Dual-Band Router Showdown

Our reviewer picks the top networking gear from SMC, Apple, DLink, Linksys, and Netgear.
Linksys WRT610N

During our initial testing, file transfer using the Linksys WRT610N at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz lost connection and terminated. Things continued to carry on in that manner.
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Dual Band: Simultaneous
Firewall: Yes
Data Stream Management: Yes
Wi-Fi Protected Setup: Yes
Antennas: 3 per band
Number of Switch Ports: 4
Port Speed: 10/100/1000
USB Port: Disk
Dimensions: 8.9 x 7.1 x 1.48 in

Test Results
Proprietary 2.4 GHz: 2.6
Proprietary 5 GHz: 1.6
Netgear N121T: 2.2
Netgear 5GHz HD: 1.5

It took a few seconds to figure out how to turn off the audio track Linksys uses on the WRT610N product site. A sound-enabling Web page is generally considered a slick feature and, as such, it certainly matches the slick appearance of the router itself -- think rear end of a Mitsubishi Eclipse with wrap-around spoiler. The audio track is just oh-so-annoying if you know how to read and prefer to do that instead.

Setup is fairly straightforward and in plain English. When you're done you're up and running with a simultaneous dual-band router -- maybe. During our initial testing, file transfer at both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz lost connection and terminated. Then, after about a half hour, none of the computers we tried could find the 5-GHz band on our first WRT610N. We went through a variety of possible fixes (including a firmware upgrade) with Linksys technical support, but nothing worked. So we had it replaced with another one.

The second WRT610N already had its firmware upgraded and agreed to talk with the Linksys WUSB600N USB adapter. Unfortunately, when we called up our list of attached computers via the Windows Network icon, the PC that was hard-wired to the router was nowhere to be found in the list. It took another contact with technical support to cure that problem, but then media playback at 5 GHz got splotchy.

Things continued to carry on in that manner, to the point that we finally asked if the router might still be a beta model and not a production unit. We were told that it was definitely a retail product. That wasn't a great answer, considering how it was acting, and, when testing was done, we ran -- not walked -- to our router closet and re-installed the WRT600N we'd been using for the last seven months or so.

We can't over-emphasize that we have never had problems with any Linksys router similar to the degree we experienced with the WRT610N. When it worked correctly, it proved itself to be one of the top two (tied with Apple's Airport Extreme) devices in performance. But we felt the need to cross our fingers for luck whenever we walked away from it. We just had no confidence that we'd return to the same conditions as when we left.

On the bright side, a pair of Linksys WGA600N dual-band gaming adapters worked perfectly to create a simultaneous dual-band environment with the older WRT600N. They were the equals of the Netgear WNHDE111 devices we've been using.

As with D-Link, it's difficult to recommend the WRT610N at this point. The WGA600N and WUSB600N adapters are champs if you want to add them to and expand your existing network but, as things stand right now, that's just a two-legged simultaneous dual-band Linksys stool.

For a table comparing the five routers' features, click here. Or, if you want to compare test results, click here.

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