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Cheap Router Roundup

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July 5, 2006 4:12:32 PM

We put six budget wired-only routers through their paces to determine which provides the most bang for their (lack of) buck.

Speak out in the Tom's Networking reader survey!

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July 6, 2006 4:51:00 PM

My compliments on the editing of this article. I confess I did not read through the whole thing (insufficient time), but what I read was very readable. I had been disappointed by a few articles editing on tomshardware lately, so wanted to post something positive this time. :) 
July 7, 2006 4:14:57 PM

An excellent article. BTW, the Arlink101 AR315W which is a wireless G router has regularly gone on sale for $19 (new) via retail and online. I've bought 2 for light duty use and they work fine.
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July 7, 2006 5:14:13 PM

Oops...I meant AR325W. Right now on sale at www.outpost.com 802.11b/g router with a 4 port switch for $18.99
July 8, 2006 4:35:55 PM

I looked for the Airlink101 AR504 and could only find it from one retailer on price watch and there aint no way I am gonna buy it from that retailer due to negative reviews. Too bad New Egg does not carry it. :!:
July 8, 2006 6:21:10 PM

Reader question:
Quote:
In your article you mentioned: "We must note that any of the products in this roundup will serve you well if your ISP doles out under 5 Mbps of bandwidth to you and your Internet use is primarily web browsing, emailing, IM and the occasional file download.

Comcast at my location is providing 6201kbps down and 360kbps up according to: http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/.

Your statement enlightened me to something I did not know or had even considered. What specs does a router need to have to handle my broadband speed? What class of routers? What problems would one of the cheap routers cause with my braodband speed? Do you know of a good source to answer these questions?

As long as a router has throughput higher than what your ISP provides, you're fine.

If a router's throughput is lower than the speed that your ISP provides, the connection will still work, but you won't be getting the bandwidth you're paying for since the router will limit the speed.

On the other hand, if your router's throughput is higher than your ISP bandwidth, getting an even faster router won't add any value. The exception is for heavy P2P / filesharing use. In that case, purchasing a router that can handle a larger number of simultaneous connections could help, if you're having problems with your current router.

All of the routers in this review except for the USR8004 would work fine for the bandwidth numbers that you describe.
July 27, 2006 2:27:17 PM

How about a Broadband Modem Roundup?

I tried Googling for reviews, etc. But I did not find anything comparing different models. Has anyone seen any comparison review? I'm curently using a Linksys BEFCMU10 V4.0. I should have went with a Motorola SURFboard after reading all the posts on Linksys lately.
July 27, 2006 2:44:14 PM

Quote:
How about a Broadband Modem Roundup?

Sorry, but we aren't set up to do cable modem reviews.
August 3, 2006 2:24:14 AM

So if these are meant for light downloading, that means p2p and gaming are out of the question (stability-wise)? How does the Edimax do for these, since it has the most memory?

Also, is there really a difference between 50Mbps and 100Mbps for the average user? For example, I only have a 4.5Mbps cable connection.
August 3, 2006 12:28:52 PM

Quote:
So if these are meant for light downloading, that means p2p and gaming are out of the question (stability-wise)? How does the Edimax do for these, since it has the most memory?


http://www.tomsnetworking.com/lans_routers/charts/index...

Quote:
Also, is there really a difference between 50Mbps and 100Mbps for the average user? For example, I only have a 4.5Mbps cable connection.

No. But the routers with faster routing speed tend to be able to handle more simultaneous connections.
August 3, 2006 8:59:47 PM

Thanks for the link. So, the max connection benchmark shows how many connections the router can reliably handle? 1 minute doesn't sound like a lot to test a router's reliability.
November 26, 2006 1:33:08 AM

Good, standard review of these routers. I was glad to see that they're listed in the new router comparison chart which includes a lot of other routers, as well.

Why is it that the Airlink AR504 is in a "cheap router" class when it apparently way out-performs the currently popular Linksys 4-port VPN router, the BEFSX41, and has similar features? (Your test of that router is from 2002, also, and I wonder if the new firmware would be able to upgrade its speed a little [I doubt it] ). The really perplexing thing is that there are links to that Linksys all over the place, and it's sold at Frys, NewEgg, etc., but the Airlink is almost nowhere to be found.

I'm looking for a wired router, and this looks like it beats the BEFSX41. I've seen some old ads that say it's only about $25, compared to the Linksys's still-current $61. Am I missing something about why a $25 unit beats the $61 unit? And are there any reputable dealers selling the Airlink?
November 26, 2006 12:20:19 PM

Quote:
Why is it that the Airlink AR504 is in a "cheap router" class when it apparently way out-performs the currently popular Linksys 4-port VPN router, the BEFSX41, and has similar features?

It was included in the "Cheap Router" article because it met the $25 price criteria.

New firmware won't significantly change the BEFSX41's speed. However, if Linksys has upgraded the processor on currently-shipping product, that might result in higher thoughput.

Quote:
Am I missing something about why a $25 unit beats the $61 unit? And are there any reputable dealers selling the Airlink?

What you'll mainly miss from AirLink101 is support, which you should assume will be minimal to none. Product is also harder to find and usually only from smaller dealers.
November 26, 2006 5:55:26 PM

Quote:
Why is it that the Airlink AR504 is in a "cheap router" class when it apparently way out-performs the currently popular Linksys 4-port VPN router, the BEFSX41, and has similar features?

It was included in the "Cheap Router" article because it met the $25 price criteria.

Wow, a reply on Sunday. You're dedicated! Thank you!


Quote:
New firmware won't significantly change the BEFSX41's speed. However, if Linksys has upgraded the processor on currently-shipping product, that might result in higher thoughput.

Am I missing something about why a $25 unit beats the $61 unit? And are there any reputable dealers selling the Airlink?


What you'll mainly miss from AirLink101 is support, which you should assume will be minimal to none. Product is also harder to find and usually only from smaller dealers.

Just an update on the Linksys, in case anybody's interested (although I know this risks being slightly off-topic):

I saw a CNET review from June 2004 that quotes a throughput of 95Mbps for the Linksys BEFSX41 (though they're not technically thorough enough to tell us what chips it uses or what the firmware version is). You're 2002 review says about 17Mbps. Any chance Tom's will update its review of this Linksys and other popular routers that are relevant to a comparison with the Airlink and other "cheapies" on a feature/performance basis?

Thank you!
November 26, 2006 8:19:09 PM

Quote:
Just an update on the Linksys, in case anybody's interested (although I know this risks being slightly off-topic):

I saw a CNET review from June 2004 that quotes a throughput of 95Mbps for the Linksys BEFSX41 (though they're not technically thorough enough to tell us what chips it uses or what the firmware version is). You're 2002 review says about 17Mbps. Any chance Tom's will update its review of this Linksys and other popular routers that are relevant to a comparison with the Airlink and other "cheapies" on a feature/performance basis?


Linksys refuses to correspond with TomsNetworking or provide product for review. So you won't be seeing any Linksys product reviews until that situation changes. Sorry.
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