Over the last five years, the number of people using the Internet in India has increased exponentially. This trend will not change anytime soon, with the expectation that within this year we will see a fantastic 60 percent growth in broadband use in the country. As the no of Internet users begins to rise, so does the spread of technical knowledge. A lot of users today don’t only use the internet for just surfing or chatting. They use it to play multiplayer games, use it for internet telephony, and other tasks. At the same time the growing affluence of the Indian middle class, has lead to a scenario in urban centers where many households have more than one PC. In such households, you will find commonly that there is one primary desktop and users with individual laptops.
In such cases the need for faster forms of broadband Internet has arisen. This has been answered to a large extent by public sector companies such as MTNL and BSNL, who have stepped up and have started offering broadband Internet at attractive prices using the ADSL2+ method of broadband delivery. Here the Internet is delivered over your POTS (Plain Old Telephone System). Yes! we are referring to the copper wire that your landline is connected to. Another question that routinely pops up, is how best to share this Internet connection in a household, after all it is not feasible to have individual connections for every user. This is where Wi-Fi comes in usable. As it has become common-place with virtually all laptops shipping with support for it, Wi-Fi makes it possible to share the Internet connection without any issues.
Keeping all this in mind networking companies like Linksys, Netgear, D-link and now Asus have started offering all-in-one solutions based on the ADSL2+ platforms. These solutions are typically routers that ship with support for ADSL2+ technology, have inbuilt Wi-Fi access points, double up as 4 port network switches, have a STPI firewall, QOS prioritization for VoIP, AV streaming and gaming and in some cases can even act as virtual servers for print sharing.
One such device which we are going to be reviewing today is the ASUS WL-600G which Asus claims offers virtually all the points that we have listed above. Would it be able to keep up with the competition and deliver on all fronts? Read on to find out.
One thing I like about ASUS is that in any PC related device they make, they take the trouble of making it look attractive. The WL-600G is no exception to this as it ships in a nice off-white/silver body, that looks neat and is really an improvement over the dull grey/black combos that other manufacturers prefer. The only downside here is the fact that India being a dusty country, this color combination will attract a lot of dust and will require it to be cleaned a little more often.
In terms of physical size and dimensions the WL-600G is a big boy. Compared to its direct competitors like the D-link 604T and Linksys AG241, the WL-600G is a lot bigger. This does create a problem as it makes it difficult to simply install the router in one corner, configure it and forget about it. Due to its size, one has to either build a bracket for it or install it on the top of our PC.
In general shape and design, the WL600G is virtually identical to any wireless router that is currently available. The front side of the router sports the LED indicators, which allows you at a single glance to determine what are the various activities that the router is currently performing. The options here are quite comprehensive, as there are separate indicators for ADSL networking activity,Wi-FI, USB HUB and 4 different Ethernet indicators which light up according to which port is in use.
The backside of the router sports the various connection ports. There are 4 Ethernet ports present, 2 USB 2.0 Slots, one RJ-11 slot that acts as the input for the ADSL wire, an on-off switch, the Wi-FI antenna slot, a button simply marked as EZsetup that allows you to configure the Internet with automatic ISP detection and the Reset tab that allows you to restore the router back to factory defaults in case of a network connectivity problem.
The Wl-600G like all other routers of its class, offers a browser based interface to configure its options. The router comes with a pre-assigned IP so all one has to do is to plug-in the router and surf on to the correct I.P. The interface is well designed with logical groupings depending on the various configuration options.
For testing the WL-600G’s network performance, we used 2 different ADSL2 networks so as to gauge real-life performance. The networks we used were Airtel and MTNL. The speeds that were offered by these respective networks were 512 kb and 2 Mb. These are healthy broadband speeds (at least by Indian standards!). The WL-600G was able to easily sync with both the ISPs and was surprisingly giving us more consistent speeds as compared to our comparison unit-Dlink’s 604T. To confirm this fact we simply downloaded multiple files from our Tech2.com download section, download.com and fileforum.com. Across all these downloads, the Asus WL-600G was consistently faster by about 15-20 percent. This we found to be a great point in favor of the WL600G, as it simply means that the WL-600G is able to manage your bandwidth better and will not choke in case you are a power user.
The WL-600G in keeping with current trends, offers the entire spectrum of current Wi-Fi standards ranging from 802.11a to 802.11g. So for our next test, we configured the router’s Wi-Fi settings. Here we found that the settings page was a bit sparse and has been designed on the premise that the end-user will have some technical information about various security settings and Wi-Fi related terms. This we found to be a drawback, as a lot of users purchasing this device may be first-time users and will no doubt be confused by the various terms here. A wizard based system similar to what is offered by D-link would have been a better move. The Wl-600G we found much to our satisfaction,supports all the Wi-Fi security protocols. We were able to easily configure WPA2+/WPA settings. This is a good move, as it means that your Wi-Fi network will be quite secure and not prone to easy hacking. The second part of our Wi-Fi test involved the sharing of the Internet. This was also fairly easy and with support for DHCP, the router was able to easily share the internet without the need for manual settings on laptops.
In the final part of our tests, we decided to check out the QOS support of the router. QOS in simple laymen terms (in this scenario) means that certain activities such as a VoIP call and Video Streaming get priority over other network activities. For the purposes of our test, we simply connected a Polycom Soundpoint IP 430, a well known VoIP phone to the Ethernet slot at the back of the router. Since the Polycom is DHCP enabled, it was auto-configured and was online in minutes. After this we proceeded to make a few international calls, while making sure that there were some file transfers running at the same time. Normally a VoIP call requires dedicated bandwidth and if it does not get it, the call can get choppy or may not even initiate. This is the reason we made sure, that there were file transfers running while we were making our calls. Here the QOS worked as advertised. Every time we made a call the file transfers would be choked and the VoIP call would go through without stuttering or dying.
At the end of the day we find that the the WL-600G, is a very good network router. Not only does it offer full functionality and comprehensive Wi-Fi settings, it is very competitively priced at Rs. 7,300 which makes it an excellent competitor to the market leader Linksys.
Find our entire collection of stories, in-depth analysis, live updates, videos & more on Chandrayaan 2 Moon Mission on our dedicated #Chandrayaan2TheMoon domain.