Linksys WRT610N Simultaneous Dual-N Band Wireless Router Review

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Editor's Choice

Pros: True dual-band N; Gigabit ports; Extremely fast

Cons: Bridging glitches

Verdict: This flagship router features a new design and blazing speeds.

Designed for the modern office or ultra-wired home, the Linksys WRT610N Ultra RangePlus Simultaneous Dual-N Band Wireless Router is a sleek, stylish, and--most important--super-fast Wi-Fi router. The WRT610N trumps every other premier model from D-Link, Netgear, and Apple in both speed and price--and, at $149, it's even cheaper than the previous generation Linksys WRT600N. There's no question about it: This is the N router to own, for now.

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Sleek Profile

The WRT610N combines the look of the earlierWRT160Nwith the performance of theWRT600N. It's branded also with the Cisco logo, reflecting that company's acquisition of Linksys. Forgoing an LCD display to show network problems and wireless speed-- la the Belkin N1 Vision and D-Link's more recent DGL-4500 gaming router--the hand-size WRT610N fits nicely on a bookshelf where you may never notice it again. Yet it's sleek enough to sit next to a MacBook Pro.

Like its WRT600N predecessor, the WRT610N supports WEP and WPA security, has a USB port for networked storage, runs at Gigabit Ethernet speed on its five wired ports, and supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS)--a way to add a router in Windows that's faster and more secure. (We would have liked a more obvious label on the button and code used for WPS, though.)

Setup Like Magic

With help from Network Magic (who provided the underlying code), the setup wizard for Mac or PC prompts you with non-techie options, such as replacing an existing router versus adding the WRT610N to a router you already own. When you configure security (e.g., using WEP encryption instead of WPA), you'll see unobtrusive warnings that educate rather than scold. The only glitch occurred when we tried to bridge the WRT610N with a D-Link DIR-655 router--to extend the range of both models using a long Ethernet cable--and noticed some serious driver and software conflicts.

After router setup, you have the option of installing LELA (Linksys EasyLink Advisor), which helps you troubleshoot network problems and see a graphical picture of your network. Again, it is based on Network Magic, and while impressive and easy to use, the software can also annoy you with pop-ups any time you attach a new Wi-Fi device or lose your Internet connection. The Mac and PC versions operated exactly the same. The older Linksys WPC600N PC Card we used for testing does not work with a Mac, although it's not a major issue, as you'll see from the test results.

What Dual Band Means to You

The WRT610N allows access to the 2.4-GHz and wider 5-GHz bands. (The Apple AirPort Extreme, meanwhile, supports 40-MHz operation in the 5-GHz band and 20-MHz in the other band.) This means you can enjoy the faster speeds of 802.11n and pump some much-needed life into the aging 802.11a standard, which is much less susceptible to interference.

Other than the bridging issues, the WRT610N performed amazingly well on our Ixia Chariot tests (which helps predict performance by simulating realistic load conditions)--just a hair better than the WRT600N--clocking in at 126 Mbps in the 2.4-GHz band (the one designed more for data) and 120 Mbps in the more media-conscious 5-GHz band, in separate tests from about 5 feet. As for distance, don't expect to connect beyond the front door of your house: the WRT610N, like most N routers, will barely find a signal beyond 600 feet.

A Mean Streaming Machine

Since both Wi-Fi bands work concurrently, we connected a Sony VAIO AR790 and Apple MacBook Pro simultaneously; the Sony ran at 100 Mbps and the MacBook at 60 Mbps. That's a lot of throughput. We tested aRoku Netflix Playerstreaming The King of Kong and the entire movie played without a single pause.

We archived 100GB from the VAIO AR790--which included video, music, apps, and system files--to a Windows Home Server over 802.11n using the 5-GHz band, which took only 4 hours. We even turned on every Wi-Fi device in the house, including a Chumby radio, a legacy 802.11b adapter plugged into an old Dell 8200 desktop, and a second Linksys WRT310N router and never saw any major slowdowns on the WRT610N. The MacBook Pro, without a Linksys client card, still ran almost as fast as Sony's AR790.

Verdict

In the end, speed is what counts, and the WRT610N broke just about every router-speed record known to man. With the extra throughput, you can expect to stream HD movies to the living room over the 5-GHz band and perform routine data chores on the other, without sacrificing speed, at the same time. If you've been hesitant to jump on the 802.11n bandwagon, the WRT610 is your ticket out of 802.11g land.

Complete Test Results

Sony VAIO AR790 (2.4 GHz)
5 feet: 126 Mbps
50 feet: 100 Mbps
100 feet: 48 Mbps
300 feet: 24 Mbps
600 feet: 9 Mbps
Beyond 600 feet: No signal

Sony VAIO AR790 (5.0 GHz)
5 feet: 120 Mbps
50 feet: 100 Mbps
100 feet: 6 Mbps
300 feet: No signal
600 feet: No signal
Beyond 600 feet: No signal

Apple MacBook Pro (2.4 GHz)

5 feet: 108 Mbps
50 feet: 84 Mbps
100 feet: 24 Mbps
300 feet: 20 Mbps
600 feet: 6 Mbps
Beyond 600 feet: No signal

Apple MacBook Pro (5.0 GHz)

5 feet: 120 Mbps
50 feet: 40 Mbps
100 feet: 24 Mbps
300 feet: No signal
600 feet: No signal
Beyond 600 feet: No signal

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
VPN Support PPTP, IPSec pass-through
Ports USB 2.0
Ports 4-Gigabit WAN
Ports 1-Gigabit WAN
Supported Protocols 802.3u
Supported Protocols 802.11a/b/g/n
Warranty/Support One year
Size 8.9 x 7.1 x 1.4 inches
Weight 2 pounds
Company Website www.linksys.com