With most ISPs now providing ADSL services without bundling in the company modems, it makes sense to have a single device, which performs the operations of both, the modem, as well the router. While this certainly does reduce the number of endpoints and wires required, it also helps eliminate the extra complexity that third party applications face when connected via a separate set of modem and router. Buffalo has introduced a range of modems cum routers and here’s a hands-on review for the Buffalo Airstation WBMR-HP-GNV2-AP.
Sleek and small design for a modem-cum-router
Design and Build Quality
The Buffalo Airstation is a sleek and tiny ADSL2+ modem cum router of the Wi-Fi 802.11n standard. It has a surprisingly small and light-weight design for a device that includes dual functionality of a modem, as well as router. The front panel consists of five LEDs for Power, WPS security, Wireless functions, DSL and Internet. The back consists of four LAN ports, a power jack and a telephone line connection. A small notification LED slot exists next to each of the LAN ports to verify if the LAN connection is ON. Small vents have been included on the side. Smart ergonomics, we would say, as they have a sloping structure to prevent dust particles from entering the device. This is beneficial, as there will be minimal heat trapping during the long ‘Always-ON’ usage for routers.
Great router, with a not-so-great stand
Also, a separate detachable stand is bundled in that it allows an option of wall mounting or a vertical stand. However, it didn't seem of the highest standards and the Airstation was quite wobbly when slotted in with the stand. There is no power button, so the only option to restart the router is to unplug it.
The Buffalo Airstation comes with ADSL2++ connection that offers rates of 24Mbps downstream and wireless connections up to 150Mbps. It works on the Wireless-N technology and the device has all the usual features that come in most router cum modem devices with WPS, IP filtering, firewalls, port forwarding, UPnP support, DMZ and QoS.
The back panel
Besides this, Buffalo has introduced a new AOSS security system that allows AOSS enabled devices to seamlessly create a secure connection. For example, an Android device can download Buffalo’s software from the market and after AOSS authentication, it can create a secure wireless connection with the Airstation by just pressing connect. The usefulness of this feature could be debatable, but it’s included nonetheless. The router also has an add-on called 'ECO'. This allows users to switch off the router at pre-scheduled times. A useful feature for those having caps or limits on downloads. Multiple SSIDs are provided that restrict users outside the network to only Internet access, whilst those in the network can access both the Internet as well as the VPN. These multiple SSIDs show up in the connections bar as separate connections hence a different set of security and network settings can be configured.
The Buffalo Airstation has a Windows application that allows easy access to basic functions like connect, disconnect and view status. The browser-based interface has a pretty complicated UI, which might confuse novices, but it does include helpful bits at the right hand side of each tab that explain the functions of the options. It also has an 'easy setup' option that allows users to access a few quick fix solutions or diagnostics in case of connectivity problems.
Port forwarding options
The down points are that the QoS supports 8 TCP or UDP devices with bandwidth priority options of High, 'Medium' and Low. There is no TCP and UDP option for games that require both TCP, as well as UDP for connectivity. Hence, two separate slots for the same device need to be added. The MAC address interface tab only includes a blank space. So, MAC addresses need to be added manually, a cumbersome task if a huge number of them need to be added.
We did a few simple performance tests. Two laptops were connected to the Airstation - one wired, the other, wireless. With only the router connection, we enabled transfer of a folder of 200 MB and a sequential file (single file of 200 MB). The performance was checked over three zones. The first being the closest to the router, the second separated by a wall and the third at a considerable distance from the router. Below is a bar graph of our performance test.
Besides this, we also tested HD (3.7 GB in size) and DVD (700 MB in size) video streaming on the wireless laptop. For the HD video, Zone 1 had absolutely no lag, Zone 2 suffered some stuttering while Zone 3 didn't fare particularly well with frequent stuttering and lagging. On the other hand, the DVD quality movie streamed perfectly fine in all the three zones. At the outset, comparing to other routers, file transfers were quick and weren’t lagging behind in any respect with speeds crossing 4 MBps. A decent performance for a Wi-Fi modem cum router.
The Buffalo Airstation is priced at Rs. 2,200. As compared to other popular ADSL2 routers models, Buffalo hasn’t really broken the price bracket. It’s at par with offerings from other brands such as Belkin. Sure, we would have liked a better and simpler user interface, but those are things you won’t need all the time but performance will be.
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