SMC SMCWGBR14-N Barricade N router
You may not be familiar with SMC, but you should if you're shopping for a Draft N router. The company's SMCWGBR14-N Barricade N router finished at or above the average of the group of recent Draft N 2.0 routers we've tested while exhibiting impressive range. It also boasts a generous set of features, a practical design, and an always-appreciated intuitive Web interface. In short, we strongly recommend this router for home users looking to setup an .11n network. The only feature we wish were present is the ability to broadcast at the 5GHz frequency; it operates only on the crowded 2.4GHz band.
The SMC Barricade N router provides nearly the same features as the D-Link GamerLounge DGL-4500; the SMC router doesn't include anything akin to the D-Link's GameFuel technology for prioritizing bandwidth for games (and the D-Link supports either 2.4GHz or 5GHz), but it can generally be found online for $30 to $40 less at around $140. We prefer the design of the SMC Barricade N router and found it to provide a more reliable signal. While the Netgear WNR854T RangeMax remains a favorite of ours for general home use, the SMC Barricade N router serves up additional features including a USB port and Wi-Fi Protected Setup, while delivering better range than the RangeMax.
The SMC ships in very economical package. Inside, you'll find only the bare necessities: the router itself, a base for positioning it vertically, a power cord, an Ethernet cable, and a CD that contains an electronic version of the manual along with an installation guide. In fact, we found the Quick Installation Guide is a little bit too economical: two letter-size pages of setup information with illustrations in 15 different languages. While we could have used a magnifying glass to read the small print, we experienced no problems during the simple, four-step installation process. We got the router up and running within a few minutes.
The design of the SMC is similar to that of the LevelOne N_One: straightforward and practical. The three antennas are placed on the side of the device, away from the network ports that are located on the back. On the front are the status LEDs, each marked by a tiny icon indicating the corresponding port's connection status. There's also a LED showing the status of the WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) push-button features. WPS is a feature that makes adding other wireless clients a simple, painless process. This LED lights up when the WPS button on top of the router is pressed, indicating the four-minute window when other WPS-enabled devices are automatically added to the network by the router.
The SMC's design does have one minor shortcoming: The USB print server port is located on the front. We'd rather see this port on the back, since a printer is generally permanently connected to this port. Having a USB cable coming out from the front of the router only adds to the cable clutter on your desk. A front-mounted USB port would be perfect if it were for Windows Connect Now (WCN), a feature that allows for adding wireless clients to the router using a USB thumb drive. Alas, the SMC doesn't support this feature.
Once set up, the router can be configured via a Web-based interface that resembles that of the D-Link GamerLounge DGL-4500, which we found to be among the best. All sections are well organized and intuitive, with great response. Most changes can be applied instantly without restarting. One difference between these two otherwise very similar routers: the D-Link uses WCN while the SMC uses WPS Push Button as the primary method of quickly and securely adding wireless clients to the network.
The two routers differed in performance, however, with the advantage slightly leaning toward the SMC. In labs testing, the SMC scored 83.7Mbps in our short-range maximum throughput test, which was imperceptibly faster than the D-Link while trailing the Netgear WNR854T RangeMax by roughly the same minuscule amount. On our mixed mode test, where the router was set up to work with both 802.11n and legacy 802.11g clients at the same time, the SMC's score was 52.4Mbps; less impressive but still faster than that of the D-Link and in the middle of the pack. On our long-range test, the SMC again scored toward the top of the pack when broadcasting its signal at 200 feet. In all, the SMC offers more than acceptable throughput, particularly if you don't have older wireless devices on your network.
In anecdotal testing, the SMC was able to maintain its signal over long ranges. In our test environment, which has a lot of walls and other interference, we were still able pick up stable signals from the router at 300 feet, an impressive distance. By comparison, the Netgear WNR854T RangeMax started to drop its signal at around 270 feet.
SMC backs the SMCWGBR14-N Barricade N with a generous lifetime warranty, provided you register the product within 30 days of purchase. The only catch is that the lifetime warranty lasts only as long as the product is an "active" SMC product, meaning that it hasn't been replaced with a newer model. Given the lifespan of a router, we think this arrangement is preferable to the industry standard one-year warranty. The company's Web site is as intuitive as the router's Web interface, where you can find firmware, manual downloads, and FAQ pages, as well as contact SMC support by e-mail. Toll-free phone support is available 24-7; we dialed the number listed and quickly got hold of a representative who was helpful and patient. All in all, we had a very pleasant experience with the company's technical support.
|Throughput at 200 feet|
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