Though categorized as an accessory specifically for home entertainment devices from Vizio, the XWR100 wireless router will more than satisfy users with any wireless networking needs. In fact, if it supported Gigabit Ethernet, it'd be one of the best budget routers we've tested.
Unfortunately, it doesn't; it also comes with a Web interface that, though responsive and easy to use, lacks depth in regard to managing the router's settings. The device's network storage function is also subpar in both performance and features.
For the street price of just around $80, however, the XWR100 is worth every penny. The router has great range and signal tactility. It also performed very decently in our wireless throughput tests. If you want something that supports Gigabit Ethernet at a similar price, however, we'd also recommend the Cisco Linksys E2000.
Design and ease of use
The Vizio XWR100's design is similar to that of the Linksys E2000, with the flat, UFO-like shape and the sleek casing that, unfortunately, attracts fingerprints easily. The router's antennas are all hidden within the chassis, making the whole package much more compact than other same-size routers that have eternal antennas. The Vizio has four rubber feet that keep it grounded on any surface, but you'll also find slots on the bottom for mounting it on a wall.
On top toward the front, the router has an array of white LED status indicator lights that are only visible when lit up. These lights show the status of the router's ports and connections.
On the back it has a WAN port (to connect an Internet source, such as a broadband modem) and four LAN ports (to connect to other Ethernet-ready devices). These ports are all traditional 10/100 LAN ports. This lack of support for Gigabit Ethernet is a little disappointing because the router is supposedly designed to connect between multimedia devices, meaning there'd be lots of digital content streaming. While Gigabit Ethernet is not necessary for smooth content-streaming performance, it would help a lot if you want to stream from a single source, such as a home server, to many different players at the same time. And, of course, when it comes to networking, faster is always better.
Also on the back the router has a USB port to host a USB external hard drive. In our trials this port can also power drives that use bus power--those that don't have a separate power adapters. Next to the USB port is a Wi-Fi Protected Setup button that starts the 2-minute time window in which other WPS-enabled products can enter the router's wireless network.
The Vizio doesn't come with any software or any manual. All it has in the box for a user guide is a small Quick Start guide poster, and surprisingly that's all you need to get started. The poster includes well-illustrated photos and setup steps that guide you through the short setup process. Basically all you need to do is plug the router into the computer, the Internet source, and the power.
By default, the router operates with two separate wireless networks called Vizio HD and Vizio. The former is in the 5GHz frequency band and the latter is in the 2.4GHz band. These two networks' default encryption keys are printed on the Quick Start guide.
If you're not happy with the networks' default settings, you can further customize them, as well as other features of the router, by using its Web interface. To do this from a connected computer, point an Internet browser (such as Firefox) to http://vizio.home. Alternatively, you can also point the browser to the router's default IP address, which is 192.168.1.1.
The XWR100's Web interface is divided into three parts: Internet, Router, and Wireless. As the names suggest, each of these parts allows you to customize the settings of that function of the router. The Internet part, for example, lets you change the way the router accesses the Internet, optimize its connection for video streaming, and turn on or off the Internet access for particular computers within the network. It also includes a handy Internet speed test that quickly shows you the speed of your broadband connection.
Similarly, the Router part allows access to the router's settings, such as its default IP address, firewall, and so on. And the Wireless part is where you can customize the above-mentioned wireless networks. Here you can also turn on the third network to use for guests or to host legacy slow clients.
In all, we found the interface intuitive and responsive. It also includes most of the basic features. However, it doesn't allow for in-depth configuration. Apart from enabling or disabling the optimization for video streaming, basically the Quality of Service features, you can't do anything else such as optimizing the Internet connection for VoIP or gaming applications and so on. You can't change any of the router's network storage features, either.
The router can host any USB external hard drive formatted in FAT 32 and NTFS. It can, however, only read NTFS drives, meaning network computers can only read data from the connected drives without making any changes. This is a huge drawback; most external hard drives are formatted in NTFS file system, which has much better support for large storage capacity and file sizes.
Once connected, the entire external drive's content will be shared via a public share folder called "default." All computers in the network will have the same access to it. There's no way to restrict the access of any computers to the drive. The router can also stream digital media stored on the external hard drive to DLNA-compliant players; again, though, we couldn't figure out how to customize the way this feature works.
For what it's worth, we like the amount of features and the nice Web interface the Vizio XWR100 offers. While networking enthusiasts might see it as a little lacking, general consumers will find it much less intimidating to deal with than other routers.
The XWR100's performance met our expectations. We tested the router in both 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands, and the scores were as follows.
In the 5GHz band, the router scored 56.8Mbps in the close-range test, which was slowest on our charts, but the router is also by far the most affordable of those compared on the charts. This is still fast and transmitted 500MB of data in less than 70 seconds. In the long-range test, it did comparatively better at 41.8Mbps, beating the Netgear WNDR 3700 and the D-Link DIR-825.
In tests with the 2.4GHz band, the router did significantly better with 38.2Mbps, 32.8Mbps, and 22.4Mbps for close-range, long-range, and mixed-mode tests, respectively. The mixed-mode test is when the router is set to work with devices of different wireless standards, including N, G, and B at a time.
The XWR100 was absolutely excellent when it came to range and signal stability. The router held a steady connection up to 300 feet away in our testing facility, which is among the longest distances we've seen. It passed our 48-hour stress test, during which time it was set to transfer a large amount of data between wireless clients, with ease and didn't disconnect once.
On the other hand, like all other routers with a built-in network storage function, the XWR100 won't impress anybody with its storage throughput. We tested this function via network cable, with a few different external hard drives, and the scores were consistently around 36Mbps for writing and 60Mbps for reading, which is comparatively acceptable. At these rates, the router can handle light file sharing (such as office documents) and media streaming (such as music and photos). If you're serious about network storage, we'd recommend getting a dedicated NAS server.
Service and support
Vizio backs the XWR100 with one-year warranty, which is short but standard for most routers on the market. The company's toll-free support is available 24-7, as is online chat with a support representative. The company's Web site includes a detailed FAQ section, mostly in regard to how to set up the router with Vizio's entertainment devices.