If you're in the market for a dual-band router and most of your computers are wireless-capable, the Linksys WRT400N Simultaneous Dual-N Band Wireless Router makes for a sound buy, especially since you can get it for around only $130. Design-wise, it's much like Linksys WRT610N router, minus USB and Gigabit Ethernet support. This gives it about a 30 percent smaller footprint, while retaining the same compact and sleek-looking UFO-shaped design with internal antenna.
The WRT400N achieved decent throughput speeds, especially in mixed-mode and range testing. It also comes with a good set of networking features and a very useful desktop application that helps set up and manage both the router and the local network. You can also use its Web interface to access its advanced features.
Design and ease of use
Following in the footsteps of Linksys' recent routers, like the WRT610N, the WRT110, and the WRT310N, the WRT400N sports an aesthetically pleasing, sleek, flat, UFO-shaped chassis. It has internal antennas, allowing it to be more compact than other, similarly sized routers. Unlike the WRT310N, the WRT400N seems to have better ventilation, as it ran cool during our testing.
The WRT400N has four network ports on the back, which is standard for most routers. Unfortunately, unlike those on the WRT610N, these ports do not adhere to the Gigabit Ethernet standard that allows for throughput speeds of up to 1,000Mbps. Instead, the ports on the WRT400N are capped at 100Mbps. Also disappointing is the omission of a USB port, which would allow for hard connecting a printer or network storage device.
On the front of the router is an array of LED lights 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 (or WPS) button, which initiates the window of time when you can hook other WPS-compliant wireless clients to the network without having to enter an encryption key. For example, you can bring a WPS-enabled client close to the router, press the button on both devices, and they will connect by themselves.
The WRT400N comes with Linksys' EasyLink Advisor software for both PC and Mac. The software is designed well and offers a well-thought-out, step-by-step setup process that even the most novice user can follow. Savvy users may want to skip it in favor of the Web interface, which is more comprehensive than the desktop software.
We had absolutely no problems during setup and were able to get the Linksys WRT400N router up and running for testing within a few minutes.
Like all true dual-band routers, the WRT400N has the ability to offer a Wireless-N signal simultaneously in both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz frequencies.
Generally, the advantage of the 5Ghz band is that it promises better wireless signal strength and stability; however, considering the ubiquity of 2.4Ghz adapters and clients, you won't want to shut them out of your network completely, which is why you want a true dual-band router. The WRT400N router allows virtually all wireless-networking devices to coexist in a network, regardless of their wireless encryption standards.
If you've used a Linksys router before, chances are you'll be pleased with the WRT400N's Web interface. The router reuses nearly the same Web interface and networking features as the WRT610N and most other Linksys routers. It allows access to the router's long list of advanced features. We especially liked its elaborate content-filtering system, called "Access Restrictions," which lets you restrict or filter the Internet access of a particular networked computer. For example, you can prevent certain computers from accessing certain Web sites. The "Applications and Gaming" feature lets you set up port forwarding and triggering to reserve specific ports for specific applications, such as games, remote desktop, or FTP and HTTP servers. You can also conveniently marry static IP addresses to certain computers in the network, making the port forwarding much more relevant and easy to accomplish. If you want to create a VPN connection, an FTP access, or a remote desktop connection to a certain computer in the network, you will find this handy.
Linksys' EasyLink Advisor also offers some original post-setup features. We especially liked the capability to see a map of all clients connected to the network and the option to manage each of them in real time. For example, if you see an unidentified device connected to the network, the software allows you to mark it in red to distinguish it from other known devices. If a client in the network has EasyLink Advisor installed, you can do more--such as view its complete status, including its MAC, IP address, OS, and CPU information.
For security, the WRT400N 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.
Apart from network address translation, it also has an SPI firewall that you can turn on or off, or further customize with different options.
We tested the Linksys WRT400N on both 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz frequencies, and the results were very interesting.
Most routers offer noticeably better performance in the 5Ghz band than the 2.4Ghz band, so we were surprised that the WRT400N's 5Ghz performance wasn't much faster than its 2.4Ghz performance.
The router's scores for range and throughput stayed relatively close. This means you get about the same result regardless of how far you are from the router, as long as you are within about 100 feet.
In the 5Ghz band, where the client was only 15 feet way from the router, it scored 44.6Mbps in our throughput test. In the range test, where the client was 100 feet away, the router scored 40.1Mbps--a very small degradation. Conversely, the D-Link DIR 825 had a much larger degradation between the two tests. It got 80.96Mbps for the throughput and 36.48Mbps for the range tests.
We saw similar results in the 2.4Ghz tests. The WRT400N scored 40.1Mbps in throughput, 37.4Mbps in range, and 38.2Mbps 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 clients at the same time. These scores were good, though not the best compared with other dual-band routers.
The WRT400N's maximum-connection range was decent. In our testing facility, which is an office building and is not optimized for wireless range, we connected to it from about 270 feet away in both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands. While we've seen better--such as with the D-Link DIR 855 or the Apple Airport Extreme Base Station, the signals of which can go farther than 300 feet--this is still within our expectations for a dual-band router.
Service and support
Linksys backs the WRT400N Simultaneous Dual-N Band Wireless Router with a one-year, limited warranty, which, while short, 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, as well as a FAQ section.