U.S. Robotics MAXg ADSL2+ Gateway review

Price when reviewed

Despite the frequently demonstrated benefits of MIMO for performance, U.S. Robotics has chosen to stick with squeezing the most it can out of the more standardised 802.11g. But its new MAXg Gateway does at least incorporate the next generation of ADSL modem, so you’ll be able to take advantage of the new ADSL2+ services as they appear.

U.S. Robotics MAXg ADSL2+ Gateway review

The MAXg offers an Easy Configurator app to get you started, but we found it a bit slow and unresponsive. Fortunately, a web-based interface is also available, which you’ll need to delve into for more advanced settings anyway. This is totally unlike U.S. Robotics’ previous web interfaces. The look is cleaner, with a drop-down list at the top. But it’s hardly a triumph of interface design, and tends to overcomplicate the options available. For example, configuring the ADSL connection involves a multipage wizard, rather than giving you all the settings on one page. You’re also given the option to toggle on and off all manner of obscure ADSL modulation compatibilities, which might confuse some.

The MAXg is hardly devoid of features, though. Wireless security options abound. As well as shared or open WEP, there’s 802.1x authentication, which is available on its own or alongside WPA and WPA2, and even with both of them together. Pre-shared key versions of WPA, WPA2 and the two combined are also available. It’s a confusing array, but should enable the MAXg to fit any existing security policy. On top of encryption, you can control access via MAC address. You can also limit Internet access to certain times and days, but the services can be restricted only globally – you can’t schedule what time and day FTP access is available, for example.

An enormous list of virtual server presets is supplied, but as always it’s full of antiquated apps and games. It’s a similar story with Port Triggering – the original Napster service that shut down in 2001 is still listed. Complex routing tables can be set up, although you’ll probably never touch any of these settings. More usefully, you can set up dynamic DNS updating via either DynDNS.org or TZO.com. The MAXg can act as a wireless bridge to another wireless network, although this disables its access point features. One of the best features of the MAXg is that the print server found in some of U.S. Robotics’ previous router models has made a welcome return. In this case, it operates through USB rather than a parallel port.

Sadly, the MAXg wireless networking doesn’t live up to its name. We found it was no match for proprietary MIMO enhancements of 802.11g. In our longest-range test, the USR couldn’t maintain a connection long enough to complete the file copy, where Linksys’s SRX200 hardly dropped in throughput at all. The best result was from an adjacent room. Here, the MAXg managed 17.7Mb/sec, which was more than 20 per cent faster than with our Pentium M notebook’s built-in 802.11g adaptor. Curiously, though, as we’ve seen with MIMO WLANs, performance in close proximity was inferior to a slightly greater distance, dropping to just 10.4Mb/sec.

The U.S. Robotics MAXg ADSL2+ Gateway has plenty of features on offer, particularly the comprehensive wireless security options and built-in print server. But its performance lets the side down considerably. If you don’t need good wireless range, then it makes for decent value. But speed demons should look towards Linksys’s SRX200, and add their own third-party print server instead.

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