Cisco Valet Plus review:

Cisco Valet Plus

It also contains a parental control feature, allowing you to change the way a particular computer on the network accesses the Internet. You can restrict the connection based on time, age of the user (with two options being "Teen" or "Child"), or you can block individual sites. The router also has a feature called Safe Web Surfing, which warns you if you're about to go to a Web site that's unsafe.

The nice thing about the Cisco connect software is that it only runs when you plug the Easy Setup Key into the computer, meaning that there's no software installed on your computer. You should keep the Setup Key in a safe place, or make a backup copy of it.

Though the Easy Setup Key is extremely helpful for novice home users, savvy users can also mange the Valet Plus via its Web interface. Here you can further customize your wireless network with more features like port forwarding or Dynamic DSN service. These help turn a computer within the network into a Web or FTP server.

You can also change the features that the Setup Key allows access to. Note, however, that if you use the Web interface to make certain changes to the router's settings, you then can't use the Cisco Connect software to manage the router anymore. The Setup Key will now just help you launch the Web interface. However, if you're comfortable with the Web interface, you probably won't need the Setup Key. You can always restore the router to its default factory settings if you want to use the Easy Setup Key again.

For security, the Cisco Valet Plus supports all available wireless encryption standards, including WEP, WPA-personal, and WPA-Enterprise. It also supports MAC address filtering. The router allows for VPN pass-through for all existing VPN protocols, including IPsec, L2TP, and PPTP. If you're using the router from your home, you can use a VPN client to access your work office via a VPN connection. It can toggle the built-in SPI firewall on and off, or block potentially dangerous Web services including proxy, Java, ActiveX, and cookies. This is not something you'll want to get into the habit of doing, however, as a lot of Web sites will not function properly if you, say, block Java or ActiveX.

The Cisco Valet Plus performed well in our testing. In the throughput test, the router scored 50.4Mbps, compared with the Dlink DIR-685's score of 51.7Mbps and the Belkin N+'s score of 55.44Mbps. In the range test, at 33Mpbs the Cisco was faster than the Belkin N+ , but still slower than the Dlink, which scored 46Mbps. In the mixed mode test, however, the Cisco topped the chart with 45.6Mbps.

We were also very happy with the Cisco Valet Plus' range. The router was able to hold a stable connection up to 280 feet away in our test environment. This is one of the longest ranges we've seen and the longest among all Cisco home routers we've tested.

The router successfully passed our stress test where it was set to transfer data back and forth between wireless clients for an extended amount of time. The router's wireless connection didn't reset once during the 48 hours of testing.

CNET Labs' 2.4Ghz Wireless-N performance score (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Mixed mode  
Belkin N+
D-Link DIR-685
Cisco Valet Plus
Zyxel X-550N
Trendnet TEW-639GR
Linksys WRT320N
Linksys WRT400N
Netgear WNR2000
D-Link DIR-615
Zyxel X-550NH

Service and support
Cisco backs the Valet Plus with only a one-year parts and labor warranty, which is standard for wireless routers. The company offers toll-free technical support, which you can access 24-7. Cisco's Web site includes a large number of easily accessible support-related information, such as software, drivers, firmware downloads, as well as a live chat and an FAQ section.

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