Buffalo WRB-G54K review: Buffalo WRB-G54K

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MSRP: $239.00

The Good Convenient network expansion; 802.11b and 802.11g support; excellent security options; external antenna connector.

The Bad WDS mode works with only Buffalo products; terse user docs.

The Bottom Line Buffalo's kit is great for large homes or offices that need a wireless network with room to grow and range to spare.

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8.2 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Support 7

Review summary

Buffalo's new WRB-G54K wireless router and repeater kit solves one of today's most common problems for Wi-Fi networks: insufficient range. The kit includes a broadband router and a repeater, each of which comes preconfigured to relay wireless data to the other. Like other Buffalo AirStation products, the Buffalo WRB-G54K is equipped with Buffalo's proprietary Wireless Distribution System (WDS) technology. WDS relays data among up to seven individual routers, repeaters, and access points, giving you a scalable solution that you can tailor to your particular home or office environment. Please note, however, that the kit's WDS feature works with only other Buffalo products and can slow down your network, but this 802.11g kit offers plenty of speed for most home and small-office situations. If you're planning to setup a wireless network for an entire apartment or an office building, consider starting with the Buffalo WRB-G54K wireless router and repeater kit. Setting up a WDS can be daunting if you're new to networking, but the Buffalo WRB-G54K wireless router and repeater kit eliminates the problem. The included router and repeater units are preconfigured to work together right out of the box, so the most complicated part of the setup is taken care of before you use the units for the first time. A printed quick-setup guide walks you through what remains of the installation, and for reference, there's a CD with electronic manuals for the two units in the package. You'll find all of the necessary hardware in the box, including AC adapters and a power cord, a mounting bracket for the repeater, and a flat 7-foot Ethernet cable that is easy to conceal under carpets and rugs.

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The repeater comes with a mounting bracket, making it easy to attach the unit to a wall or a ceiling.

For many networking scenarios, setup will be virtually automatic: simply plug in the units. You can make the initial connection to the units with either a wireless or a wired connection, and the quick-setup guide has decent instructions for both. In either case, you access both the repeater's and the router's Web-based configuration tools by typing the unit's default IP address into the address bar of a browser on a connected computer. The router's Web-based tool has a welcome page that prominently lists the setup routines for DSL and cable broadband connections, but if you have an unusual networking setup, you can opt out of the basic Internet wizard through an advanced button. Whichever route you take, clicking through to the router's configuration settings is virtually foolproof. The user guides and the configuration tools for the individual products are terse, and they lack detailed information in places. This may make fiddling with advanced settings confusing for beginners. On the other hand, those people who are familiar with networking will appreciate the wide array of features that Buffalo puts at their disposal, such as the ability to increase or decrease power output. The Buffalo WRB-G54K wireless router and repeater kit comes with strong security and a rich feature set. Buffalo's proprietary WDS implementation supports connections with up to six other Buffalo WDS-enabled AirStations, such as the Buffalo WLA-G54. With WDS enabled, both the router and the repeater function as access points that transmit data to standard Wi-Fi adapters, making it easy to expand your wireless coverage into areas where you need it most. You can also disable the repeater's WDS operation and use the device as a standard bridge, such as the Sony PCWA-DE30 or the Linksys WET54G.

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A swinging cover on the back of the router conceals an external antenna connector. A white cap on the back of the repeater hides an external antenna connector.

Adding an external antenna to each unit in the Buffalo kit stretches the reach of each device. And you can add up to five other repeaters to your network to build out your network. Together, the kit's WDS support and its clever integration of external antenna connectors give you multiple options for growing your coverage area.

The Buffalo WRB-G54K wireless router and repeater kit touts the latest in security options. In addition to the standard 64- and 128-bit WEP encryption, the kit supports the stronger WPA and 802.1x schemes. You can set the repeater to allow or deny connections to a specified list of MAC addresses, and a Privacy Separator lets you deny direct connections between wireless computers. This can be useful in hot-spot scenarios in which you want to give users Internet access, but you don't want them eating up bandwidth by sharing files.

Each unit saves its configuration to a file on your PC, making it easy to restore your settings in case of a meltdown. A handy reset button on the bottom of the device returns the repeater to its default settings, should you forget your password and find yourself locked out.
The Buffalo WRB-G54K wireless router and repeater kit offers ample bandwidth for most applications. In a standard bridging setup, with WDS disabled, the Buffalo router and repeater delivered a maximum throughput 23.5Mbps. The pair also did well when we added an 802.11b device into the mix, clocking an aggregate throughput of 19Mbps in mixed mode. The range of the Buffalo WRB-G54K wireless router and repeater kit spanned 200 feet in our test environment, which is on a par with the range of other WDS-capable routers and access points we've tested. The Asus WL-500g had slightly better range than both the Buffalo kit and the Motorola WR850G in our tests.

CNET Labs maximum throughput tests  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Throughput in Mbps  
Buffalo WRB-G54K
Asus WL-500g

CNET Labs throughput tests with mixed b/g clients  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Throughput in Mbps  
Buffalo WRB-G54K
Asus WL-500g

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Whenever you enable WDS and use the device as a repeater among other Buffalo AirStations, throughput is cut in half. That's because the radio must not only receive but also retransmit each individual data packet. This is true of any WDS-capable device. Still, this 802.11g kit has plenty of bandwidth, even in WDS mode, for typical networking scenarios. Buffalo offers a respectable two-year warranty for its Buffalo WRB-G54K wireless router and repeater kit. This is in line with other WDS-enabled products we've reviewed, such as the Motorola WR850G. In addition, Buffalo includes 24/7, toll-free phone support, which is good for the life of the products. The Buffalo Web site also contains firmware updates and documentation downloads, but it lacks self-help options, such as extensive, thorough, product-specific FAQs or a searchable knowledge base.