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Wireless Networking: Nine 802.11n Routers Rounded Up

To make our point about the importance of consistent throughput, we used a little tool called Bandwidth Monitor to grab a few seconds of activity from several file transfer tests. Check out these two comparisons, one showing a transfer from the router (red bars) and the other to the router (green bars).

It’s pretty obvious what type of throughput you want. The Belkin N1 Vision shows peak throughput very near to that of the Netgear WNDR3700, only trailing by 10 or 12 percent. But whereas Netgear looks very smooth and solid (save for that one fleeting drop-out), Belkin’s signal is a train wreck. We’d hardly trust that signal with VoIP, never mind video. The TP-Link signal is even worse than Belkin’s. In fact, we include these TP-Link and Linksys graphs simply to illustrate the worst and best of the bunch.

Without question, the Linksys WRT610N emerges as the obvious winner of this roundup, and there’s no reason to think that the carbon copy E3000 won’t follow suit. As a result, the WRT610N wins our rare and coveted Recommended Buy award. In second place, we’d likely pick the Ruckus 7811 strictly on a performance basis, but we can’t ignore the fact that Ruckus now has a serious problem. The company has positioned its access point and client as a video solution for demanding video consumers. Linksys now delivers equal or better performance without the beamforming, and Linksys packages this performance in a router with tons of additional functionality. Ruckus merely has an access point.

Could Netgear give Linksys a run for its money? With a different client adapter, we suspect so. Some of our data sure hints at it. As a mid-range compromise, ZyXEL has a lot of potential, although the company really needs a new model with more consumer focus offering the same performance at the same price.

Speaking of price, D-Link needs a major reassessment. Being able to insert a drive is nifty, but we’d rather see more convenience and scalability from a USB 3.0 or eSATA port or two. We’re totally unconvinced by the LCD display as being anything more than unnecessary and costly eye candy. We know D-Link can make better gear than this. Ditto that for TRENDnet, which doesn’t suffer from D-Link’s price-to-performance disparity with the TEW-671BR, but the router clearly needed a push to help it along...a third antenna, perhaps. And while TRENDnet’s travel router can only putter along with the most basic performance, we still like it for its mobility.

Finally, if you’re strapped for cash, the Asus RT-N13U arrives as a welcome and pleasant surprise from a field that left us feeling mostly disappointed in the low-end.

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