Why virtualise your NAS environment?
It makes you want to sing
- Gigabit Ethernet switch, reliable 802.11 draft-n performance, LELA network utility
- It's pricey (but worth it if you need the extra speed from the Gigabit switch)
Linksys attempts to make your life easy with the WRT310N, and it succeeds by making it a cinch to install, and by supplying the intuitive and useful network utility LELA. This router does cost more than its 10/100 stablemate, but if you need the extra speed that Gigabit ports offer, then it's a good investment.
Price$ 239.95 (AUD)
What differentiates the WRT310N wireless router from the less-expensive WRT160N is its faster built-in Ethernet switch, which is capable of supplying Gigabit speeds. This is a boon for those of you who still rely on a wired network to transfer big files and stream media, as the extra speed does make a difference.
In terms of design, the grey trim is what distinguishes the Gigabit-capable WRT310N from the WRT160N. It still retains the same wireless networking capabilities and security features. You still get 802.11 draft-n 2.0 networking, and the ability to run it in dedicated or mixed mode with 802.11g devices, and you still get the ability to use WPA or WPA2 encryption (but no WPA/WPA2 mixed mode).
Its wireless performance in our tests was virtually the same as the WRT160N, averaging about 6.30MBps when transferring data from our file server to a laptop with a Linksys 300N (version 2) wireless adapter. While streaming data to a Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000 and simultaneously copying data to the laptop, the average transfer speed was 4.36MBps. This means there is plenty of bandwidth for streaming data, transferring files and browsing the Internet simultaneously. You could also theoretically stream up to two full high-definition movies to 802.11 draft-n wireless devices, although you would notice the performance hit. The WRT310N will handle one full HD stream without any problems at all.
We tested from 10m away, but the WRT310N supplied a strong signal up to 31m away before streaming low-quality video started stuttering. This performance will vary depending on your environment. The router has two antennas built-in, and because they are internal there's no need to attach them or fiddle with their position.
Setting up the router is a breeze using its Web interface, but the supplied CD-ROM is useful if you aren't sure how to set up a router. The CD-ROM setup can take a few minutes, but it will detect your Internet connection and let you enter your login details as well as configure your wireless network and security settings. You can then proceed to install LELA, which stands for Linksys EasyLink Advisor.
LELA contains a graphical representation of your network, which is handy for finding out how many devices are connected to your router and also if any unauthorised computers are trying to gain access. In this respect, it's a very useful tool. It can also help manage software updates for any Linksys gear on your network, including the router, and it can also be used to copy and transfer network settings to any new computers you want to attach to your network.
Overall, what we like about the WRT310N is that it's a wireless router that delivers performance as good as the router's looks, and it does look great. Some people might say that it looks like a cockroach, but we think they're wrong: its design evokes a sports car or a jet fighter. It's definitely sleek. But at $240, it's a good deal more expensive than the WRT160N, which also ships with LELA. If you don't need the extra speed offered by the Gigabit Ethernet connections, then the WRT160N is the better option.
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