Last year, when we reviewed TrendNet's first Draft N router, the TEW-631BRP, we came away wishing it was based on a finalized Wi-Fi specification. Now our wish remains with TrendNet's latest, the Wireless N Gigabit Router TEW-633GR, as the Draft 802.11N standard isn't expected to be finalized until late in 2008. But the TEW-633GR still manages to impress us by adding Gigabit Ethernet, for faster wired throughput, and offering improved wireless throughput--at short range, anyway. The older TEW-631BRP was faster on our long-range tests. While the TEW-633GR boasts decent speeds--up to 95Mbps on CNET Labs' tests--we still recommend postponing an N router purchase until the spec is finalized. Overall, the TEW-633GR is an improvement over the TEW-631BRP. While it's still far from perfect, it's among the most comprehensive, easy to use and feature-rich Draft N routers for home users we've tested.
The TEW-633GR trades TrendNet's old royal blue case for an updated, glossy midnight blue case. It's also a bit squarer and smaller than the previous model. It provides the standard allotment of ports--4-gigabit LAN and 1-gigabit WAN--on the back, and corresponding indicator lights on the front. The device can be set flat or mounted vertically, but it isn't wall-mountable, unlike some others we've seen. The three antennae are attached to the router along one side (or top if positioned vertically), which is more convenient than their typical placement along the back edge where they crowd the networking ports. A small button on the opposite side turns the Wi-Fi function on and off, similar to the on/off switches that adorn many laptops. We question its overall use, but we suppose it might come in handy if you want to disable your wireless connection while still running your networked devices via wired Gigabit Ethernet. Finally, there's a WPS button on the top that quickly enables the Wi-Fi Protected Setup for devices that support this feature. Wi-Fi Protected Setup is an optional certification program, introduced earlier this year by the Wi-Fi Alliance and designed to ease the task of setting up and configuring security on wireless local area networks.
Out of the box, the well-illustrated Quick Installation Guide and the bundled CD take good care of the setup process. (You can still set up the TEW-633GR with the Web-based wizard, the same way as with the TEW-631BRP, but we found that using the included CD was easier and much more friendly, especially for novice users). The guide is straightforward and covers every step necessary for you to get up and running-- from plugging in the power to hooking up the network cable to setting up the basic wireless security. It even helps you replace your current router with the TEW-633GR, for instance: if you're already using another router for your network, you'll be prompted what to do step-by-step to swap the two routers. The whole process has been pretty well thought out. There's a catch: You need to hook your computer to the router via wired connection, and the computer needs to have only one active network connection (so turn off the Wifi connection of your laptop if you use it to do the setup); otherwise, the Easy Go Setup Wizard will not start at all.
Once the Wizard-based setup is done (and this is enough for most home networking scenarios), a savvy network user can log into the Web-based interface of the router by typing in its default IP address, 192.168.10.1. Here you will find a very robust and responsive Web interface with even more wizards and options. (Most changes don't require you to restart the router.) Its advanced networking pages include lots of handy features for your network, including Virtual Server, Special Applications, Gaming, Access Control, Web Filter, WPS, Firewall. The router also supports every single mode of Wi-Fi encryption including the old school 64/128-bit WEP (for 11b/g) and the standard WPA/WPA2 and WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK. If that's not enough security enough for you, the TEW 633GR also supports MAC address filtering that allow only specific network adaptors (wireless or wired) to access the network.
The TEW-633GR also features a gigabit WAN port, which is overkill for almost all home networking and online gaming scenarios. Some small office networks with very high-speed access to the Internet might benefit more from this added WAN speed, though TrendNet targets the router primarily to home and gaming users.
Like any Draft N router we've tested, the TEW-633GR's performance doesn't live up to the promise of the 802.11n spec, but the router did turn in some fine results relative to the Draft N competition. On CNET Labs' maximum throughput test, the TEW-633GR put up a 95.0Mbps rate, which was the second fastest score we've seen to date. (It's some distance from TrendNet's claimed speed of up to 300Mbp, but we've never seen any router that performs close to a manufacturer's rated speed). On our long-range throughput test, however, we were a little disappointed with the TEW 633GR's performance. Starting at 200 feet, the signal began to wane, and the speed dropped significantly to 33.9Mbps, which is about the average we've seen on our long-range throughput test but nonetheless lower than that of its predecessor, the TEW-631BRP.