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Default Route of Control: 5 802.11N Routers Tested and Rated

<imgsrc="/images/article/full/2008/06/routers_630px.jpg" alt="">From left to right: Belkin N1, D-Link DIR-655 XtremeN, Apple AirPort Extreme, NetGear WNDR3300, Linksys WRT600N

Forget everything you know about home networking. There's a new wireless frequency called 802.11N that is poised to kick down your door and spread hi-def content through your home up to five times faster than your 802.11G-is-for-geriatric model. Yeah, you'll need a new wireless card to take full advantage of the improved speeds, but, as long as you get a router that broadcasts on both G-friendly 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, this rising tide lifts all boats: Your old hardware will benefit with longer range as well.
Apple AirPort Extreme
<imgsrc="/images/article/full/2008/06/routers_apple_630x.jpg" alt="">(Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.com)

Simple, elegant, clean -- the AirPort Extreme is definitely straight outta Cupertino. It not only looks perfect in the living room (we perched it neatly atop the Xbox 360), but gushes N like a geyser over medium distances. Additions like dual-band operation, along with shared printer/hard-drive support make the AirPort a solid choice for novices and intermediates. But Apple's conservative balance of speed, range and user friendliness might be off-putting for extreme high-speed junkies or those who need a lot of range.
WIRED: Clean-cut, living room-friendly design. Rock star mid-range performance when streaming audio and video. Setup and admin tools simple enough for your parents. Offers both shared disk and printer options through its USB port.
TIRED: Long-range throughput can get sketchy. A smidge on the pricey side. No simultaneous 2.4 GHz/5 GHz broadcasting. Only three gigabit ethernet ports. Minuscule configuration changes require a full reboot.
Price/maker: $180, Apple

Linksys WRT600N
<imgsrc="/images/article/full/2008/06/routers_linksys_630x.jpg" alt=""> (Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.com)

You shouldn't have to hide your router unless it looks anything like the WRT600N. But if you can stop making fun of the satellite dishes for a second, you're in for a treat. Superb long-distance performance and a solid data rate makes this box great for combinations of video streaming, VOIP and game console use. Our only problem? The WRT600N would occasionally throw a hissy fit and kick all our devices off the network. This only happened occasionally, but it was enough to make us wonder if it took the satellite dish remarks to heart.
WIRED: Storage Link feature lets you attach a hard drive for networked storage. Broadcasts on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz simultaneously. Supports security options for separating older B/G and N devices. Best long-range performance, and it's no slouch at close and medium ranges either.
TIRED: Something that costs $180 should not look this stupid. You can't control the transmit power, which can be handy if you like to micromanage operating temperature and range.
Price/maker: $180, Linksys

D-Link DIR-655 XtremeN
<imgsrc="/images/article/full/2008/06/router_d_link_630x.jpg" alt=""> (Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired.com)

Our first impulse was to damn this router to the Xtreme hell from which it came. Then we got over the cheesy name, and discovered a machine we actually liked -- for indoor use, at least. The DIR-655 did really well in close- and medium-range tests, but when we tried to go mobile, things got choppy. It's one thing to provide us with speedy connectivity at our desks, but some of us have to hide in the garage to watch Battlestar Gallactica, OK?
WIRED: Great balance between price and features. Delivered fastest prioritized streaming-video traffic. Package includes drywall anchors for mounting. Four gigabit LAN ports.
TIRED: Setup is counterintuitive. Weak long-distance data transfer. Only transmits on the 2.4-GHz band, which doesn't take advantage of N's ability to dodge a crowded spectrum by jumping to channel 5. USB port is only for wireless configuration settings -- not attachable storage. Looks like it might probe you in your sleep.
Price/maker: $140, D-Link

NetGear WNDR3300
<imgsrc="/images/article/full/2008/06/router_netgear_630x.jpg" alt="">(Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired.com)

NetGear definitely got the memo: When it comes to interference-free web surfing, you can't go wrong with dual bands. However, it's tough to say whether NetGear really understood said memo. This bargain-priced router can transmit over both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands simultaneously, but even with its whopping eight (!) internal antennas, it lagged behind everyone else in the class. Delving into the administrative tools revealed more letdowns, like how you can only get N while you're broadcasting on both channels simultaneously, a problem because it cuts your data stream on either frequency in half.
WIRED: Bargain priced. Hidden antennas make for a clean design. Optional stand keeps unit from heating up. Idiot-proof admin tools accessible via routerlogin.com.
TIRED: Looks like a blinged-out ice cream sandwich. Drags on long distance and multistory data transfers. No gigabit ethernet ports. Clunky install wizard requires disabling your existing router. Occasionally stops broadcasting and requires a power cycle.
Price/maker: $110, Netgear

Belkin N1
<imgsrc="/images/article/full/2008/06/routers_belkin_630x.jpg" alt=""> (Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.com)

We've got some beef with the N1. Sure, it boasts a phenomenal broadcast range. The embedded LCD screen and swank black chassis? Sexy as hell. But the lack of N-only operation? Unforgivable! The router clocked decent speeds in mixed 802.11B/G/N use, but lagged compared with the N-only throughput of other contenders. In the end, the score is clear -- the N1 is less for kilobit-counting speed demons, and more for image-conscious networking n00bs.
WIRED: Stylish design. User-friendly CD-less setup. Outstanding broadcast range. Offers WEP, WPA and WPA2 protection. LCD screen displays everything from time and date to data-transmission details. Gigabit ethernet ports.

TIRED: Priced for style, not performance. Mushy, unresponsive buttons. No N-only operation. Molasses-slow reboot times.

Price/maker: $200, Belkin


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