Linksys WRT54G Wireless-G Broadband Router reviewed

Wrap Up

Although the WRT54G is street priced about the same as its WAP54G access point sibling, the choice may not be as easy as it seems. Even though the router can always be used as an access point, it does not include the wireless bridging capabilities found in the WAP54G. If you need both routing and bridging in a draft-11g router, you should look at Buffalo Tech's WBRG54, which throws in wireless repeating, too.

Like all draft-802.11g products, the WRT54G is a work in progress on its wireless side, and will remain so until the 802.11g spec is released this coming June. On the positive side is that Linksys appears to be leading the pack in wireless throughput with a top speed of about 21Mbps. Linksys' weakness however, is its handling of mixed WLANs which in some cases can slow draft-11g clients to a crawl.

NOTE!NOTE: A quick look at the latest 1.06 firmware for the WAP54G, which is supposed to incorporate draft-11g version 6.1 mechanisms, showed me that Linksys still has work to do to handle mixed WLANs smoothly. The new code made the WAP54G behave similar to, but not better than the WRT54G with its 1.01.4 firmware.

In addition to these wireless issues, the routing side also needs work to bring it up to par with the rest of its Linksys siblings because of the newer Broadcom-based routing platform. These "to-do's" don't seem to be holding the WRT54G back though, at least according to Linksys, which expects to ship more than 500,000 Wireless-G products by the end of this month (March 2003).

Call me conservative, but I still think there's an advantage in holding off for another month or so. Not only will you get to skip one or two firmware update cycles, but you'll also get more products to choose from, including the tri-mode dual-band (a/b/g) products that have been announced by NETGEAR and should start appearing in on-line stores shortly. Although these products will start out at a price premium to single band b/g products, once the enterprise folks start buying tri-mode dual-band clients, their volume could drive tri-mode prices down to where they're the logical choice.