The Linksys WRT310N builds on the success of the WRT160N.
When we reviewed the Linksys WRT160N earlier this year we found that there was a lot to like but that the lack of gigabit capability was a serious deficiency. Well, the folks at Linksys have responded with the WRT310N. As well as replacing the all black casing with some faux aluminium trim, they've added gigabit wired networking to the package.
Setting up the WRT310N was very easy. There's a sticker across the ports on the router instructing us to run the set up utility from the CD before plugging anything in. While experienced users might ignore the advice, we suggest that it's followed as the installation process provided excellent advice and made setting up a secure, working configuration very easy. All our settings were saved in a text file so that, in the case of a serious disaster we could recover all of the settings without having to delve into the depths of our memory bank.
The last step in the start up process is installation of LELA - the Linksys EasyLink Adviser. This software is one of the best innovations we've seen in home and small office networking in some time. Once LELA is up and running it gives a snapshot of the entire network. Each device can be managed from LELA and, if there's an unauthorised computer connected, you can block it right there and then, there's no need to set up MAC address exclusion or anything complex - just click and block.
The web browser-based configuration utility was well arranged with most options clearly labelled. In addition to the usual array of internet connection and DHCP options, there are QoS and port forwarding options. VPN passthrough is supported and can be blocked. Security features cover the expected firewall, which is enabled by default, and the ability to block wireless access to the router's configuration utility.
Performance over the wired connection was very snappy. We were able to copy large files, in excess of 350MB, across the LAN in just a few seconds. Full screen video was playable off the wired connection and we could pick any lost frames.
Wireless range was sensational - the WRT310N is certainly one of the best routers we've tested in this regard. Using our standard test rig of a Toshiba Portege R500 and Apple MacBook Pro we were able to maintain a full-strength connection at 25 meters. Even putting a solid brick wall between us and the router only took the connection back to fair. We maintained a network ping back to the router while testing and didn't lose a single packet while testing.
What don't we like? Well, the WRT310N lacks dual-band wireless. That's not a big deal but it does limit the flexibility of the router compared to other units on the market. Also, although Linksys has released a Mac version of its LELA set up software, it's yet to ship the full network management functionality. We downloaded and tested the Mac software as it was only released the day we started writing this review. The software worked well although it depended on the router being set to the factory defaults. the installer failed if we changed the routers default IP address. This isn't likely to affect new users but if you've fiddled with the settings and want to use the set up utility to change something it won't work.
If you're in the market for a new router then the Linksys WRT310N Wireless-N Broadband Router should be on your shortlist. Other than lacking a 5GHz radio, it ticks all the boxes for a home or small office wireless router and delivers excellent wireless range. For those operating in a multi-platform environment, configuration via web browser works well and Windows users get the full power of LELA.