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Trendnet TEW-673GRU review: Trendnet TEW-673GRU

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With two USB ports, an LCD, support for simultaneous dual-band Gigabit Ethernet, and a price of around $150, the TEW-673GRU is Trendnet's attempt to get into the high-end wireless routers market. For the most part, the router impressed us, especially in the realm of throughput speed, but it's far from perfect.

OVR
7.5

Trendnet TEW-673GRU

The Good

The Trendnet TEW-673GRU supports true dual-band and has consistently high throughput speed at close range. It offers signal stability and comes with a well-organized, responsive Web interface. It also has two USB ports that support external hard drives and printers.

The Bad

The Trendnet TEW-673GRU range 2.4Ghz throughput speeds could be better. Its USB ports require software installed on a computer to work and can only work with one computer at a time. The router lacks support for guest networking.

The Bottom Line

The Trendnet TEW-673GRU is a fast and full featured high-end wireless router, but its USB-related features might fall short of your expectations.

Our biggest issue is that its USB-related features, including network storage and print serving, can't support multiple computers simultaneously. What's more, the router's throughput speed in the 2.4Ghz band could also be improved over range.

If you're looking for a router that offers real NAS function, we'd recommend the Linksys E3000 or we'd suggest getting a dedicated NAS server. Otherwise, the Trendnet TEW-673GRU is a great choice for anyone who wants a fast and reliable wireless network.

Design and ease of use
Out of the box, the Trendnet TEW-673GRU comes with a small LCD on top. Like the LCD on the D-Link DGL-4500, it shows the status and other functions of the device and replaces the traditional LED status lights. Otherwise, the router resembles other Trendnet routers: practical and rather plain.

The LCD has four navigation buttons for browsing through the displayed information like the status of the router, the number of connected clients, the speed of the Internet, the performance of each frequency band, and so on. You have to read the manual or figure out via trial and error the functions of the buttons, as they have no label. And even when you know how they work, you still have to use them a few times to get the LCD show the information you need.

On the whole, the LCD is more of a gimmick than a real feature, and we missed the traditional array of LED status lights, which instantly show you what's going on at a glance. Also, the LCD is useful only when the router is within reach of your hands. Unfortunately, since routers tend to be placed on the floor or at a corner, that usually isn't the case.

On its back, the router has only two antennae instead of the three found on other routers, such as the recently reviewed TEW-639GR. This result is a cleaner, less cluttered look. The router has four LAN ports (for wired clients) and one WAN port (to connect to an Internet source, such as a broadband router), all of which are Gigabit.

Also on the router's back are two USB ports for external storage devices or printers. The TEW-673GRU is one of few routers on the market that have two USB ports.

The router doesn't ship with any desktop setup software; instead you'll find a quick setup guide that walks you through the setup process. Basically, once you have connected the router to a computer via its LAN port and the broadband modem via its WAN port, your home network is ready to use with the default settings. Easy enough.

If you want to change the SSIDs (the wireless network names), enable the encryption or change other setting, you can customize the router further by pointing your browser to the router's IP address, which, by default is 192.168.10.1.

Features
The TEW-673GRU has a more organized and self-explanatory Web interface than other Trendnet routers. On the left part of the interface are eight features categories, including Main, Wireless, Status, Routing, Access, Management, Tools, and Wizard. When you click on one of these categories, you'll see the related functions. Main, for example, is the place you can customize the router's DHCP server, WAN connection, password, time and other settings.

We especially like the Access category, which offers a very good parental control (or Internet filter) feature and great network customization for different applications. The filter feature allows you to manage access of clients to the local network or the Internet via MAC addresses, domains, type of traffic (protocol) and IP addresses. Here you also can change the settings of the router's firewall.

The TEW-673GRU comes with preconfigured settings for a long list of applications, including services such as NetMeeting, VoIP or for games, such as Battle.net. In addition, it has QoS Engine that allows for further customizing the traffic for interactive applications.

The router's interface also shows a list of connected clients with their names, IP addresses, and MAC addresses, making it very easy when you want to reserve a particular IP address for a device. This is a necessary feature for using a computer in the network for a particular service, such as a FTP or HTTP server.

The TEW-673GRU is a true dual-band router. It has two built-in access points for the popular 2.4Ghz frequency band and the 5Ghz band. They can work at the same time and you can turn them on or off separately.

To our disappointment, however, the router doesn't have a feature called "Guest Networking," which enables users to create a separate wireless network for guests. This comes in handy when you want to share the Internet with others, but don't want them to access your local resources such as printers or files. Most high-end routers we've reviewed have this feature.

Unlike other routers that have USB-related features, such as the Cisco E3000, you can't manage the Trendnet TEW-673GRU's two USB ports via its Web interface. Instead, you'll need to install and run a utility called "Trendnet USB Control Center" on a computer for accessing the printer or the USB external hard drive connected to the router's USB ports. Moreover, while you can use any printers or external storage devices with the ports, the device can be used with only one computer at a time.


The Trendnet TEW-673GRU requires a software utility installed on a computer to use its connected USB devices, which are available to only one network computer at a time.

This limitation means that the router's USB port is much less useful and offers almost no benefit over connecting the USB device to a computer directly. Most other USB routers we've seen support external storage or printers as an independent host and allow the connected USB devices to be accessed by multiple network computers at the same time, without requiring any software to be installed.

For security, the TEW-673GRU supports virtually all existing encryption methods currently available for wireless routers. These include all variations of the WEP, WPA and WPA2 encryption standards. The router fully supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) so you won't have to worry about memorizing the encryption key most of the time. It has a WPS button on the right side that initiates the 2-minute window time that WPS-enabled clients can enter the network automatically.

The TEW-673GRU is part of Trendnet's GreenNet Initiative and is able to turn off power to idle ports automatically. It also has other energy-saving features, and Trendnet claims that it could use up to 70 percent less energy than other routers of the same size and features.

Performance
The TEW-673GRU performed well in our tests, especially at close range. We tested the router with both of its frequency bands.

In the 2.4Ghz band, the router did well in close range throughput test, where it was set up to offer the best possible transfer speed. With the score of 61.52Mbps, it currently is the fastest among dual-band routers in this test. At this speed the router can finish transmitting 500GB of data in just 65 seconds.

This speed, however, reduced significantly when we increased the range to 100 feet. At this distance, the TEW-673GRU's range test's score was just 27.3Mbps. This by no means was the slowest we've seen, but it's a big degradation compared to the previous test.

In the mixed-mode test, where the router was set to work with both N and legacy G clients at the same time, the TEW-673GRU again scored quite high at 59.6Mbps.

In the 5Ghz band, the router's scores were more consistent. In the close range test it registered 62.9Mbps and in long range test it made 50.3Mbps; much less of a degradation when compared to the other band. These scores were, by the way, about average for dual-band routers.

The TEW-673GRU also offered very good range, around 280 feet in the 2.4Ghz band and 250 feet in the 5Ghz band in our testing environment.

What made us happiest about the TEW-673GRU is that it passed our 48-hour stress test flawlessly. During this test, the router was set to transfer a large amount data back and forth among different wireless clients. The TEW-673GRU was the first in the most recent series of routers that we've reviewed that passed this test without any hiccups. This means you can rely on this wireless signal stability to play online games without worrying about being kicked out of the game randomly.

We also gauged the router's network storage performance, which did well when compared to other routers that have NAS features. The router registered 80.7Mbps and 108Mbps for write and read, respectively. While these numbers were much lower that those of dedicated NAS server, they were many times faster than those of the Belkin PlayMax.

CNET Labs 2.4Ghz Wireless-N performance test (Measured in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Mixed Mode  
Range  
Throughput  
TrendNet TEW-673GRU
59.6 
27.3 
61.52 
D-Link DIR-825 (2.4Ghz)
55.04 
40.4 
57.44 
Belkin N+ Wireless Router (2.4Ghz)
36.16 
29.44 
55.44 
Netgear WNDR3700 (2.4Ghz)
41.8 
38.6 
54.8 
Belkin Play Max (2.4Ghz)
47.5 
44.8 
52.2 
Cisco Linksys E3000 (2.4Ghz)
35.3 
32.8 
43.5 
Linksys WRT610n (2.4Ghz)
27.04 
28.8 
35.76 
Apple Time Capsule (2.4Ghz)
20 
20.8 
32.2 

CNET Labs 5Ghz Wireless-N performance test (Measured in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
TrendNet TEW-673GRU
50.3 
62.9 
D-Link DIR-825 (5Ghz)
36.48 
80.96 

NAS performance test (measured in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  

Service and support
Trendnet backs the TEW-673GRU with a generous three-year warranty (compared to one year for most routers). The toll-free technical phone support is available 24-7, even when the warranty runs out. Trendnet's Web site offers comprehensive self-help tools including the Configuration Emulator, which shows the look and feels of the router's Web interface and its features. There are also other download materials such as manuals, latest firmware, and so on.

OVR
7.5

Trendnet TEW-673GRU

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 7Performance 8Support 9