Linksys WRT610N Dual Band 802.11n Gigabit Router

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Product: Linksys WRT610N Dual-N Router
Provided By: Linksys
Price:

 

Introduction:

Linksys is not a new name in the home networking market and their parent company, Cisco, has roots that run deep in the enterprise market.  They are often one of the first names many people think of when it comes to home networking and today we have their latest flagship home network router - the WRT610N on our bench for a review.  This router features four Gigabit wired Ethernet ports as well as support for Wireless 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11n draft 2.0.  In order to achieve this, it operates on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies.  Both 802.11a and 802.11n use the 5GHz band but only wireless "n" can offer speeds of up to 300Mbps.  5GHz wireless "a" will run at 54Mbps.

Many users will no doubt wonder why the need for dual bands and the answer is quite simple.  The 2.4GHz frequency range often interferes with microwaves, cordless phones and is quite frankly saturated with a host of machines.  Adding the simultaneous 5GHz band allows for a lot of extra traffic without bottle-necking.  If you want to stream HD content while doing a host of other wireless file sharing this will be especially true.  Keep on reading to see if Linksys delivers what they promise or if we're left feeling depressed at the end.

Box
Box 

 

This router also supports handy features like port forwarding, MAC authentication, USB attached storage and separate control of both the 2.4GHz band and the 5GHz band.  The list of features is pretty long and the product is pretty slick so let's jump in.

 

First Look:

Linksys by Cisco has kept with the now standard design on this router and other than the color scheme, you can't tell it from their new WRT54G or WRT310N products.  The WRT610N comes with a nice blue on black color palette though and looks pretty slick.  Also in the box is the power adapter, network cable and a manual and a CD with their LELA (Linksys Easy Link Advisor).

Bundle
Bundle

 

Linksys typically does a nice job with retail packaging and this time is no exception.  The overall finish of the product is very shiny and the styling makes the router look "fast".  It has the appearance of a Lamborghini instead of the F-150 look of D-Link products.  That being said, the finish is very prone to fingerprints and if handled much, it looks horrible and will need to be cleaned.  That's something that you don't have to worry about with other routers.  In the image above, you can see the protective film that ships on the WRT610N.  This is to protect it from scratches and fingerprints and within 10 minutes of removing the film, the router looked dirty - never to look perfectly shiny and new again.

WRT610N
WRT610N

 

On the next page we'll take a closer look at this unit and cover the features and specifications.


 

Closer Look:

As we take a closer look at the WRT610N router we find that Linksys has done a good job of setting up this router for the average consumer.  The front of the router comes adorned with LED indicators for power, LAN connections 1-4; WAN, Wireless LAN, Internet and USB connected storage.  Most of these LEDs are pretty commonplace.  Right in the middle of all of these indicators there is a WPS setup button as is found on many other routers from Linksys and D-Link.  This makes setting up a protected network a bit easier for the networking n00b but many techs and enthusiasts will want to setup their network with custom security settings.

Label
Label

 

Moving around to the back we get a closer look at the LAN and WAN ports as well as the handy-dandy USB port for connecting and external storage device.  Unlike the TEW-672GR from Trendnet, the Linksys unit doesn't feature a physical WLAN on/off switch and I think that this is a handy feature for those that want to quickly shut off their wireless if they are not going to be at home.  You can still log into the router and disable it through software, but a physical switch is nice as well.

Router Rear
Router Rear

 


Features & Specifications:

To check out all of the features and specifications, we'll head on over to Linksys By Cisco site and pull the details from there.

Command Performance

Built for speed – optimized for media, music, movies, gaming: whatever you’re into, the Simultaneous Dual-N Band Wireless Router Delivers double the bandwidth and media-optimized performance so you can enjoy it more smoothly, with less lag, all around your home. Easy to use and setup; includes Mac setup wizard.

Double Bandwidth

Experience faster wireless connectivity with fewer interruptions with two bands of Wireless-N, today’s most advanced wireless technology. The 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz bands are designed to work separately yet simultaneously, so you can easily customize your ideal configuration – for example, use the 2.4 GHz band to surf, email and print while keeping the less crowded 5 GHz band free for time sensitive traffic like music, gaming and high-definition video. Built-in Media Optimized Networking technology gives time-sensitive traffic priority, so your media can run more smoothly, with fewer interruptions.

Extended Coverage

Coverage you can count on, all around your home. Wireless-N’s Multiple in, Multiple Out MIMO technology actually uses the signal reflections that confuse ordinary wireless technologies to help boost range and reduce dead spots, while its ultra-wide bandwidth greatly reduces interference from nearby wireless devices.

Gigabit Connectivity

Four integrated Gigabit Ethernet ports let you connect networked storage, computers, and other devices directly to your network and access them at much faster speeds. Storage Link provides USB connectivity for hard drives and memory stick.

Advanced Security

Advanced wireless security and SPI firewall protection is designed to help safeguard your home network and computers from most Internet attacks.

 

Tech Specs

  • Model: WRT610N
  • Standards: Draft 802.11n, 802.11a, 802.11g, 802.11b, 802.3, 802.3u, 802.3ab
  • Ports: Power, Ethernet, Internet, USB
  • Buttons: Reset, Wi-Fi Protected Setup
  • LEDs: Power, USB, Internet, Wireless, Wi-Fi Protected Setup, Ethernet (1-4)
  • Number of Antennas: 3 internal antennas per each 2,4 GHz and 5 GHz radio band
  • Detachable (y/n): No
  • Modulations: 802.11b: CCK, QPSK, BPSK; 802.11g: OFDM; 802.11a: OFDM; Wireless-N: BPSK, QPSK, 16-QAM, 64-QAM
  • RF Power (EIRP) in dBm:


2,4 GHz:

  • 802.11b: 16 ± 1,5 dBm Typical @ Normal Temp Range
  • 802.11g: 13,5 ± 1,5 dBm Typical @ Normal Temp Range
  • Wireless-N 20 MHz: 13 ± 1,5 dBm Typical @ Normal Temp Range
  • Wireless-N 40 MHz: 13 ± 1,5 dBm Typical @ Normal Temp Range


5 GHz:

  • 802.11a: 12,5 ± 1,5dBm Typical @ Normal Temp Range
  • Wireless-N 20 MHz: 8,5 ± 1,5 dBm Typical @ Normal Temp Range
  • Wireless-N 40 MHz: 11 ± 1,5 dBm Typical @ Normal Temp Range


Receive Sensitivity:
  • 2,4 GHz:
    • 11 Mbps: -86 dBm @ Typical
    • 54 Mbps: -71 dBm @ Typical
    • 130 Mbps (20 MHz): -70 dBm @ Typical
    • 270 Mbps (40 MHz): -66 dBm @ Typical
  • 5 GHz:
    • 54 Mbps: -67 dBm @ Typical
    • 130 Mbps (20 MHz): -68 dBm @ Typical
    • 270 Mbps (40 MHz): -62 dBm @ Typical


Antenna Gain in dBi:
  • 2,4 GHz: RIFA 1 & RIFA 2 & RIFA 3 = 4 dBi (Typical)
  • 5 GHz: RIFA 1 & RIFA 2 & RIFA 3 = 3,5 dBi (Typical)


  • UPnP: Supported
  • Security features: WEP, WPA, WPA2
  • Security key bits: Up to 128-bit encryption

 

On the next page we'll look at the web interface for the WRT610N and set this up for some testing.


Web Interface & Setup:

Most of the router setup is pretty straight forward and there isn't much use me stating the obvious.  I've included quite a few screenshots of some of the more advanced features as well.  Things like Advanced Routing, Virtual Servers, Independent Dual Band Wireless Setup, Access Control and more.  As I mentioned, most of it is pretty simple so make sure you take time to click through the screenshots in the gallery so you can understand what makes the WRT610N tick.

Basic Setup
Basic Setup
Advanced Routing
Advanced Routing

 

The WRT610N supports the typical WAN connections such as static, DHCP and PPPoE to name a few.  This router comes set to a typical 192.168.1.x range and if you already use this range, it should be an easy swap-out and upgrade.  I say upgrade as there are not many routers that can equal the speed and features of this unit.

 

Wireless Features:

One thing the I really like about the WRT610N is the dual-band wireless.  It basically is capable of operating two entirely separate wireless networks - one running 802.11b/g on the 2.4GHz band with a distinct SSID, encryption, and channel and the other operating the 802.11a/n on the 5GHz band.  Below are some of the settings and features available.

 Dual Wireless Setup
Dual Wireless Setup
Dual Wireless Security
Dual Wireless Security
   
 MAC Filter
MAC Filter
 Dual Advanced Wireless
Dual Advanced Wireless



Advanced Settings:

As we head into the advanced settings, I'll remind you to take a look at the gallery and click your way through these images here as we'll over cover a few below.  One of the most interesting and handy features of this router is the USB attached storage and how it serves files; both media files and ftp access.  You'll need to create users and groups which is a very simple process, then simply give read only or read/write permissions to different parts of your connected drive.  You can either share existing directories on your drive or create new shares.  I used a 160GB drive that was formatted to the NTFS file system with no issues.

 Storage Server
Storage Server
Media Server
Media Server
   
 FTP Server
FTP Server
 Server Admin
Server Admin

 

The last few screenshots we'll look at before we jump into testing have to do with port forwarding and Quality of Service.  These are pretty standard as well, so I'll let them explain themselves.

 Port Forwarding
Port Forwarding
QoS
QoS

 

One thing I noticed that the WRT610N has is a network speed measurement in order for it to determine what kind of bandwidth it can allow for external applications.  The D-Link DGL-4x00 series measures internet speed so that it can scale the Quality of Service settings accordingly.  We'll see in the testing section on the next page if this in fact has an impact on performance.

On the last age we'll take a look at how this router performs in terms of network throughput.

 

Network Performance:

As far as performance goes, we fired up iperf to do a little benchmarking on this router.  Iperf results show bandwidth that the network is actually capable of.  In the real world, you won't see wired transfer rates approaching 1000mpbs because hard drives are barely fast enough to read and write at this speed.  Also, CPU overhead becomes an issue when transferring this much data.  We use iperf with confidence as it shows how good the network hardware actually is and if it can perform anywhere close to its rated specs.

Network Speed

 

For reference we have compared the WRT610N to the DIR-655DGL-4500 and most recently the TEW-672GR.  All of these routers support 802.11n and GB wired Ethernet.  A USB stick was used to connect a desktop to the WRT610N while a laptop was used to connect to the 802.11n network using the D-Link DWA-652 Xtreme N Notebook Adapter.  Although the performance results are not exactly apples-to-apples, they do show the maturity of the hardware (both router and wireless connected clients) as the 802.11n standard evolves.

We ran through several instances of iperf and each instance transferred data for 5 minutes.  The results were averaged are displayed above.  As you can see the DIR-655 is violently overthrown as the 802.11n king by the WRT610N.  The DGL-4500 shows respectable G/N mixed performance but the Linksys WRT610N once again takes the proverbial wireless cake.  In terms of wired network performance, both the WRT610N and the D-Link DGL-4500 come in neck-and-neck.  Keep in mind that network cable will play a major role here.  We used Cat.6 cable for our tests although Cat.5e is supposed to work with GB networks as well.

 

Final Thoughts:

It was nice getting a chance to play with a high-end Linksys router and see what they've been up to over the past few years.  The WRT610N is currently the fastest consumer oriented router from Linksys and it is indeed just that - fast.  The wireless 802.11n performance is blistering fast as is the mixed mode 802.11g.  I was able to easily connect to either SSID/band and it is interesting to be able to set different encryption to both.  Overall, connectivity and ease of use was top notch.

One thing I do have a beef about though is the QoS capability.  As the D-Link DGL-4500 has a dynamic netspeed capability and the WRT610N does not, I did in fact notice that at night some of my games experienced a lot of lag.  This occurred when playing Call of Duty 4 while other computers were using the network and internet connections for video watching and web surfing.  My gameplay experience suffered so much that I swapped back in my DGL-4500 and gameplay smoothed out immediately.  This worked for a couple of maps without issue and I wanted to see if the traffic load has cleared up or if the DGL-4500 did in fact have better QoS.  I swapped back to the WRT610N and once again experienced some lag issues.  Clearly the DGL-4500 has better QoS.

The WRT610N is still a great router however as it offers simultaneous connectivity to 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks.  When using the DGL-4500, the mixed mode saw a performance hit while the Linksys router excels in this area.  Overall, if you want a blistering fast router for your home or small office, you can't go wrong with the Linksys WRT610N router.  It also supports the Linksys Home Network Defender for added security as well.

 

Pros:

  • Excellent port forwarding / masking
  • Passes all firewall tests
  • Simultaneous dual-band wireless with separate configuration
  • Handy and simple NAS feature through USB port
  • Blistering fast wireless and wired network performance

 

Cons:

  • QoS features are not as good as the competition
  • One of the more expensive consumer routers on the market

 

While the WRT610N may not be for the most cost conscious consumer, the fact that it handles internal network traffic so fast - and has a built-in NAS feature makes it a great product for the price.  You simply have to plug in an external USB HDD or even a flash drive and you've got a network attached storage device.  If QoS was a little better, it would score close to a perfect 10.  As it is, the breakdown is posted below.

BCCRating

 

Editors Choice

 

Even though the cost of the WRT610N is a bit high, I believe you get what you pay for in terms of performance and a NAS server.  It's a great product that only lacks in the QoS department - but is still a great product.

I'd like to thank Linksys for sending us up the WRT610N Router. If you have any questions, comments, or general feedback, please leave it at the "Comments" link below.