Linksys Dual-Band Wireless-N Gigabit Router WRT320N review: Linksys Dual-Band Wireless-N Gigabit Router WRT320N
The Linksys Dual-Band Wireless-N Gigabit Router WRT320N is a good deal for those looking to create a network that only supports the 5GHz band. You can get it online for about $110. While the router supports 2.4GHz as well, unfortunately it does not support them both simultaneously. However, it does have Gigabit Ethernet support. The router achieved good throughput speeds, with decent range. Like most of Linksys' recent wireless routers, it comes with a comprehensive set of networking features that you can access via an easy-to-use Web interface. The router also has a useful desktop application that helps set up and manage both the router and the local network. For a "does everything" router that has simultaneous dual-band support, Gigabit Ethernet, and even better performance, check out the $180 Linksys WRT610N.
Design and setup
The Linksys WRT320N comes in an aesthetically pleasing, sleek, flat, UFO-shaped chassis. The router's antennas are hidden within the chassis, making it look much more compact than other, similarly sized routers do. This is a very welcome design that Linksys has been using for its wireless routers for about a year.
The WRT320N's layout is straightforward. On its back, it has four Gigabit Ethernet ports and one Gigabit WAN port. The former are for local wired clients, while the latter is to connect to a DSL or cable modem for connection to the Internet. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a USB port; that means there are no USB-related features, such as print serving or network storage.
On the front of the router is an array of light-emitting diodes that show the status of the ports, the wireless network, and the Internet. In the middle of the LEDs is the Wi-Fi Protected Setup button, which initiates the window of time when you can hook other WPS-compliant wireless clients to the network without manually having to enter the encryption key. For example, if you bring a WPS-enabled client close to the router and press the WPS button on both devices, they will be automatically connected.
Like all Linksys routers, the WRT320N has a very intuitive Web interface that you can access from any network computer or via the Internet. Savvy users can use the Web interface to configure and manage the router. Novice users are not shut out, either, since the WRT320N comes with Linksys's EasyLink Advisor (LELA) software for both PC and Mac. The software is well-designed and offers a thought-out, step-by-step setup process that novices can follow.
The WRT320N is one of two dual-band routers we've reviewed that function only in one band at a time. The other is the D-Link DGL-4500. Considering the popularity of existing 2.4GHz-based wireless clients, you'd be hard pressed to find a situation where you can use the router in 5GHz mode. Still, it's nice to have the option.
Like most Linksys routers, the WRT320N has a comprehensive Web interface that allows access to the router's long list of advanced features. The router's most prominent and useful features include an elaborate content-filtering system, called "Access Restrictions," that lets you restrict or filter the Internet access of particular networked computers. This is helpful if you want to block, say, "Eric's computer" from certain Web sites. The "Applications & Gaming" feature lets you set up port forwarding and triggering to set specific ports for specific applications, such as games, remote desktop, or FTP and HTTP servers. You can also conveniently reserve static IP addresses to certain computers in the network, making the port forwarding much more relevant and easy to do. If you want to assign a VPN connection, an FTP connection, or a remote desktop connection to a certain computer in the network, you will find the above handy and convenient.
The router supports Dynamic DNS services, including TZO.com and DynDNS.org, which means you can set up remote access and many other over-the-Internet services. It can also take a client's MAC address as its own. This can be a useful feature when you want to use the router with a service, like those found in college dorms, that requires you to register your computer's MAC address before you can access the Internet.
However, this doesn't mean you can skip the desktop software LELA entirely. The software has some original post-setup features, and we especially liked the capability to see a map of all clients connected to the network and manage each of them in real time. For example, if you see an unidentified device connected to the network, the software lets you mark it in red to distinguish it from other known devices. If a client in the network has LELA installed, you can do more, such as viewing its complete status, including its MAC, IP address, operating system, CPU information, and so on.
For security, the WRT320N supports all available wireless encryption standards, including WEP, WPA-personal, and WPA-Enterprise. 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 offices via a VPN connection. It can toggle the built-in SPI Firewall on, or block potentially dangerous Web services--such as 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 block Java or ActiveX.
We tested the Linksys WRT320N on both 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands and were happy with the results.
In the 5GHz band, the router scored 52.8Mbps in our throughput test and 47.7Mbps in our range test. The throughput test was conducted with the wireless test client just 15 feet away from the router. In our range test, the client was 100 feet away. These scores were about average, but we were impressed that there's a very small degradation between the two ranges. Based on these scores, the router can finish transmitting 500MB in about 80 seconds.
In the 2.4GHz band, the WRT320N did even better in comparison with other routers. It achieved 45.3Mbps in throughput, 32.6Mbps in range, and 40.8Mbps in our mixed-mode test. The mixed-mode test was done with the router set to work with both Wireless-N and legacy Wireless-G simultaneously.
It's important to note that the scores, while lower than the theoretical ceiling of the Wireless-N specification (300Mbps), were actually sustained data rates, with all software and hardware overhead and interference taken into account.
We were very impressed that the router could apply many changes without needing to restart. For example, when we switched the router's wireless function from operating in one band to another, our test client--which supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands--didn't disconnect at all, even briefly. Other routers, such as Apple's Airport Extreme Base Station , need to restart to apply even the slightest change.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The WRT320N's maximum connection range was decent and about the same as the WRT400N's. In our testing facility, which is an office building and not optimized for wireless range, we connected to the WRT320N from about 280 feet away. In both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, the WRT320N performed within our expectations for a Wireless-N router.
Service and support
Linksys backs the WRT320N Dual-Band Wireless-N Gigabit Router with a one-year, limited warranty. While this is a short period, it is standard for most new routers on the market. Linksys' toll-free phone support is available 24-7, as is online chat with a support representative. Linksys' Web site includes software, drivers, firmware downloads, and a FAQ section.