than WEP, but it's important to have both options, because you may want to connect to older 802.11b devices that lack WPA support. We also like that you can turn off the beacon on the WRT54GS's integrated 802.11g access point. This helps protect you from uninvited guests by stopping the access point from advertising its presence to the world.
The Linksys WRT54GS router comes with removable antennas, giving you the option of attaching high-gain antennas to the unit to increase its range. Our only gripe was that the router lacks a mounting bracket. The Linksys WRT54GS Wireless-G Broadband Router with SpeedBooster is one of a growing number of wireless routers touting proprietary speed enhancements. Like the and the , the WRT54GS SpeedBooster router includes a technology (in this case, Broadcom's Afterburner) that substantially increases wireless network performance. The enhancements kick in only if all the devices on the network are playing by the same proprietary rules; otherwise, the device scales down to standard 802.11g speeds. We think that this limitation makes the SpeedBooster enhancement (and similar Turbo or Super-G offerings from vendors such as D-Link and Netgear) more of a marketing gimmick than a significant feature.
Proprietary solutions depend on networks molded out of homogenous gear, limiting your purchase choices and tying you to a single vendor. On the other hand, the Linksys WRT54GS Wireless-G Broadband Router with SpeedBooster does a fine job supporting standards-based equipment from other vendors, even older 802.11b gear. In CNET Labs' mixed-mode tests, which measure throughput when both 802.11g and 802.11b transmissions occur simultaneously, the WRT54GS delivered the fastest speeds we've seen, clocking in at 25.8Mbps. The Linksys also went the distance, stretching as far as 200 feet in our range tests.
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