The Linksys WRT310N Wireless-N Gigabit Router is basically the Draft N 2.0 version of the RangePlus WRT110 that we reviewed earlier this month. Bearing the same sleek, antenna-free design as the WRT110, the WRT310N offers two significant upgrades: Gigabit networking and Draft N 2.0 compliance. We are a little disappointed to see it inherit the WRT110's lack of a USB port, which means it can't act as a print server or easily facilitate network storage. It more than makes up for these lacking features, however, with excellent performance in CNET Labs' testing. In fact, it was by far the fastest router we've tested to date on our mixed mode setup, which we believe to be the most popular real-life network scenario with older 802.11b/g devices operating with newer Draft 802.11n devices. It was also the top performer on our max throughput test. Unfortunately, this good performance does come with heat--and lots of it. For $120, the Linksys WRT310N makes a good investment for any networking environment, both home and office--just make sure the router is not stuck in a tight corner but a clear well-ventilated area.
Device type: Wireless router
Network standard: Draft N 2.0 and Linksys proprietary RangePlus
Operating systems supported: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Mac OS X, Linux
Security options: WEP 64/128-bit,WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK WPA-TKIP, WPA-AES, Wireless Protected Setup
Features: Four Gigabit LAN ports; one Gigabit WAN port; DHCP support
Notable design features: Internal antenna design
Support: One-year warranty
Design and ease of use
Like the WRT110, the WRT310N boasts a design that is both attractive and practical. There are no external antennas to clutter the ports on the back. You'll find four LAN ports and one WAN port on the back. All of the network ports are Gigabit, which is always a welcome upgrade, especially in a Draft N 2.0 router, where the wireless speed is claimed to potentially get up to 300Mbps--higher than the 100Mbps maximum of a 10/100 Ethernet router. On its top toward the front, there is a line of cool, blue LEDs that show the status of the ports on the back and the state of the wireless network. In the middle of the LED is the button that initiates the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) feature that allows for quickly adding WPS-enabled wireless clients to the network.
The router is very compact and thin, which is great in and of itself, but it also means there's not much empty space inside. Because the WRT310N is a high-power router and lacks proper ventilation, it runs very hot. The WRT110 we reviewed earlier runs a lot cooler, though it bears the same design.
The WRT310N doesn't have a USB port to offer relatively popular USB-related features such as print serving, network storage, or Windows Connect Now, which lets you transfer the wireless encryption key with a thumb drive. This is disappointing since we view the WRT310N as a rather high-end router on par with others such as the D-Link DIR-655 .
The router comes with Linksys' EasyLink Advisor (LELA) software that walks you step by step through the setup process. It's one of the most well-thought-out setup apps we've used for wireless routers. Savvy users might still skip it and just use the Web interface, which is also relatively intuitive, but novice users will definitely appreciate LELA. We had absolutely no problem and were able to get the router up and running for testing within a few minutes.
Where the WRT110 router supported near Draft N speed, the WRT310N is a certified Draft N 2.0 router. Both routers feature Linksys' proprietary wireless enhancing technology called RangePlus. This means the WRT310N can potentially offer higher than wireless-G speed to non-wireless-N adapters that support this technology (You'll need to get those from Linksys; they are availalbe in PC Cards, USB, and PCI adapter form factors). In real life, you might not find any chances to take advantage of this at all and you won't miss much, either, as a Draft N adapter would get a much faster speed than a RangePlus adapter anyway.
The WRT310N has basically the same Web-interface layout and networking features as the WRT110, which is similar to most Linksys routers. It has a very elaborate content filtering feature called "Access Restrictions" that allows for restricting/filtering access of particular computers in the network to the Internet. You can also set up special port forwarding/triggering using the "Applications & Gaming" feature. This feature allows for setting specific ports for specific applications such as games or Remote Desktop or FTP, HTTP server, and so on.
The router supports all available wireless encryption from WEP to WPA and WPA2, as well as Remote Authentication Dial In User Service and higher-end features such as Firewall, VPN pass-through, and access restriction. For quick wireless network setup, it uses the Wi-Fi Protected Setup push button mentioned earlier.
The Linksys WRT310 blew us away with its performance. It easily topped the charts on both CNET Labs' max throughput and mixed mode tests, scoring 110.6Mbps and 95.3Mbps respectively. These scores are still no way close to the claimed theatrical 300Mbps throughput of the 802.11n spec, but they come the closest that we've seen from any Draft N router. On our range test, the router lost its top position to the Asus WL-500W 802.11n but only by a small margin.
We were especially pleased with the WRT310N's performance in mixed-mode testing; we believe this is the most common scenario for Draft N routers in real life, where you are adding newer N clients to existing B and G devices.
The WRT310N offers excellent range too. We had no problem picking up its signal at 200 feet, and we were able to maintain a connection at 300 feet. Our testing environment is not optimal for broadcasting a signal over long distances, so the WRT310N may offer even better range in your home where there is less interference than in CNET Labs. It's worth noting that a router's range depends a lot on the environment it is in, especially for routers that operate on 2.4GHz frequency, which is used by a lot of other electronic equipment like cordless phones and Bluetooth devices.
As mentioned before, the router ran very hot during our testing process, to the point that you might not be able to rest your fingers on its bottom for longer than a few seconds. It's more of a design flaw than a performance problem, from what we saw. In testing, its performance was not adversely affected by the heat, but we didn't work with it for longer than a few days.
Service and support
Linksys has the same amount of love for the WRT310N as it does the WRT110, backing it with disappointing one-year warranty. The fact that the router runs hot makes this a bit worrisome, as the excessive heat may reduce the lifespan of the device. Linksys' toll-free phone support is available 24-7, as is online chat with a support representative. Its Web site includes software, drivers, and firmware downloads and a FAQ section.