Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti WZR-G300N review
While Buffalo is usually one of the first companies to bring new wireless technologies to market, Belkin beat it, and everyone else, to MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) products by a number of months. This time round, though, Buffalo has pulled out the stops to provide our first look at 802.11n. Except that this isn’t 802.11n – rather the draft version ratified in January of this year.
With wireless chipset makers Broadcom and Atheros claiming over 100Mb/sec for the new wireless standard, we were expecting stunning performance from the Buffalo, which uses Broadcom’s Intensi-fi chipset. So we put it through our usual suite of tests. We copied 144MB of mixed files from a desktop PC attached to the router using wired Ethernet, to a Centrino notebook hooked up using a Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti Draft-N CardBus adapter. In close proximity, the Buffalo achieved 35Mb/sec, which is the fastest wireless performance we’ve seen, if only by 0.4Mb/sec. Performance dropped off slightly to 32Mb/sec when we switched to a nearby room on the same floor. However, when we moved to a lower floor and greater horizontal distance, the Buffalo was unable to maintain the WLAN connection long enough to complete the test. Considering that we’ve seen MIMO routers complete this same test with no problem, the Buffalo’s inability in this area was disappointing.
Other than the speed claims, this is a pretty standard router. With an Ethernet WAN port, it’s designed to work with cable or Ethernet-based ADSL modems. Its network address translation (NAT) includes the ability to pass through IPsec VPNs and IPv6 addressing, and the built-in firewall includes intrusion detection and blocking of IP spoofing. For the wireless network, there’s the usual choice of WEP or WPA-PSK with TKIP or AES encryption, plus hiding the SSID and filtering MAC addresses. However, there are no extra features such as 802.11e QoS, dynamic DNS support, or any firewall scheduling. RADIUS authentication is also absent, making this a poor choice for larger organisations using server authentication.
Probably the most enticing security feature is the AirStation One-Touch Secure System (AOSS). This allows you to push a button on the router and set off a wizard routine on a compatible wireless client, which then detects the best security settings on both devices and configures everything for you. We’ve found this works well in the past, and this incarnation is no exception.
Sadly, the headline act for our first taster of 802.11n should be gob-smacking performance. Although the Buffalo did deliver impressive throughput, it was only infinitesimally quicker than MIMO systems such as Linksys’ Wireless-G SRX, and the distance characteristics were distinctly disappointing. Coupled with a pedestrian feature set, this Buffalo may take you to Nfiniti, but it won’t take you beyond anything currently available. We recommend seeing what the next few months bring before taking the plunge.