Though categorized as an accessory specifically for home entertainment devices from Vizio, the XWR100 wireless router will more than satisfy users with any wireless networking needs. In fact, if it supported Gigabit Ethernet, it'd be one of the best budget routers we've tested.
Unfortunately, it doesn't; it also comes with a Web interface that, though responsive and easy to use, lacks depth in regard to managing the router's settings. The device's network storage function is also subpar in both performance and features.
For the street price of just around $80, however, the XWR100 is worth every penny. The router has great range and signal tactility. It also performed very decently in our wireless throughput tests. If you want something that supports Gigabit Ethernet at a similar price, however, we'd also recommend the Cisco Linksys E2000.
Design and ease of use
The Vizio XWR100's design is similar to that of the Linksys E2000, with the flat, UFO-like shape and the sleek casing that, unfortunately, attracts fingerprints easily. The router's antennas are all hidden within the chassis, making the whole package much more compact than other same-size routers that have eternal antennas. The Vizio has four rubber feet that keep it grounded on any surface, but you'll also find slots on the bottom for mounting it on a wall.
On top toward the front, the router has an array of white LED status indicator lights that are only visible when lit up. These lights show the status of the router's ports and connections.
On the back it has a WAN port (to connect an Internet source, such as a broadband modem) and four LAN ports (to connect to other Ethernet-ready devices). These ports are all traditional 10/100 LAN ports. This lack of support for Gigabit Ethernet is a little disappointing because the router is supposedly designed to connect between multimedia devices, meaning there'd be lots of digital content streaming. While Gigabit Ethernet is not necessary for smooth content-streaming performance, it would help a lot if you want to stream from a single source, such as a home server, to many different players at the same time. And, of course, when it comes to networking, faster is always better.
Also on the back the router has a USB port to host a USB external hard drive. In our trials this port can also power drives that use bus power--those that don't have a separate power adapters. Next to the USB port is a Wi-Fi Protected Setup button that starts the 2-minute time window in which other WPS-enabled products can enter the router's wireless network.
The Vizio doesn't come with any software or any manual. All it has in the box for a user guide is a small Quick Start guide poster, and surprisingly that's all you need to get started. The poster includes well-illustrated photos and setup steps that guide you through the short setup process. Basically all you need to do is plug the router into the computer, the Internet source, and the power.
By default, the router operates with two separate wireless networks called Vizio HD and Vizio. The former is in the 5GHz frequency band and the latter is in the 2.4GHz band. These two networks' default encryption keys are printed on the Quick Start guide.
If you're not happy with the networks' default settings, you can further customize them, as well as other features of the router, by using its Web interface. To do this from a connected computer, point an Internet browser (such as Firefox) to http://vizio.home. Alternatively, you can also point the browser to the router's default IP address, which is 192.168.1.1.
The XWR100's Web interface is divided into three parts: Internet, Router, and Wireless. As the names suggest, each of these parts allows you to customize the settings of that function of the router. The Internet part, for example, lets you change the way the router accesses the Internet, optimize its connection for video streaming, and turn on or off the Internet access for particular computers within the network. It also includes a handy Internet speed test that quickly shows you the speed of your broadband connection.
Similarly, the Router part allows access to the router's settings, such as its default IP address, firewall, and so on. And the Wireless part is where you can customize the above-mentioned wireless networks. Here you can also turn on the third network to use for guests or to host legacy slow clients.