Gaming laptops are traditionally full of compromises.
- Very low price for an all-in-one unit, was reliable in our Internet connectivity tests, has good statistics reporting
- Was sluggish in our wireless transfer tests, doesn't have keyword filtering
This all-in-one ADSL2+ modem, 4-port switch and wireless access point is very affordable and does a good all-round job. It was a little slow in its wireless transfers to Centrino notebooks, but for under $100, that's excusable.
Price$ 99.00 (AUD)
It's inexpensive and well featured, but TP-Link's ADSL2+ Modem/Router doesn't excel in any one particular area. However, as a Jack-of-all trades unit, it will please those of you who are after modem, network switch and wireless access point functions in a single chassis.
Setting up the modem part of the unit isn't as straightforward as other ADSL2+ modem units that we've tested. Its 'Quick Setup' process proved to be a little arduous as it didn't detect all of our ISP's settings; we were required to enter the VPI and VCI settings manually, which is something we haven't had to do in most recent modems. In any case, make sure you have all of your ISP's broadband settings to hand before setting up this modem.
Once connected, the modem was reliable over a one-week period. It never once dropped out, nor required a restart. It worked perfectly on a relatively slow ADSL connection (512Kbps, which provided up to 50KBps throughput for downloads) as well as on an ADSL2+ connection -- we're quite close to our phone exchange, so download speeds of up to 2MBps were achieved during our tests.
In the 'Quick Setup' process, the wireless settings followed on from the ADSL account settings, but it didn't follow through to the security settings. After entering an SSID, we had to manually navigate to the security settings, where we selected WPA/WPA2 (AES) encryption for our network. We hope TP-Link adds wireless security to the 'Quick Setup' process for future models.
The wireless access point makes use of a single antenna and SuperG technology to provide a theoretical throughput of up to 108Mbps, as long as you have a SuperG-capable adapter. However, we tested the unit with Centrino-based notebooks, using 54Mbps connections. From 1m away, our Centrino-based notebook achieved a transfer rate of 1.47MBps. At 10m, it achieved 850KBps. Both are sluggish results. The unit also worked with modern 802.11 draft-n adapters, but the speeds were the same.
The TP-Link did provide enough bandwidth for us to stream two DivX-based videos from the same server to our two Centrino-based notebooks -- although we did experience some stuttering at the start of the transmissions. We tested at a radius of 10m.
As for distance, the TP-Link allowed us to stream video at up to 16m away -- again with some stuttering -- and that was with double-brick walls and electrical appliances interspersed between the router and the client. Within a 10m radius, the TP-Link streamed a DivX file to one notebook, yet still allowed us to transfer files at up to 1.2MBps to another notebook.
For security, the unit allows you to block incoming and outgoing traffic from specified IP addresses, and it also has 'Parental Control', which simply allows you to restrict Internet access to specified IPs or MAC addresses on your LAN according to the day and time. It doesn't have keyword filtering.
We like the amount of reporting that is offered in the unit's Web interface; we were easily able to view how much traffic was sent and received from the Internet (in bytes), as well as how much traffic was transmitted over the wireless network. Physically, the unit has simple LEDs to report the status of each function, although the constant blinking of the ADSL light was a little confusing, as we're used to this being a sign of connection problems, rather than a stable connection.
In the end, while its wireless networking proved to be a little slow with our Centrino notebooks, this is a solid all-in-one unit that's worth a look due to its low price point. TP-Link states in its specifications that the unit also has a built-in surge protection circuit, but we were unable to test this particular function.
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