Wireless has become fairly standard in electronics. Cell phones, game consoles, Blu-ray players, high-definition TVs, and satellite receivers have had wireless connectivity added to them. Because of the demands of wireless, the speeds have gotten faster and the bandwidth higher. Hooking up devices without wireless can be a challenge though, especially when your router is in one room and those devices are in another. That’s why routers have become the central part of the wireless network, and bridges can be an integral part of that network. This is why Cisco has made the Linksys E4200 router and the Linksys WES610N high-speed bridge.
The Linksys E4200 is a 802.11n wireless router with four Gigabit Ethernet ports and a USB port on the back of it. The router itself is less than an inch tall so its very short, but 8.86” x 6.30” making the base bigger than many other routers. It doesn’t have any external antennas though, making the design more attractive than other routers.
Setup is rather painless. You plug in the necessary cords, plug in the power for the router, and put the CD that comes with the router into your computer. Once the router is set, you can use the browser-based utility to make changes to the settings.
The router has several of the settings you’d expect. You can change your connection type from DHCP, Static IP, PPPoE, PPTP for those in Europe, L2TP for those in Israel, and Telstra Cable for those in Australia. The Device Name can be changed so you can identify your personal network, and set whichever IP addresses might be necessary from your ISP.
One of the big advantages of the E4200 router is the dual-band wireless. While some routers can only run in 2.4 GHz or 5 Ghz wireless mode, the E4200 can run both simultaneously. The 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz bands can also be set up in different configurations. For example, you can set up the 5 GHz band to run in Wireless-N mode while choosing to have the 2.4 GHz band to run for only Wireless-G devices. They can also be set to mixed, where the 5 GHz band can connect to Wireless-A and Wireless-N devices, and the 2.4 GHz band can connect to Wireless-N, Wireless-G, and Wireless-B devices. This lets you separate the devices between the two bands, giving Wireless-N devices their own area of connectivity.
A nice feature of the E4200 is the fact that you can grant guest access to the router. Instead of giving your friends a long random list of letters and numbers of your WPA/WPA2/WEP security code, you have them connect to the guest router connection. Once they are connected they open a browser and put in a password that is easy to remember. It also prevents access from their computer to any computers or other devices like printers on the network. You can also limit the number of guests allowed on the network at one time.
The E4200 has several options for managing a disk attached to the USB port. You can format the disk, create folders, and set up groups that can access the disk. The disk can also be set up as a media server or FTP server, something that is increasingly popular these days.
Setting up the E4200 for media and gaming is easy through the web application. Options include single-port forwarding, port range forwarding, port range triggering, and a DMZ or demilitarized zone. Depending on the kind of network you have, these options can allow traffic to the right device faster or send out data faster.
While the E4200 is great by itself, the dual-band entertainment bridge with 4-port switch WES610N is a great addition to your network. This bridge has four Ethernet ports on the back that allows you to hook up to four Ethernet devices to your wireless network. This is useful if your multimedia devices are close together, but aren’t in a convenient location to your router.
Setting up the WES610N to work with the E4200 was easy. There is a Wi-Fi Protected Setup button on both devices. First I hit the button on the router, and then I hit the button on the bridge. Within minutes I was able to have my PS3, Xbox 360, and satellite receiver to my network. For those who want to hook up the bridge the old fashioned way, a browser-based application can be used to connect the WES610N to the router and put in the password. Getting one device connected for multiple machine is better than having to set up multiple devices.
During the time I had the bridge, I used it for software updates to my consoles, stream video to my consoles and satellite receiver, and play games online. Each of these tasks performed beautifully. Previously on the Xbox 360, I had issues with NetFlix closing and having the quality of the stream go down. With the new bridge, it had no issues at all keeping up with the connection. The updates to the PS3 were also faster because the wireless built into the PS3 is 802.11g, so having the bridge connect at 802.11n speeds and send the update through the Ethernet port was much faster. I never had the connection go down, and even when I moved the E4200 to a different room in a level higher in my house the connection to the bridge was still fast.
Both of these devices worked well together, and the setup is a snap. The browser-based software does a good job of getting the devices configured however you want. If you have several devices you want to hook up online but don’t have the ability to put them close to the computer. It also lets you hide your router from view if you wish to do so. If you are in the market for a new router or bridge, you can’t go wrong with either device.