Edimax joins LevelOne as another first timer in CNET Labs, and while the two companies' Draft N routers each boast a sleek design, they proved to be very different performers. LevelOne's N_One WBR-6000 router turned out to be little more than a pretty face, turning in a resoundingly disappointing showing on our tests. The Edimax BR-6504N, on the other hand, proved itself to be an able performer, highlighted by its strong showing on our mixed mode test. While it's not without its faults--there's no Gigabit Ethernet, and the antennas crows the ports in back--and it offers less-than-stellar range, we like the Edimax BR-6504N for basic networking needs, particularly at its low price of $80.
- Device type: Wireless router
- Network standard: 802.11n (draft), 802.11b/g
- Bandwidth: 2.4GHz
- Supported operating systems: Windows XP and Vista, Max OS X, Linux
- Security options: WEP; WPA-PSK; NAT, and firewall
- Features: Four 10/100 LAN ports; one WAN port; DHCP support; firewall; Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS)
- Notable design features: Detachable antenna
- Support: Two-year warranty
At first glance, you might mistake the simple, white Edimax BR-6504N for Apple's Airport Extreme. On the front, a panel of LEDs indicates the working status of the network ports on the back, as well as the status of the wireless network and the Internet connection. While we like the overall look of the router, we never like to see a router's antennas placed on the back edge where they crowd the network ports, and that's exactly where the BR-6504N's three antennas reside. They are detachable, however, and can be replaced with Edimax's EA-MARS, which lets you relocate the antennas to increase your range. You may want to consider the EA-MARS; on our tests, the BR-6404N failed to impress in the range department. In our test environment, which presents many challenges to a router's range (more so than your typical home, to be sure), the Edimax's signal started to drop at just a little over 200 feet, whereas the D-Link DGL-4500and the Netgear WNR854T RangeMax were able to hold a signal closer to 300 feet.
The Edimax is very easy to set up, thanks to its multilingual Quick Installation Guide and the well-laid-out, intuitive, and responsive Web-based interface. We were able to get it up and running within just a few minutes of taking it out of the box. The router offers a wide range of network options to optimize network traffic for specific applications--games, IMs, and so on--or to set it up as a virtual server. It also features QoS (Quality of Service), where you can prioritize traffic for certain computers in the network or certain service such as a VoIP phone. It also has a firewall section where you can quickly turn the built-in firewall function on or off. While most routers can act as a hardware firewall, the Edimax's setting makes it easy for novice users to enable or disable this feature.
The router comes with all available flavors of wireless security standards, including WEP, WPA, and WPA2. It also supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), both PIN and push button. WPS allows other WPS-enabled devices to get quickly and securely connected. Each device that features WPS is assigned with a unique PIN (much like its MAC address), which needs to be entered to the router manually or can be detected by the router with the push-button feature. The Edimax BR-6504N doesn't support Windows Connect Now, however, where you can use a thumbdrive to transfer the wireless encryption from the router to other devices.
Unlike most recent Draft N routers, the Edimax doesn't support Gigabit Ethernet. This fact doesn't affect wireless performance and shouldn't matter for those merely looking to share an Internet connection, but the wired 10/100 LAN connection can become a bottleneck should you be setting up your network to stream files from your wired desktop or home server to the various laptops and other wireless devices in your home.
We tested the router with Edimax's nMax Wireless LAN Cardbus (EW-7708Pn). On our maximum throughput test, the Edimax BR-6504N turned in an acceptable score of 76.7Mbps, which trailed slightly behind the leaders but well ahead of the woeful LevelOne. It did better on our mixed mode test, where it topped the chart at 68.0Mbps, making it a good choice if you have both Draft N and older .11g clients communicating on your network. The throughput of the router waned rather rapidly with the distance; in CNET Labs' long-range test, its score was reduced to a mere 11.4Mbps when broadcasting at 200 feet.