Trendnet 300Mbps Wireless Easy-N-Upgrader

August 21, 2008

If you’re currently running an 802.11b/g network and are considering upgrading your equipment to the upcoming 802.11n standard, consider keeping your gear and just plugging in the Trendnet Wireless-N-Upgrader kit. It adds a much faster Draft N network to your existing network, and it can accommodate legacy 802.11b/g adapters as well. Although it doesn’t quite offer the range and speed we’ve seen with other Draft N routers, it costs about half as much, and its sublimely simple setup makes upgrading to Draft N a truly painless experience.

Unlike most access points, the Trendnet unit is very small—about the size of a thick iPod. It includes just two antennae, a LAN port, and a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button that allows you to add compatible wireless clients to the network just by pressing a button. The kit includes a software CD that walks you through the installation process and provides access to the manual, but once you’ve set it up, it’s controlled—like most routers—through a Web browser interface.

The Easy-N-Upgrader supports Draft N speeds up to 300Mbps (compared to the 54Mbps maximum speed of 802.11g), but can also be set to run in 802.11b/g or 802.11b/g/n mixed modes. Its security options range from the legacy Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) protocol to the newer, more secure Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and WPA-2. You can also select whether you want to run it in standard 20MHz channel mode, or wide mode with two 20MHz channels bonded together for better performance.

The setup process is incredibly simple, and ours went off without a hitch. When we inserted the installation CD, a wizard told us to connect the Easy-N-Upgrader to one of our router’s open LAN ports. Once the router was detected, we got down to naming our network, choosing dynamic or static IP addresses, and setting up security. When we were finished, it gave us the option of printing or saving our network settings, which we appreciated. Our only gripe is that once it’s set up, you have to refer to the manual to figure out how to access the Web-based controls. We’ve done this procedure many times, so we instinctively knew how to find its IP address and type it into a browser address bar, but we think this step should be included in the quick installation guide.

Putting the unit in wide mode, we set about checking the speed boost from 802.11g to Draft N. We ran our typical speed and range tests with our 802.11g router first and then on the new Draft N network created by the Easy-N-Upgrader. Although the Easy-N-Upgrader was impressively faster than our older 802.11g network, it was still slower than other Draft N routers.

In our tests, we tried transferring a 100MB file and a 500MB file 50 feet away from the router. On our 802.11g network, it took 1 minute and 49 seconds to transfer 100MB; Draft N mode did it in just 51 seconds. The 500MB file took 8 minutes and 26 seconds on our 802.11g network, but just 4 minutes and 4 seconds on the new network. We took measurements at 100 feet as well, and once again, the Draft N network was approximately twice as fast as the 802.11g network.

But although the Easy-N-Upgrader was faster than our old network, it wasn’t as fast as other Draft N routers. The Linksys WRT310N router, for example, only took 1 minute and 5 seconds to transfer 100MB 100 feet, whereas the Easy-N-Upgrader required 2 minutes and 52 seconds. The Linksys router only needed 4 minutes and 17 seconds to transfer the same 500MB it took the Easy-N-Upgrader 7 minutes and 48 seconds to send. At 150 feet, the Easy-N-Upgrader lost our network signal completely, but some Draft routers, including the WRT310N, were able to stream media to that distance and even further.

Trendnet’s Easy-N-Upgrader isn’t the fastest Draft N router we’ve tested, but it’s certainly the least expensive. If you’re looking for maximum performance and range, you’d be better off with a standalone Draft N router, but if you’re looking for an inexpensive and easy way to upgrade to Draft N, the Easy-N-Upgrader is a solid choice.

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