The Trendnet TEW-691GR is very similar to the TEW-639GR with one major difference: it's the first router that supports three-stream Wireless-N, with cap speeds of up to 450Mbps; typical dual-stream Wireless-N routers have cap speeds of 300Mbps.
In our testing, the TEW-691GR delivers. It's the fastest 2.4Ghz wireless router to date in close-range throughput tests. In the range test, however, its performance is about the same as most other Wireless-N routers.
With the street price of around $180, the TEW-691GR falls a little short of our expectations, as it doesn't support dual-band, USB devices, or guest networking. Though we love the router's speed, there are many other Wireless-N routers on the market that offer good performance and more features for less money.
Design and ease of use
The Trendnet TEW-691GR looks almost exactly the same as the TEW-639GR, with a traditional rectangular design and three antennas sticking up from its back. As the router's ports are also on the back, we wish these antennas were on the sides of the router, for easy access.
Like the TEW-639GR, the TEW-691GR also lacks USB ports, so it has no support for printers or external storage devices. On the back of the router, you'll also find a power switch and a WLAN switch, which quickly turns on or off the wireless signal.
The router includes four LAN ports (for network Ethernet-ready devices) and one WAN port (to be connected to the Internet, for example, via a broadband modem). These ports are gigabit, meaning they are capable of delivering wired connection speeds up to 1,000Mbps.
The TEW-691GR has an array of LEDs on the front; each shows the status of the network ports on the back as well as that of the Internet connection and the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), a feature that allows for quickly adding a client to the wireless network. The WPS LED blinks green as you push the WPS button on the side of the router and shows the time window that a WPS-enabled client can be hooked up to the network.
The router comes with four tiny rubber feet to keep it grounded on any surface. It's also wall-mountable.
The TEW-691GR doesn't ship with any desktop setup software, just a quick setup guide that walks you through the process step by step, and a CD that contains the manual in PDF format.
It's easy to set the router up, nonetheless. 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 done and set up with the default settings. You then can further customize this by pointing your browser to the router's IP address, which by default is 192.168.10.1.
Despite the hefty price, the TEW-691GR is bare-bones. It doesn't support dual-band, meaning it operates in only the 2.4Ghz frequency band. It doesn't support guest networking, either.
The TEW-691GR's Web interface is responsive and works with any browser. The interface has a clear indicator that shows the process of changes that are being applied to the router's settings.
Apart from allowing you to change the basic networking settings, the interface give you access to the TEW-691GR's more-advanced features. One of these is Access Control, which allows restricting certain computers in the network from certain Internet services such as Web browsing, e-mailing, and chatting. This feature is rather limited, however, as you can't restrict specifically to a particular Web site or service provider. Other advanced features include Virtual Servers, which allows you to make computers in the network able to host a service, such as FTP or HTTP; Gaming, which prioritizes Internet traffic for certain games; and a few others.
The router is not very comprehensive when it comes to assigning a fixed IP address to a computer in the network. You will need to find that computer's Mac address, via the list of connected devices, and manually type it in. Other routers can display this information and you can just assign a fixed IP to any of them via a few clicks.
For security, the TEW-691GR supports only different variations of the WPA2 encryption standard. This means it might not be compatible with older generations of adapters that only work with WPA or WEP standards.
The TEW-691GR is the first three-stream router we've seen, and we were excited to try it out. As there aren't yet any adapters on the market that support the three-stream standard, we tested the router with Trendnet's recommended TEW-644USB adapter.
In the throughput test, where the router was set up to offer the best possible transfer speeds, the TEW-691GR scored 70.7Mbps, topping the chart of single-band routers by a large margin. By comparison, the second fastest, the Belkin N+, scored only 55.44Mbps in the same test. At this speed, the router can finish transmitting 500MB of data in less than a minute.
In the mixed mode test, where the TEW-691GR was set to work with both N and legacy G wireless clients, the router also did very well, with a score of 60.4Mbps, again topping the chart. However, in the 100-feet range test, the TEW-691GR disappointed us with a score of just 26Mps, a significant degradation.
The router successfully passed our 48-hour stress test, in which the router was set to transmit a large amount of data back and forth between multiple wireless clients. During this time, it didn't disconnect once.
All in all, this is the fastest single-band wireless N router we've seen when used at the range of 75 feet or shorter. The router also offers very good range up to 280 feet away; however, we found that its throughput speed degrades greatly as the range increases.
The TEW-691GR ran rather hot during operation and should only be placed in the open.
Service and support
As with its other routers, Trendnet backs the TEW-691GR with a generous three-year warranty. 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 and other downloadable material, such as manuals and the latest firmware.