There's not too much that can be said about the design of wireless routers, a category that has typically eschewed design style on the grounds that they're objects that you can nominally stow away in a handy cupboard, well out of sight. TRENDnet's TEW-432BRP stands out in the router category on only the most minor of grounds; it's rather small and comes in a light blue plastic that suggests that if Peyo's famous Smurfs ever go wireless, it's the TRENDnet TEW-432BRP that they'll favour above all else.
The front panel of the TEW-432BRP houses an array of small activity lights for the network activity of the router, while the rear houses a very standard four 10/100 network ports, a WAN port for connecting an external modem, power socket and reset button. If you've used any router, you have in essence used the TEW-432BRP, at least on the physical level.
The TEW-432BRP offers you two installation options; either via the provided install CD, or the more traditional method, utilising an IP-based web interface. The installed software is simple to use for novices, although it does contain a slight catch. The setup software abjectly refuses to install if you're only using a wireless connection for configuration, although you could always fall back to the browser interface for configuration in that case. The TEW-432BRP's web-based setup screens aren't the most user friendly we've ever hit, but at the same time they're quick and clean in their layout, with a nice logical structure.
The other software offering that the TEW-432BRP includes is Pure Networks' Network Magic utility, a package that manages and displays your wireless and wired networks via a simple visual interface. It's a great little software package, with one striking problem -- the version on the CD is only a 30-day trial version, exactly the same as you can get from Pure Networks web site for nothing.
Just as its design is fundamentally simple, so too the TEW-432BRP's feature set is essentially generic. It's an 802.11g router with 4 10/100 Ethernet ports, inbuilt NAT and SPI firewall facility, support for WEP/WPA and WPA-PSK, DHCP support for up to 253 users -- presumably for if you've got an awful lot of people around all at once. There's nothing particularly missing from the TEW-432BRP's technology offering that you'd want or need in a basic router, but that's because that's precisely what it is -- a basic router.
The trend of generic behaviour with the TEW-432BRP continues with its wireless performance, which was essentially on a par with other non-MIMO, non-Pre/Draft-N routers we've reviewed in the past. Wireless performance is a highly subjective thing, but in our test environment, running alongside two other routers (a Belkin Wireless Pre-N and Zyxel Prestige 660HW-61, respectively), the TRENDnet TEW-432BRP managed equivalent connection and data transfer speeds as the Zyxel, and, as you'd expect, much less than the Belkin.
With a raft of Draft-N products hitting or about to hit the market -- not to mention scads of Pre-N and MIMO that'll need to be flogged off cheaply, it's unsurprising to see a plain jane style router like the TRENDnet TEW-432BRP selling for a retail price not that far north of a hundred bucks. For its capability set and performance, that's a fair but unspectacular price point.>