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Linksys WRT54GX review: Linksys WRT54GX

Although a better performer than standard 802.11g routers, the Linksys WRT54GX can't match the speed or the price of Belkin's Pre-N router.

Stephanie Bruzzese

See full bio
3 min read

The square, silver Linksys WRT54GX router is about the size of a hardback book and looks somewhat intimidating because of the three antennas sticking out of its top panel. The device also has four wall-mounting brackets for hanging the unit free and clear of possible obstructions, such as furniture, that can impede the signal. Nine handy LEDs near the router's top panel light up when it's powered on, when you're engaged in Internet and wireless activities, when you have other devices plugged into the four LAN ports, and when its DMZ capability is enabled.

7.1

Linksys WRT54GX

The Good

MIMO technology; WPA security; SPI firewall; VPN pass-through.

The Bad

Disappointing throughput and range; expensive.

The Bottom Line

The Linksys WRT54GX offers impressive performance, but Belkin's Pre-N router delivers more bang for the buck.
Linksys WRT54GX
Editor's note: Due to testing issues, we have retested this product and made the necessary changes to the performance charts. We have not changed the overall editors' rating. (7/29/05)
The Linksys WRT54GX Wireless-G broadband router with SRX (Speed and Range eXpansion) technology is a recent addition to a growing number of products equipped with a new technology called MIMO. MIMO is slated for 802.11n, the specification that is scheduled to replace 802.11g next year. Unfortunately, the WRT54GX was consistently outpaced by another MIMO router we tested, the Belkin Wireless Pre-N, and was even outperformed in two out of three tests by the Netgear WGU624, an older-generation Wi-Fi router. Contrary to Linksys's claims, the WRT54GX didn't earn fantastic throughput scores at long distances, either. Though the $199 WRT54GX has a few points in its favor, including three adjustable antennas, WPA security, and an SPI (stateful packet inspection) firewall, it's still no overall match for the $149 Belkin Wireless Pre-N in both performance and price.

The package includes an installation wizard on a CD that ships with the router. The wizard walks you through a basic installation process, helping you connect to your broadband modem, choose an SSID (or wireless network name), and set up encryption for your wireless network. With its foolproof design, the wizard helps even those who are new to networking connect the router in a matter of minutes.

The Linksys WRT54GX's browser-based configuration tool offers access to all of the standard Wi-Fi router settings, plus a few nice extras. The configuration tool lets you set up MAC address filters, allowing or denying connections from specific computers based on their hardware, or MAC, addresses. You can also use the configuration tool to adjust WEP and WPA settings. The tool gives you opportunities to keep close tabs on incoming data packets through an SPI firewall and to open up a VPN tunnel through the firewall. Finally, you can use the configuration tool to block users' access to specific Web sites by listing the URLs for those sites.

CNET Labs maximum throughput tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

CNET Labs maximum throughput tests with mixed 802.11b/g and MIMO clients
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

CNET Labs long-range tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Performancewise, the Linksys WRT54GX is an average performer. We tested the router in combination with the MIMO-based Linksys WPC54GX Wireless-G notebook adapter, which is necessary to reap all of the router's benefits. Though it fell only slightly behind the Belkin Pre-N's maximum throughput speed at 10 feet, it lagged significantly in the mixed-mode throughput test. True, the point of MIMO technology is to help wireless devices achieve fast throughput at longer distances, but even at a distance of 200 feet, the Linksys's lackluster 28.6Mbps score was well shy of the Belkin's 36.4Mbps time.

Though the Linksys WRT54GX faltered in the face of our performance tests, at least its service and support is generally up to snuff. The router ships with a long, three-year parts-and-labor warranty that includes toll-free, 24/7 telephone support. The company's support Web site offers a useful live chat feature that lets you talk in virtual real time with a tech-support rep. But the site's knowledge base failed to generate a single FAQ related to the WRT54GX. You'd be better off consulting the troubleshooting section in the router's helpful user guide, which also includes detailed descriptions of the device's hardware features and configuration tool.

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