Buffalo AirStation G54 WBR2-G54S review
Although the 100Mb/sec norm of wired Ethernet remains sufficient for most desktop uses, wireless still lags considerably behind. The 11Mb/sec 802.11b standard made web browsing and occasional file access a reality, but even the nominally 54Mb/sec 802.11g has proved too slow for high-bandwidth applications such as DVD-quality video. So the upwards throughput march continues, with 125Mb/sec the latest pinnacle. We tried out the technology in Buffalo’s G54 wireless broadband router, the WBR2-G54S.
The 125Mb/sec mode isn’t a standard, however. It uses Broadcom’s AfterBurner technology, which the company claims allows a real-world throughput of 30Mb/sec. This is achieved by reducing the time between packets, and uses enhanced software rather than entirely new hardware. Buffalo isn’t the only company to offer AfterBurner. Belkin is planning to release products using the technology, and Linksys’ SpeedBooster version is already available.
We put the Buffalo through its paces with an IBM ThinkPad T42 Centrino notebook. First, we used the IBM’s integrated 802.11g WLAN to copy 144MB of files from a desktop PC attached using 10/100 Ethernet. This took 62 seconds with the notebook in close proximity, but rose to 111 seconds from a lower floor. With the Buffalo 125Mb/sec PC Card adaptor installed (each card costs an extra £35; none are supplied in the box) instead of Centrino’s Intel 802.11g, the copy took just 51 seconds near the router – a 22 per cent increase in throughput from 18.6Mb/sec to 22.6Mb/sec. However, performance dropped with distance, with the file copy taking 82 seconds from the lower floor – still, a healthy increase.
Other than the extra bandwidth, the WBR2-G54S is essentially the same as its WBR2-G54 predecessor. A four-port 10/100 Ethernet switch is integrated, with a fifth Ethernet port exclusively for attaching a broadband modem. When you first log into the router from a wired or wireless client, you’re given three options – configure DSL or cable, or use the Advanced configuration. Here, you can assign a WAN MAC address manually, for spoofing the adaptor you registered with your ISP to save re-registration hassles.
Security is one of the AirStation’s strong points. The wireless network can be protected by WEP, or you can use the stronger WPA in its TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol, the next generation of WEP) or AES forms. The SSID can be hidden from detection. MAC address control is available, too. To make security setup even easier, Buffalo’s excellent AirStation OneTouch Secure System is provided, which configures optimum settings for you at the push of a button.
To secure the Internet connection, you can block ping replies from the router or local clients. There’s a Stateful Packet Inspection firewall with intrusion detection, too, which will alert you via email or pop up a message on your Desktop. IPsec transmission can be enabled for use with VPNs. You can nominate a DMZ (demilitarized zone), or define a detailed NAT table setup for port redirection. However, only presets for HTTP and FTP are provided.
Wireless bridging and repeating allows the Buffalo to be partnered with another AP for widening the reach of the WLAN. You can also reduce the power of the radio transmissions to minimise any outside interference.
Although the real-world boost is nowhere near twice as fast as 802.11g, it is quicker. It isn’t worth upgrading to unless your kit is 802.11b, but at least you’re not paying a premium for it. And with great security it’s a fully featured package.
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