The king of dual-band routers, the Linksys WRT600N Ultra RangePlus can handle just about anything you throw at it, including high-def video streaming. It's perfect for those who demand the fastest speeds and who don't mind paying for it.
Breaking from its traditional blue-and-black color scheme, the WRT600N is all black, although it uses the same three-antenna design as the WRT300N. However, it lacks an LCD or OLED status screen like those found on recent Belkin and D-Link routers. This model also has a USB port for connecting an external USB drive.
While Linksys doesn't yet support Wi-Fi Protected Setup (a firmware upgrade is in the works), configuring the WRT600N was simple using Linksys' brand-new EasyLink Advisor program, which walks you through the initial setup. The application also helps you troubleshoot problems once the network is up and running and gives you a visual picture of what's connected. In the end, we were ready to go in five minutes.
Linksys is the first company to nail the whole dual-band concept. The WRT600N model features two 20-Hz channels for the 2.4-GHz (802.11n) and multiple 20-Hz channels in the 5-GHz (802.11a) 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.
On our tests, using Ixia IxChariot 6.5, a test application that helps predict performance under realistic load conditions, the WRT600N sped along at 110 Mbps in 2.4-GHz mode and a still-respectable 45 Mbps in 5-GHz mode. We even tested two laptops at the same time, one using 802.11n and one using 802.11a, and the combined speed was 60 Mbps-still adequate. Introducing an old 802.11b client clipped only about 10 to 15 Mbps off the speed in A or N mode. The Apple AirPort Extreme router outpaced the Linksys WRT600N in the 5-GHz band but trailed Linksys by 30 Mbps in the 2.4-GHz band. (Linksys claimed the results should have been much higher in the 5-GHz band.)
The 5-GHz 802.11a was actually more stable than the 2.4-GHz band. We streamed an entire 2GB high-def movie (Next, starring Nicolas Cage) to a Fujitsu laptop using Windows Media Player and saw absolutely no stuttering. Test results confirmed our suspicions: The transmission rate locked in at 40 Mbps and stayed there, but the 2.4-GHz band fluctuated 5 to 10 Mbps because of interference.
Similar to the WRT300N, the WRT600N supports WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) for security and works with legacy 802.11a/b/g client devices. Overall, it's the best all-purpose router we've tested. It may cost $100 more than the Belkin N1 Vision and the Apple AirPort Extreme, but not having Cage's mug frozen on screen makes it worth the cost.
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