As you know from the last article, a lightning strike killed my beloved Linksys WRT54GL, and that made me a sad panda. Being that plugging in your network connection direct to your cablemodem is a seriously stupid idea, and that I needed wireless for my netbook, I drove on down to my local CompUSA for a replacement wireless router.
Now before continuing, this is one of those "had to have it now" type of situations. When something on your PC or a peripheral/accessory busts that you need to get things done, you can’t exactly wait around for something to be shipped to you.
My original intention was to buy whatever was really cheap, then place an order on NewEgg for another WRT54GL, receive that, set it up, then return the cheap-o router. As it turned out, I like the TRENDnet so much, I’m keeping it.
Quick question answered: Why didn’t I buy another WRT54GL at the store? Because almost nobody carries them. What you’ll find from Linksys these days in the retail stores is their much-maligned "spaceship" design, and I wasn’t about to buy one of those. In other words, if you want the older-but-definitely-better squared design, you have to go online to order and have it mailed to you.
On the shelves, the cheapest wi-fi router was the TRENDnet TEW-652BRP. The cost was $19.99.
The only complaint I have is the fact the ports aren’t color-coded, and there is no way to see what port you’re plugging into in the back without use of a flashlight. They are marked, mind you, but you have to be shining a light directly at the thing to see which is WAN, port 1, 2 and so on.
That, believe it or not, is the only complaint I have.
A real on/off button. It’s the click-in/click-out kind and in the back. I actually really appreciate this because I don’t have to unplug the stupid thing just to turn it off. All wi-fi routers should have this (most don’t).
Dual antennas. I really don’t know if this makes a difference or not with this particular router’s broadcast/reception ability, but it’s nice they’re there.
Easy setup from the browser. Some router admin programs are exceedingly difficult to navigate and use. Not the TRENDnet. Its menu system is easy, and for most people you could probably figure it out without even reading the manual.
Small – but not chintzy. The TEW-652BRP is very small, but fortunately doesn’t feel cheap and makes for easy wall-mounting.
It works with no b.s. involved. The best selling point as far as I’m concerned. Turn it on, set up your wi-fi security with password, connect your wi-fi devices to it and it’s a done deal.
Hardware revision absolutely matters on this unit. It was fortunate that the one I bought is the latest hardware version 3.2R. From the customer reviews I’ve read of this particular unit, anything under 3.1 is going to be crap and drop connections on wi-fi periodically for basically no reason.
Because of this, I would not recommend buying this particular router online, because you have no idea what you’ll be getting for a hardware revision. I want to note very clearly that this is not the same as firmware. A hardware revision is when the OEM actually changes around things on the inside to improve performance, meaning you can’t get this kind of update from a firmware update.
If after reading this you’re thinking, "Cool! I could use a good cheap wireless router – but how do I check the hardware revision at the store?"
It’s on the back of the box. Here’s what it will look like:
Note the "H/W : V3.2R" on the top of the sticker; that’s what you need to pay attention to. As long as it’s 3.1 or higher, you’re in good shape. If not, the wi-fi performance will be poor even if you upgrade the firmware to 3.00b13.
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