If you require more throughput and range than standard 802.11b/g routers provide but don't need to cover the entire neighborhood with a far-reaching router, Linksys's WRT54GX2 Wireless-G router with SRX200 can save you some bucks while still offering decent MIMO performance. Like the , the WRT54GX2 uses only two antennas; the trade-off is slightly slower throughput for a smaller price. It can't compete with three-antenna speed demons such as the or routers, which normally cost $40 to $50 more, but it performs about on a par with its slightly more expensive older brother, the in both short-range and mixed-environment throughput tests (the WRT54GX soundly routs it in long-range tests, though). In the end, however, Belkin's Wireless G Plus MIMO router is the better deal and our pick here.
The Linksys WRT54GX2 router is a two-antenna MIMO unit that can be oriented either horizontally or vertically. To provide stability when the router is set on its narrow end, there's a cleverly integrated footpad that swivels 90 degrees to provide a wider base--a nice design flourish that'll save hunting for a misplaced stand in the future. In addition to 802.11b/g and pre-N wireless, the WRT54GX2 provides four 10/100 Ethernet ports.
The setup for most routers follows roughly the same procedure. Plug in the wires, power up your PC, and any router worth its salt will acquire an IP address from your ISP and dish out URLs to attached clients using DHCP. The Linksys WRT54GX2 is no exception, though the package tells you to run the setup program on the CD before attaching any wires. That's excellent advice for beginners, and the setup wizard is nicely rendered and thorough, but if you've used a router before, it's not necessary. You can jump straight to the well-thought-out HTML configuration program (type 192.168.1.1 in your browser's address window) to change your workgroup, password, security settings, and so on. The WRT54GX2 offers all the standard security options we now expect from routers, too: WPA2 encryption, SPI firewall, DHCP server, and VPN pass-through.
The Linksys WRT54GX2 router performed as we expected, based on what we've seen from other recently tested Linksys routers and the Belkin Wireless-G Plus MIMO router. The unit actually matched (more or less) the slightly more expensive in our short-range throughput and mixed b/g/pre-N environment tests, but it lagged on extended range throughput. Belkin's Wireless-G Plus MIMO router edged out the WRT54GX2 in all categories but most noticeably in the long-range throughput test. Unfortunately for Linksys, Belkin's two-antenna router is slightly less expensive, making it the better option.
|Throughput in Mbps|
|Throughput in Mbps|
|Throughput in Mbps measured indoors at 200 feet|
Linksys covers the WRT54GX2 router with a generous three-year warranty (Belkin's lifetime warranty is unmatched). The router comes with well-written PDF documents, and the HTML setup app is clear and helpful, but should those sources fail you, toll-free telephone support is available 24/7. Linksys's Web site has live chat support and some good background information on networking in general, though a quick search in the site's knowledge base failed to turn up a hit on the WRT54GX2 in particular.