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Western Digital My Net AC1300 802.11ac router

August 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

The storage expert throws its hat into the wireless ac arena…

Score 7/10

 

Pros
Simple setup
Intuitive user interface
Integrated media prioritisation

Cons
Wireless speeds behind sector benchmarks
No Cloud platform
Feature set deserves cheaper pricing
Dull design

Review Price £139.00

Key Features: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi; 4x Gigabit Ethernet; 2x USB 2.0; FasTrack media prioritisation software

What is the Western Digital My Net AC1300 802.11ac router?

This is WD’s first next generation wireless ac compatible router. The company only entered the router space in recent years, but has impressed with feature packed models like the My Net N900 Central. With the AC1300 WD is pushing its proprietary ‘FasTrack’ technology front and centre which it claims makes the router the fastest and most consistent in its class.

Western Digital My Net AC1300 – Design
For such a big release Western Digital hasn’t spent a great deal of time on design. The My Net series has never sported the most innovative look and the AC1300 is virtually identical to its predecessors. This means the same sunken, gloss rectangular casing and matt lid pattern. Even the front activity LEDs are the same with blue flashing power, WiFi, Internet and WPS lights and a dedicated WPS physical button. It is no PlusNet router monstrosity, but it certainly is boring.

That said ‘boring’ has its benefits. The AC1300 is rigidly built, has large rubber feet to keep it in place and can be positioned just about anywhere without catching the eye. Then again this could prove a necessary evil as the AC1300 doesn’t sit upright and cannot be wall mounted.

Western-Digital-My-Net-AC1300-2-

Western Digital My Net AC1300 – Features
While its looks won’t make friends and influence people, its feature set just might. Unlike the hard drive packing N900, the AC1300 is all about speed.

802.11ac compatibility is the big draw, but WD is also pushing its ‘FasTrack’ automated media prioritisation technology for equal billing. Media prioritisation isn’t new, but with our media consumption increasingly online WD has taken it a step farther by embedding it in the core of the AC1300. FasTrack is pre-programmed to prioritise a vast array of online services from Netflix and YouTube to Spotify and VoIP traffic from the likes of Skype. FasTrack also analyses the whole of any media file rather than just pieces, a process WD boasts will reduce buffering.

The AC1300 prides itself on smart management of your local network as well with integrated network diagnostics. As well as providing an array of statistics it claims to analyse common network connectivity issues and address them automatically. Despite this WD doesn’t yet have a full Cloud platform like Linksys and D-Link, so all access must be done locally.

Elsewhere the AC1300 ticks a lot of the right boxes. It comes with two USB 2.0 ports (though no USB 3.0), there are four Gigabit Ethernet ports (though sadly not the seven the N900 broke from the pack to provide), Gigabit WAN and WPA/WPA2 and WPS security. IPv6 support is also there out the box along with parental controls.

WD-setup

Western Digital My Net AC1300 – Setup
Setting up the AC1300 does lead you down the CD route (something companies are starting to break from as Ultrabook and tablet popularity skyrockets), but it is a smooth process nonetheless. Admin and wireless passwords are set straight away and the main UI is attractive with intuitive categories which shouldn’t scare away even the most timid of technophobes.

Techies will simply plug in the AC1300, connect manually and dive into the settings – something the CD-based process thankfully doesn’t restrict.

WD-My-Net-AC1300-UI

Western Digital My Net AC1300 – Performance
WD-My-Net-AC1300-802-11acSo do the AC1300’s speed claims come to fruition? It is in the right ball park. At our test distances of two metres and 10 metres line of sight and 13 metres behind two standing walls it clocked 31.6MBps (252.8Mbps), 25.9MBps (207.2Mbps) and 24.3MBps (194.4Mbps) respectively using 802.11ac.

This sees it lag behind the Linksys EA6700, Asus RT-AC66U and D-Link DIR-868L (which we would consider the best three routers currently on the market) at close range, but it reduces the gap on the 868L at 13m and is just 3-4MBps behind EA6700 and AC66U at this distance.

Performance on 802.11n at 5GHz was less impressive. The AC1300 managed 18.5MBps (148Mbps), 14MBps (112Mbps) and 7.8MBps (62.4Mbps) which saw it outstripped by all three routers at 2m and 10m.

While it matched the EA6700’s 7.7MBps (61.6Mbps) at 13m we found this to be the EA6700’s weak spot with the AC66U and 868L managing 11MBps (88Mbps) and a barnstorming 14.1MBps (112.8Mbps) respectively. On the plus side the AC1300 speeds were rock solid throughout (graphs for this can be seen in the gallery at the top of the page).

WD-My-Net-AC1300-802-11n-2-4GHzWhen it came to 802.11n at 2.4GHz the AC1300 again lagged, but not by much. It hit 11Mbps (88Mbps), 8.7MBps (69.6Mbps) and 2.9MBps (23.2Mbps) at 2m, 10m and 13m when scores around 11MBps, 10MBps and 3.5MBps were the norm with the big three, with the exception of the benchmark 5.3MBps (42.4Mbps) achieved by the AC66U at 13m.

That said this doesn’t tell the whole story as you will see from the performance graphs opposite, the AC1300’s speeds were erratic as distance increased.

As for performance over USB, the AC1300 managed 4.8MBps (38.4Mbps): in line with the 868L, much better than the lacklustre 3.1MBps (24.8Mbps) of the AC66U but not in the same league as the EA6700’s breakaway 7.1MBps (56.8Mbps). While useable for simple media streaming, until router CPU power increases to tackle the greater drain of USB transfers attaching storage via Gigabit Ethernet will remain the much better option.

wdfMyNetAC1300

Should I buy the Western Digital My Net AC1300?
While the performance results show the AC1300 slightly lags behind the fastest routers we have tested it is in no way sluggish and will handle everything the vast majority of users can throw at it. FasTrack will also have appeal for users with slow Internet connections, but in all honesty this is unlikely to be a problem for users looking to buy such a high end router.

Still while the AC1300 isn’t the quickest we’ve seen, it also isn’t the most fully featured or stylishly designed. The network analytics are welcome, but available in most premium routers and we would have to run the AC1300 for many months to see if its claims of automatically tackling connectivity problems is true. This is a limitation of the review process.

Superficial as it may sound we also think it is about time WD paid slightly more attention to its external design given the stylish, racy and futuristic looks given to Linksys EA6700, Asus RT-AC66U and D-Link DIR-868L respectively.

In terms of value for money at £139 the AC1300 is cheaper than the EA6700 and AC66U (£169.99 and £159.99), while it comes in at the same price as the 868L. For those on a tight budget the D-Link has the most appeal and – while online offers may affect things – we’d also stretch to get our hands on the EA6700 and AC66U before WD’s offering.
Verdict
Competent is the word which most comes to mind with the AC1300. It is solidly constructed, fast and nicely featured but it looks dull, isn’t as quick as the fastest routers and lacks the ambitious Cloud platforms being developed by Asus, D-Link and Linksys. In that scenario the My Net AC1300 needed to be cheaper to really catch our attention.

Scores In Detail

Design 6/10
Features 7/10
Performance 7/10
Usability 7/10
Value 7/10

To read the original review on TrustedReviews click here

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.   

 

TalkTalk Plus Fibre router

August 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Following Sky & PlusNet, yet another single band ISP fibre router disappoints

Score 5/10

 

Pros: Simple, thoughtful design, Easy setup USB 2.0 port

Cons: Cannot hit advertised fibre speeds, No Gigabit Ethernet, No IPv6 support, Schizophrenic UI

Review Price £45.00

Key Features: 802.11bgn 2.4GHz WiFi; 4x 10/100 Ethernet ports; WPA / WPA2 & WPS security; Fibre & ADSL2+ ports; USB 2.0

What is the TalkTalk Plus fibre router?

It is the premium router TalkTalk supplies to customers signing up for its 38Mbps and 76Mbps fibre broadband packages. Like the Sky Hub and PlusNet Fibre router, TalkTalk’s Plus router is a single band 802.11n 2.4GHz model, which raises concerns it may struggle deliver Wi-Fi speeds that match the fastest connections – an issue the BT Home Hub 4 and Virgin Media new Super Hub dodge by supporting the 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bands.

Is the TalkTalk Plus fibre router up to the task of delivering proper fibre speeds over Wi-Fi, or is it another underwhelming effort from a UK ISP? Note: TalkTalk uses two suppliers for the Plus router, D-Link (model number ‘DSL-3780′) and Huawei (model number ‘H533′), but claims both perform very similarly and look identical. We received the D-Link edition of the Plus router so will refer to it as the 3780 in this review.

DSL-3780-B1-Image-L-Side-

TalkTalk Plus fibre router – Design

Out of the box things look promising. TalkTalk has previously spoken of its desire to provide customers with a more stylish router and the 3780 is a marked improvement on previous models. Out goes its predecessor’s glossy white finish, large garish TalkTalk logo and boxy angles to be replaced by a smaller, subtly branded, curvier, matt black unit.

Admittedly we are still a long way from the stylish design seen in the sector’s flagships like the Linksys EA6700 and D-Link DIR-848L, but it is no eye sore. It is also well-built. There are no creaks or squeaks and while we aren’t in the habit of throwing routers on the floor, it feels capable of withstanding a few drops. A moulded base stand means the 3780 can only sit bolt upright though and while this isn’t a major issue it does mean it cannot be wall mounted.

The 3780 also has 11 front facing activity lights (power, ADSL, Fibre, Internet, WLAN, WPS, LAN1-4 and USB) and while all of these won’t be flashing at once you would be advised not to place it in a common eye line.

DSL-3780-B1-Image-L-Back-

 

TalkTalk Plus fibre router – Features

While the look of the 3780 causes no offense, much of its feature set does raise concern. The aforementioned limitation of 802.11n 2.4GHz WiFi is the most obvious talking point, but it doesn’t even come with the fastest implementation of 2.4GHz. As such it uses a 2×2 antenna array when a stronger 3×3 array is common in many single band routers including D-Link’s own excellent DIR-645. In addition to this the 3780 fits four 10/100 Ethernet ports rather than the more common Gigabit (1000Mbps) Ethernet standard.

This will be an instant deal breaker for users running NAS boxes as it creates a fixed bottleneck even for wired connections. IPv6 is also missing, though D-Link confirms the hardware is capable of being updated to support it in future. Elsewhere we are pleased to see the 3780 supports WPA/WPA2 and WPS security and there is also a USB 2.0 port on the back for sharing a printer or USB storage across the network. Interestingly, the 3780 packs both ADSL2 and Fibre internet ports. This adds flexibility but, like the PlusNet fibre router, really only shows that this is a bridging product (ADSL2 reaches just 16Mbps) rather than a router purely intended to do justice to the speeds of fibre optic broadband.

Still this is better than the PlusNet Fibre router which had to commandeer one of its Ethernet ports just to support Fibre – a real botch job.

TalkTalk-D-Link-DSL-3780-TT-UI

TalkTalk Plus fibre router – Setup

For technophobes TalkTalk supplies both a CD-based setup wizard and a manual which includes step by step graphical guides for Mac OS X, Windows XP, Vista, 7 and (impressively) Windows 8. Users will also be able to simply plug the 3780 in and connect to its Wi-Fi using the key printed on the back of the router.

Happily, WPA2 security is enabled default, but slapped wrists are in order for setting up the default username and password for the router’s settings as admin/admin. We thought we had long passed the days of this aged and easily guessed combo and they should be changed immediately… something we doubt many mainstream TalkTalk users will do. For those who do dare to fiddle with the 3780’s settings, they will find not one but two UIs. By default the 3780 loads a simple TalkTalk status screen (shown above), but clicking the ‘advanced’ tab sees it open D-Link’s standard router UI in a new window (below).

We weren’t expecting the smoothness of Linksys or D-Link’s premium Cloud platforms Smart WiFi and mydlink, but the effect is jarring and akin to jumping between the desktop and touch-friendly modes in Windows 8.

TalkTalk-D-Link-DSL-3780-Settings

 

TalkTalk Plus fibre router – Performance

TalkTalk-D-Link-DSL-3780-Given the glaring array of old tech within the 3780 we expected it to perform little better than the subpar efforts of the PlusNet Fibre and Sky Hub and sadly we were proved right. At our test distances of two metres and 10 metres line of sight plus 13 metres behind two standing walls the 3780 hit speeds of 8.57 megabytes per second (69.36 megabits per second), 8.55MBps (68.4Mbps) and 3.2MBps (25.6Mbps) respectively.

The immediate point to note is even at two metres the 3780 won’t achieve the 76Mbps fibre speeds TalkTalk advertises. There isn’t a massive shortfall like the Sky Hub’s 5.8MBps (46.4Mbps) and it is over the 62.7Mbps Ofcom claims is average for 76Mbps customers, but it does mean you will need a wired connection should you be lucky enough to receive real world broadband speeds in excess of 70Mbps to your door.

Furthermore the 3780 is outstripped by the aged PlusNet fibre router’s 9.63MBps (77.04Mbps) and 8.82MBps (70.56Mbps) at two and 10 metres, though its 13m performance of just 2.2MBps (17.6Mbps) falls well short as does the Sky Hub’s woeful 1.3MBps (10.4Mbps) at the same distance. That said any victories here are hollow are all three routers falling well short of providing satisfying fibre optic speeds once walls come into play which highlights the limitations of 2.4GHz WiFi.

By contrast the BT Hub Home 4 (while actually more sluggish than both the PlusNet and TalkTalk routers at 2.4GHz) hits speeds of 13.5MBps (108Mbps), 13.1MBps (104.8Mbps) and 4.92MBps (39.36Mbps) at 5GHz. Meanwhile the Virgin Media new Super Hub’s 5GHz performance achieves 17.5MBps (140Mbps), 11.5MBps (92Mbps) and 4.3MBps (34.4Mbps) and even its 2.4GHz performance reaches 10.1MBps (80.8Mbps), 8.5MBps (68Mbps) and 3.2MBps (25.6Mbps).

TalkTalk-D-Link-DSL-3780-USBOne slightly brighter spark is the 3780’s USB performance, which peaks at 3.02MBps (24.16Mbps). This batters the 1.42MBps (11.36Mbps) of the PlusNet fibre router and inches ahead of the BT Home Hub 4’s 2.79MBps (22.32Mbps) while the Sky Hub has no USB port at all. Still the new Super Hub comes out on top here as well managing 3.2MBps (25.6Mbps), though USB remains a poor medium for file transfer until routers significantly boost the power of their chipsets.

DSL-3780-B1-Image-L-Front-

Should I buy the TalkTalk Plus fibre router?

As with the single band routers supplied by PlusNet and Sky, the answer is a straightforward ‘no’. Of course new customers get the 3780 free and existing customers can upgrade (TalkTalk says the router is worth £45, subject to your haggling) so avoiding it may be easier said than done.

Despite this we would argue any TalkTalk customer receiving decent fibre speeds and living in more than a single room studio should ditch the 3780 even if they got it free. And upgraders should put their £45 towards the circa £100 RRP of the excellent dual band D-Link DIR-845L, whose 5GHz speeds hit 7.1MBps (56.8Mbps) at 13m and even its 2.4GHz performance reaches 5.5MBps (44Mbps) at the same distance.

Going further, those who are prepared to pay around £150 should opt for a next generation 802.11ac router such as the superb Linksys EA6700, D-Link DIR-868L and Asus RT-AC66U. All offer blazing 5GHz speeds and their wireless ac performance universally tops 24MBps (190Mbps) at 13 metres. For those pushing a lot of traffic over local networks in particular they’re a whole new ball game.

Verdict

In supplying its fibre customers with a single band router TalkTalk falls foul of the same errors as Sky and PlusNet. In itself the 3780 isn’t to blame, it is a reasonably good-looking, basic, 2.4GHz router which performs as it should, but it is the wrong standard to supply with fibre optic broadband. The pre-fibre days have made many ISPs lazy in the routers they supply. Fibre is now showing this up and it needs to stop, quickly.

Scores In Detail: Build Quality 6/10, Design 6/10, Features 4/10, Performance 5/10, Value 5/10

To read the original review on TrustedReviews click here

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

TR – iPhone 5C will ambush Apple’s innovation

August 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

A bargain bin iPhone hints at much deeper problems.

Right now it is fashionable to bash Apple… heck even Fox News is doing it. “What have they had lately?” espoused Fox Business News correspondent Charlie Gasparino last week. “They have had the iPad, they’ve had a few other things, but they don’t have anything innovating from [like] what came from Steve Jobs.”

Jobs’s old friend Oracle CEO Larry Ellison also weighed in with a few punches this week. “We already know [Apple’s destiny]” he said, “We saw Apple with Steve Jobs, we saw Apple without Steve Jobs… now we’re gonna see Apple without Steve Jobs [again].”

iPhone-5cjpg

The problem getting up everyone’s nose is a perceived lack of ‘innovation’, but this isn’t what bothers me. During Job’s 24 years and two spells in charge of Apple the company came up with four revolutionary products: the Macintosh computer, the iPod, iPhone and iPad. That averages out to one every six years. The iPad came out in 2010. Innovation (however we may define it) isn’t overdue yet we’re just less patient these days. Instead what irritates is how Apple is increasingly sabotaging its ability to innovate and on the back of operating system, iTunes and Apple TV inertia its latest way to do that is by releasing a budget iPhone 5C.

The case for
On the surface the so-called iPhone 5C makes sense on many levels. Most obvious is its role as a gateway to lure users into the company’s iOS and OS X ecosystems. In the face of ever-cheaper, better specified Android and Windows Phone handsets the iPod touch no longer does this job and Apple risks losing customers early to Google and Microsoft – customers who might get comfortable there, invest heavily and never come back.

Furthermore advances in phone technology seem to be levelling out. All phones are fast these days, most have decent cameras, GPS, accelerometers, 3G (or even 4G) and most of the biggest apps are multi-platform. Apple might as well exploit this plateau and once again get the masses aboard who have given Android an astonishing 79 per cent mobile phone market share.

iPhones for everyone, break out the party poppers.

The case against
iPhone-5C-prototypeOn paper this model works for just about everyone, except Apple. Apple is not your average company.

It got to where it is today by preaching that it is about as far away from an average company as it is possible to be. To do this Apple has succeeded in convincing the world of three things: its products are innovative, this makes them aspirational and this combination makes it worth paying a premium to attain them.

It is genius: the innovation takes care of the marketing, being aspirational results in demand (and content customers after a purchase) and big profit margins keep investors happy.

A budget iPhone risks all of this. By definition it can’t be as innovative, aspirational or as profitable. Worse still the better it sells the bigger ball and chain it becomes around Apple’s leg. Take a look at the iPhone 5S rumours. NFC, a fingerprint scanner, more responsive screen technology, larger capacities… they may be mostly upgrades, but they are all things that can inspire app developers to do the innovation for them. A budget iPhone will have none of these. In fact the latest rumour is it may not even come with Siri.

Budget devices often outsell more expensive options (look at how iPad mini sales rocketed past those of the iPad) and developers will have little motivation to create apps that can’t be used by the widest user base – a user base that just took a technological backwards step. Apple is welcoming the biggest problem of the Google Play store: developers designing for the lowest common denominator. It is one reason why premium Android gaming experiences remain thin on the ground and ‘free’ apps proliferate weighed down by invasive ads.

Apple can crow all it likes about the possibilities of any new fingerprint scanner, NFC or the extra horsepower of an iPhone 5S, but if developers aren’t exploiting them they will stagnate. Stagnation hits premium sales, hurts brand aspiration and convinces increasing amounts of users that the budget model is good enough.

What’s more when an iWatch or iTV eventually arrives can Apple afford to differentiate iPhones by their level of integration/functionality with these devices?

Limit it and you risk wider interest in them and jeopardise their chances of success. Give parity and there is even less reason to buy a premium iPhone. It is a no win-scenario. Contrast this with the current Apple sales model: you bring new functionality and it simply encourages people to upgrade to the latest and greatest iPhone triggering sales around the block and huge profit margins.

What is *really* the matter?
So perhaps the bigger question is – why is Apple looking to take all these risks? Lamborghini doesn’t need a budget car to stop people being hijacked by Ford when they buy their first Fiesta.

Lamborghini knows when you can afford it the appeal will always be there because they are confident in their innovation, differentiation and aspirational brand. If Apple is starting to question these qualities (and only they know their internal roadmap) then perhaps the company’s problems do go as deep as Fox and Larry Ellison would like us to believe.

To read the original article on TrustedReviews click here

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.   

 

PlusNet Fibre router

August 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Can a single band router really serve a fibre optic broadband connection?

Score 5/10

Review Price £39.99

Pros
Cheap
Straightforward setup
Admin password unique to each router

Cons
Barely achieves advertised fibre speeds
Just 3x 10/100 usable Ethernet ports
No USB ports to network drives or printers
Basic router settings
Ugly design

Key Features: 802.11n 2.4GHz wireless; 3x (usable) 10/100 Ethernet ports; WPA / WPA2 & WPS security; Integrated DSL modem

What is the PlusNet Fibre router?

This is the router PlusNet supplies with its fibre optic broadband service which provides customers with speeds of up to 76 megabit (Mbps). The model is in fact a Technicolour TG582n which is also supplied by Zen Internet (along with other more expensive options) and Be Unlimited (which is folding into Sky). The products should be identical, but our sample came from PlusNet and features the company’s logo in the router’s settings hence the main review title.

Interestingly, like the controversial Sky Hub, the TG582n is a single band 802.11n 2.4GHz router. This slower wireless standard often struggles to distribute WiFi fast enough to reach fibre broadband speeds, so it has our Spidey-sense tingling.

technicolor-tg582n-top-large

PlusNet Fiber router – Design

Without a doubt, the TG582n is the most aged looking router we have seen in recent years. Its beige finish, prominent vents and array of flashing green lights will delight hipsters and terrify techophiles in equal measure.

On the upside, the matt white finish doesn’t collect fingerprints or dust easily and its boxy design is rugged. The TG582n is also wall mountable, though the wall mount points come at the expense of rubber feet at the front of the router so we wouldn’t advise sitting it on any particularly delicate surfaces should it get knocked.

PlusNet Fiber router – Features

Looking at the TG582n may be like stepping back in time, but the greater concern is it evokes a similar feeling when looking at the spec sheet. For starters the TG582n is merely a single band 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz router and it features just a 2×2 antenna array when dual band 3×3 arrays have been standard for some time.

In addition to passing up 5GHz WiFi, the TG582n also skips Gigabit Ethernet and just three of its four 10/100 ports can be used. This is because one has been commandeered as a WAN port (signified by red tape stuck below it) to accept Internet from PlusNet’s dedicated fibre broadband modem. As such anyone looking to run a fast local network from the TG582n – like the four port 10/100 Ethernet of the Sky Hub – would be well advised to steer clear.

TG582n-2

The fact the TG582n also features a DSL port beside its Ethernet ports in theory adds flexibility, but in reality it simply highlights that this is a router designed for ADSL2 (up to 16Mbit) services and has been customised in an attempt to squeeze more mileage from the clock.

The better news is the TG582n does pack up to date security with WPA2 and WPS aboard and a firmware update means it is IPV6 ready. The router also provides dynamic DNS and some basic parental control which allows parents to block specific websites. That said this is an outdated method (you’ll be typing in websites until the end of time) and you’d be better off using smarter free dedicated software such as Norton Family, Microsoft Live Family Safety, KuruPira WebFilter and Qustodio, to name but a few.

Lastly the TG582n has a USB 2.0 port for sharing a printer or external storage across your local network. Strangely it is located on the side of the router, rather than the back, which is the first time we’ve seen this. USB should be a default on any modern router and it was also included on the Virgin Super Hub and BT Home Hub 4 (both of which are also dual band) but surprisingly omitted from the Sky Hub.

PlusNet-UI

PlusNet Fibre router – Setup

PlusNet UIGiven you’ll have spotted the TG582n is a rather basic router you’ll be pleased to know its setup process is similarly stripped down. Connect it up and use the key printed on the bottom of the router to connect to its WiFi and you’re away.

If you do want to change some settings you won’t be surprised to learn the TG582n eschews more modern URLs from its settings and you’ll find them instead by typing 192.168.1.254 into your web browser. A nice touch is the admin password is set to the router’s serial number so each one is unique and given many households don’t change their basic router settings, avoiding the default password of ‘admin’ or ‘password’ is to be applauded.

Against this is that the router UI is archaic. Traffic management requires individually typing in device IP addresses and its hyperlinked text to indicate clickable links is a mile away from the slick, Cloud-based drag and drop interface of something like the Linksys Smart WiFi platform.

PlusNet Fibre router – Performance
PlusNet-2-4GHzSo the TG582n is pretty ugly, its functionality is basic and its settings seem to come from an era before animation… all of which means its performance will be an absolutely disaster? Surprisingly, not entirely.

We put the TG582n through its paces in our residential test environment and it recorded speeds of 9.63 megabytes per second (77 megabits per second), 8.82MBps (70.6Mbps) and 2.2MBps (17.6Mbps) at two metres and 10 metres line of sight and 13 metres behind two standing walls.

This means the TG582n can – by the skin of its teeth – provide close range wireless speeds above the 76Mbps fibre broadband packages PlusNet supplies. In addition it operates above the 62.7Mbps average Ofcom claims is the average for 76Mbit fibre connections at both 2m and 10m with line of sight to the router.

These figures are also significantly better than our Sky Hub test sample achieved in identical conditions recording 5.8MBps (46.4Mbps), 5.1MBps (40.8Mbps) and 1.3MBps (10.4Mbps) at 2m, 10m and 13m respectively. It also gives the BT Home Hub 4 a run for its money as its 2.4GHz results came in at 7.61MBps (60.88Mbps), 7.45MBps (59.6Mbps) and 2.79MBps (22.32Mbps) though it cannot match the Virgin Media new Super Hub which tallied 10.1MBps (80.8Mbps), 8.5MBps (68Mbit) and 3.2MBps (25.6Mbps).

Crucially both the new Super Hub and Home Hub 4 also sport 5GHz 802.11n wireless. This saw Virgin’s router score 17.5MBps (140Mbps), 11.5MBps (92Mbps) and 4.3MBps (34.4Mbps) with the Home Hub 4 coming in at 13.5MBps (108Mbps), 13.1MBps (104.8Mbps) and 4.92MBps (39.4Mbps) in identical circumstances.

All of which shows 802.11n 5GHz wireless really should be a mandatory requirement for any fibre optic broadband router. After all we don’t buy fibre broadband services to only get the speed we pay for without walls or doors in the way.

As for USB, speeds were disappointing with the TG582n hitting just 1.42MBps (11.36Mbps) – enough to stream HD video, but this functionality will quickly drop away with distance. Another let down is TG582n only supports external storage formatted with FAT32, a format which doesn’t accept file sizes above 4GB which therefore suppers HD film options. NTFS has been part of mainstream computing since the turn of the century, so this omission is a shocker.

technicolor-tg582n-front-large

Should I buy the PlusNet Fibre router?

In a word, no. The TG582n is yesterday’s technology trying to scrape by and supply today’s broadband advances. The good news is it does at least supply close range wireless speeds capable of PlusNet’s 76Mbit service, but only just. Whether this makes it fit for purpose is debatable.

Happily PlusNet only charges postage and packing (£5) for the TG582n, which it values at £40. Still we’d personally put that £5 towards either the £60 D-Link DIR-645 which is the fastest single band router we have tested, or the £100 D-Link 845L which is the fastest dual band router we’ve tested.

For those looking to future proof the 802.11ac compliant Asus RT-AC66U, D-Link DIR-868L and Linksys EA6700 provide blazing dual band wireless n and with ac compliant equipment they can top 35MBps (280Mbps) at close range and over 24MBps (in excess of 190Mbps) even at 13m behind two standing walls. If you can afford it, their circa £150 RRPs are well worth the investment.

PlusNet Fibre router – Verdict

The TG582n is hopefully part of a fading trend to supply single band routers with fibre optic broadband services. Unlike the Sky Hub it can achieve its provider’s wireless speeds at close proximity, but make no mistake this is an outdated product in both design and features and we would advise all customers to seek out a dual band third party router instead.

Scores In Detail
Build Quality 6/10
Design 5/10
Features 4/10
Performance 5/10
Value 5/10

To read the original review on TrustedReviews click here 

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.   

 

 

 

 

TR – 802.11ac wireless router group test: 7 models benchmarked

August 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

A screen grab of my lengthy group test of the  best 802.11ac routers from ITProPortal. Click it to enlarge (if your browser scales it in a new window you will need to click that scaled image once more)

The original article can be found here

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.   
ITProPortal ac router group test

Asus RT-AC66U 802.11ac router

August 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

 

 

 

Asus’s first wireless 802.11ac router is very fast, but is that enough?

Score 8/10

Review Price £159.99

Pros
The fastest wireless ac router yet
Excellent 802.11n speed and range
Intuitive user interface
Fast, simple setup and management

Cons
No USB 3.0 ports
Lacks true Cloud platform of D-Link/Linksys
Design not the most subtle
Review Price £159.99

Key Features: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless; Six amplified antennas; 4x Gigabit Ethernet Ports; 2x USB 2.0 ports; AiCloud remote access

Asus RT-AC66U 802.11ac router
What is the Asus RT-AC66U?
This is Asus’ first 802.11ac wireless router. While Asus is primarily known for its laptops, tablets and smartphones the company has also been carving out a niche for itself in the router market. Performance has been at the forefront of its success and consequently our expectations for the AC66U are high.

4
Asus RT-AC66U – Design
The look of the AC66U can be described in just one word: imposing. This impression is given by the router’s three optional (and upgradeable) external antennas and its sharp angular design. Both elements fly in the face of recent router trends that veer towards internal antennas and smooth, curved finishes. As such the AC66U won’t subtly fade into the background of a room, but it will sit there declaring that it means business.

Asus continues to break trends elsewhere too. The usual plain matt and gloss finishes of most routers has been replaced by a textured tartan on the AC66U’s main body and the tendency to minimise flashing lights is spun on its head with the router featuring no less than nine separate blinking status indicators. There are (from left to right) power and activity lights for four Ethernet ports, Internet, 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi and USB.

Like all routers the AC66U is constructed from plastic so it won’t hinder wireless signal, but is well made and feels durable. The antennas also mean the router has flexible positioning, it is wall mountable and comes with a stand that lets it rest on its front edge to lift up those antennas even higher.

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Asus RT-AC66U – Features
While the antennas bring positional flexibility, one of the most interesting aspects to the AC66U is its functional flexibility since it can work as a router, wireless bridge and wireless access point. Of course the price for bridges (to bring wireless connectivity to wired devices) and access points (to extend wireless signal) are much cheaper than the AC66U, but it gives the router a welcome second life when you upgrade in the future.

But the real draw is the AC66U’s 802.11ac functionality and like other wireless ac routers it is also backwards compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n and offers dual band 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless n signals – all of which are bolstered by those three large antennas.

You’ll also find 4x Gigabit (10/100/1000) Ethernet ports as is standard these days on any premium router (though we continue to cry out for more) and two USB ports for sharing printers and storage over a network. It is perhaps surprising to see Asus not include a USB 3.0 port like the D-Link DIR-868L or Linksys EA6700, but USB network performance has yet to test the bottleneck of the USB 2.0 standard in any case so it tends to be more for superficial bragging rights.

Internally, the AC66U ticks all the boxes: WPA/WPA2 wireless encryption, parental controls, UPnP, IPv6 support, traffic prioritisation, guest access, QoS and WPS. Curiously, though, for all the blinking activity lights on the router, there isn’t one for WPS, which is frustrating as you can’t see how long it is running when trying to connect to other devices.

Asus has yet to go down the D-Link/Linksys route of providing a full Cloud platform like SmartWiFi and mydlink, but it does offer a halfway house via a smartphone app. AiCloud lets users remotely access audio and video on their network and can be tied in with the the company’s WebStorage Dropbox-a-like service. The combination doesn’t add up to the power and flexibility of its rival’s offerings, but we would expect Asus to fold them into a more complete offering before too long.

Asus-Setup

Asus RT-AC66U – Setup
While most router setups are slick these days Asus deserves great credit for making the AC66U one of the most enjoyable. Again this is because it bucks a trend.

Unlike rivals, the AC66U doesn’t encrypt its wireless signals by default so you connect without a password. Once you do this, however, your default browser automatically loads the router’s setup page where it walks you through setting Wi-Fi and router passwords and the SSID (router ID). This is clever because it means there is no need to print a key on the bottom of the router and everyone must choose their own password.

Asus RT-AC66U – Performance

AC-performanceSo how does this fiesty looking router perform? Impressively. In our test environment of 2m and 10m line of sight and 13m between two standing walls, the AC66U clocked 802.11ac transfer speeds of 39.1MBps (312.8Mbit), 31.2MBps (249.6Mbit) and 27.8MBps (22.2Mbit).

The first of these is the fastest we have seen from any router, besting the 36.7MBps (293.6Mbit) achieved by the Linksys EA6700. As distance increases the EA6700 regains the lead with 35.2MBps (281.6Mbit) and 28.8MBps (230.4Mbit), but the AC66U remains the second fastest ac router we have tested, edging ahead of the D-Link DIR-868L.

It was a similar story with 5GHz wireless performance with the AC66U falling between the D-Link and Linksys. 2m, 10m and 13m speeds managed 21.1Mbit (168.8Mbit), 19.8MBps (158.4Mbit) and 11MBps (88Mbit), which makes it second to the Linksys at 2m and 10m, but much faster at 13m and faster than the D-Link at 2m and 10m, but slower than its remarkable 14.1MBps (112.8Mbit) at 13m.

Asus RT-AC66U 2.4GHz speedsInterestingly – despite these excellent figures – the AC66U shines brightest at 2.4GHz 802.11n. It managed 11.6MBps (92.8Mbit), 10.6MBps (84.8Mbit) and 5.3MBps (42.4Mbit) at 2m, 10m and 13m respectively.

2-4GHz-performanceThis makes it the fastest wireless ac router we’ve seen at 2.4GHz wireless n and much faster than the Linksys’ previous leading 13m benchmark of 3.3MBps (28Mbit).

In fact only the dedicated 802.11n D-Link DIR-845L can pip it at any distance with 5.5MBps (44Mbit) at 13m.


All of which means the AC66U won’t just bring you next generation speeds, it will significantly bolster speeds for your existing wireless n devices too.

As for performance via USB, like all other routers, it disappoints. The AC66U managed just 3.1MBps (24.8Mbit), which is a long way down on the USB 3.0 equipped Linksys EA6700 and D-Link DIR-868L [7.1MBps (56.8Mbit) and 4.9MBps (39.2Mbit) respectively] and it continues to show USB network sharing – while convenient – struggles badly compared to Gigabit Ethernet.

Why? While it differs from router to router, typically they lack enough memory to cache large amounts of USB data before firing it over their network. By contrast Ethernet is already part of the network and doesn’t need caching.

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Should I buy the Asus RT-AC66U?
Based on wireless performance alone the AC66U is well deserving of your attention as it tussles successfully in all wireless n/ac tests with the two fastest routers we have seen to date. At £159.99 it also splits both routers in price with the Linksys EA6700 dearer at £169.99 and the D-Link DIR-868L a bit cheaper at £139.99.

If you can afford it we would still give the EA6700 the edge, despite its ropey 5GHz wireless n performance at range. This is because its Smart WiFi platform remains a real benefit, offering complete control of the router from any location with an internet connection. Mydlink is far more limited in this way, but you save money and D-Link has a Cloud platform to develop while Asus is keeping schtum on any fully fledged Cloud platform plans for now.

We can’t see any purchasers being disappointed in the AC66U, but given performance levels are beginning to even out it is the extras which are starting to make the difference.

Verdict
The Asus RT-AC66U is a superb router, but it’s not quite our favourite. It’s very, very fast, which is great news if you only care about performance, but rivals have a few more features we’d like Asus to add.

Scores In Detail

Build Quality 8/10
Design 7/10
Features 8/10
Performance 9/10
Usability 8/10
Value 7/10

To read the original review on TrustedReviews click here

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BT Home Hub 4

August 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Can the Home Hub 4 beat Virgin’s new Super Hub for wireless speeds?

Score 6/10

 

Pros
Simple, thoughtful design
Line of sight performance tops BT Fibre speeds
Simple setup

Cons
Full price overly expensive
802.11n 2.4GHz & 5GHz speeds below average
Just one Gigabit Ethernet port
Review Price £109.00

Key Features: 802.11n dual band 5GHz & 2.4GHz wireless; 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 3x 10/100 Ethernet; WPA / WPA2 & WPS security; USB 2.0 port; CD-less setup
Manufacturer: BT

What is the BT Home Hub 4?
The Home Hub 4 is the somewhat overdue successor to BT’s ageing Home Hub 3 router released back in 2011. It brings dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11n wireless to the range for the first time – a long awaited move as the company’s fibre broadband speeds are increasingly rapidly.

After the positive impression made by the dual band Virgin Media new Super Hub and the decidedly iffy single band Sky Hub, how will BT’s latest and greatest router fair?

bt-home-hub-4 (2)

BT Home Hub 4: Design

Out the box the BT Home Hub 4 makes a very positive impression. The design is a subtle advancement of the Home Home 3 with a flat front and new silver base strip. It sits upright courtesy of spring loaded legs (which allow it to be packed flat) and the rear is well ventilated to stop the Hub getting hot. The entire casing is plastic, but that is the same for all routers as it lets wireless signal pass through easily.

Throughout the Hub 4’s design are a lot of thoughtful touches. Like the Hub 3, the back has a slide out card for the router’s admin and wireless passwords that makes it simple to take settings to different devices around the home. In addition, the Home Hub 4 has convenient large restart and WPS buttons on the top and the rear ports are colour coded with matching cables in the box.

Lastly the router’s activity lights are hidden behind the Hub 4’s black front strip, only showing up when in use. On the downside there are no activity lights on the Ethernet ports, which is always a bugbear.
remote-jpg

BT Home Hub 4: Features
The highlight of the Home Hub 4 is its move to dual-band wireless n. BT uses 2×2 MIMO antennas rather than the 3×3 arrangement in premium third-party wireless routers, but it still represents a substantial improvement on the Home Hub 3’s single band 2.4GHz wireless n.

More curious is BT’s decision to fit the Home Hub 4 with the same 3x 10/100 Ethernet / 1x Gigabit Ethernet port combination as its predecessor. This is the first dual-band router we’ve seen not to embrace Gigabit Ethernet entirely and will be a significant letdown to those running local networks as it leaves just one viable port for high speed wired data rates.

Despite this the Home Hub 4 is reasonably flexible. It can’t double as a wireless bridge or access point (like the Asus RT-AC66U), but it does support both DSL and cable (WAN) connections. Interestingly, we found the Home Hub 4’s WAN doesn’t work with modems from other ISPs, but we can’t see many buying a Hub 4 to use it this way.

Another welcome sight on the Hub 4 is its USB 2.0 port – something seen on the Virgin new Super Hub, but left off the Sky Hub. This allows a printer or external hard drive to be easily shared across the network. Of course, third-party behemoths like the Linksys EA6700 and D-Link DIR-868L have moved to USB 3.0 (along with 802.11ac W-iFi), but this may come with the impending Home Hub 5 that BT hopes to launch before the end of the year.

Other notable elements are the Hub 4’s integrated parental controls, which allow you to cut off any device from your network at set times (such as children’s laptops after bed time) and WPA2 security, which is enabled by default.

BT-Home-Hub-4-UI
BT Home Hub 4: Setup
A big step forward with the Home Hub 4 is its CD-free setup. Simply connect up in the Hub 4, use the supplied card to log onto its Wi-Fi and you’re away. Admin settings can be reached at both http://bthomehub.home/ and 192.168.1.254. The user interface here (above) is basic and (needless to say there is no Cloud platform like Linksys’ Smart WiFi or D-Link’s mydlink), but navigation is straightforward.

Interestingly, BT sets both 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless bands to the same SSD. This is frustrating as it doesn’t let users choose which network they want. This is a crucial choice given the performance benefits of 5GHz and the control it offers a household in spreading traffic across between different bands to keep things speedy. That said this is easily changed in the ‘advanced’ admin settings.
BT-Dongle
BT also supplied us with its ‘Dual-Band Wi-Fi Dongle 600’ (£34.99), a useful option for older laptops and PCs lacking support for 5GHz wireless n. It claims a driverless install, but we found we needed to download software from bt.com/help/dongle to make it work with Windows 8. That said this is worth doing as the software is needed for the dongle’s WPS functionality to work on any Windows OS. Notably, we didn’t see any Mac OS X support.

BT Home Hub 4 – PerformanceBT-Home-Hub-4-5GHz
5GHz PCWe decided to test the Home Hub 4 with both our regular test laptop and the provided BT dual-band dongle across 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. This was done in the same residential environment we test all routers with measurements taken at identical spots: two metres and 10 metres away from the router with line of sight; and 13m away behind two standing walls.

After the heroics of the Virgin Media new Super Hub and the disappointment of the Sky Hub, we found the BT Home Hub 4 sits somewhere in the middle.

Using our laptop at 5GHz wireless n the Hub 4 achieved speeds of 13.5 megabytes (108 megabits per second), 13.1MBps (104.8Mbit) and 4.92MBps (39.4Mbit) at 2m, 10m and 13m respectively.

The dongle achieved 12.9MBps (103.2Mbit), 11.1MBps (88.8Mbit) and 3.16MBps (25.3Mbit) – a small but unsurprising drop-off since USB antennas tend to lack the range and power of an integrated wireless chip.

Compared to the Virgin new Super Hub’s 17.5MBps (140Mbit) and 11.5MBps (92Mbit) at 2m and 10m the Home Hub 4’s peak performance struggles, though it’s noticeably faster than the Super Hub’s 4.3MBps (34.4Mbit) at 13m.

BT-Home-Hub-4-2-4GHz2.4GHz PCAt 2.4GHz the Home Hub 4 managed speeds of 7.61MBps (60.88Mbit), 7.45MBps (59.6Mbit) and 2.79MBps (22.3Mbit), which are behind the new Super Hub’s 10.1MBps (80.8Mbit), 8.5MBps (68Mbit) and 3.2MBit (25.6Mbit), but far better than the Sky Hub’s 5.8MBps (46.4Mbit), 5.1MBps (40.8Mbit) and 1.3MBps (10.4).

That said all these figures only reinforce that 2.4GHz wireless n is not up to the task of delivering fibre broadband speeds widely around the home, and 5GHz should be a prerequisite on any ISP-supplied router for fibre optic broadband.

Meanwhile USB network transfer speeds remain disappointing on most routers due to a lack of horsepower. The Home Hub 4 stuck to this theme hitting 2.74MBps (22.3Mbit), which means USB storage, while convenient, is merely a back-up to wired Ethernet. (Graphs for all tests are in the photo gallery tab at the top of the page)

BT-Home-Hub-4-1

Should I buy the BT Home Hub 4?
It all depends on circumstance. New BT Fibre customers get the Home Hub 4 free while existing customers can get it for a £35 upgrade free, making it a welcome and reasonable update. That said, buying the Home Hub 4 at its exorbitant full price (£109) from the BT Shop is too much for the features and performance on offer.

It is also worth noting that BT, Virgin and Sky’s routers are all substantially slower than the routers from the best third-party manufacturers. By comparison the fastest dual-band wireless n router we’ve tested, the D-Link DIR-845L, is up to 30% faster on the 5GHz band (top speed 152.8Mbit) and up to 28% faster (84.8Mbit vs 60.88Mbit) on the 2.4GHz band. It retails for roughly £100.

Meanwhile 802.11ac routers (circa £150) push these 5GHz and 2.4GHz speeds even faster and their next generation wireless ac standard can reach speeds of nearly 30MBps (240Mbit) at 13m. So unless you’re getting a cheap upgrade there is little point in paying full price for the Home Hub 4.

Verdict
The BT Home Hub 4 is undoubtedly BT’s best yet and it is both stylish and simple to setup. It’s essential if you’re on one of BT’s fastest fibre packages, and over its 5GHz band it’s fast enough to deliver these speeds over a wireless connection.

Scores In Detail
7/10 Build Quality
7/10 Design
6/10 Features
6/10 Performance
6/10 Value

To read the original article on TrustedReviews click here 

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

 

 

 

 

D-Link DIR-868L Cloud Router

August 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews





The best elements of every D-Link router come together.

Score 8/10

Review Price £139.99

Pros
Superfast wireless n & ac performance
Simple setup
Smart, interesting design
Well priced

Cons
mydlink Cloud platform remains basic
Just one USB port
No Ethernet activity LEDs

Key Features: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac; mydlink cloud platform; 802.11n dual band 5GHz & 2.4GHz wireless; USB 3.0 port; 4x Gigabit Ethernet Ports

What is the D-Link DIR-868L?
The DIR-868L is D-Link’s second 802.11ac wireless router following the impressive DIR-865L. Like its predecessor, it integrates the company’s mydlink cloud platform, but also reverts to the D-Link’s popular cylindrical design and incorporates the acclaimed SmartBeam technology found in the DIR-645 when using 802.11n. Could this combination make it both the wireless n and ac router to beat?

DIR-868L-A1-Image-L-Front-

D-Link DIR-868L – Design
As mentioned the DIR-868L is the first time D-Link has brought its likeable cylindrical design to an 802.11ac model. This should not be surprising as many of the first wireless ac routers broke from their respective companies’ traditional designs due to the scramble to get models to market.

In addressing this, D-Link is doing more than gifting us a more pleasant aesthetic. Many routers tend to perform better from one side of another (try turning your router around at home to test this), but D-Link boasts the cylindrical shape of its Darth Vader Pringle tube means signal can be distributed equally in all directions.

Aside from this the cylindrical design gives the D-Link DIR-868L a pleasingly small footprint. And while its casing is plastic like all routers (so as not to block wireless signal) it is well made and doesn’t pick up fingerprints easily. The only downside of the cylindrical design is it is not wall-mountable.

D-Link DIR-868L – Features
The D-Link DIR-868L Cloud Router’s specification list is impressive. The highlight is obviously the 802.11a/b/g/n/ac connectivity, which is boosted by six amplified internal antennas, but the talking point is the aforementioned SmartBeam.

DIR-868L-A1-Image-L-Back-This is a standard part of the 802.11ac spec (where it is called ‘Beamforming’) but is not usually applied to wireless n. It works by detecting connected devices and focusing signal in their direction instead of casting out wireless signal randomly in all directions. It benefits range and performance significantly. This gives us high hopes that the 868L Cloud Router will bring new life to your existing wireless n equipment, not just shiny new ac kit.
smartbeam
Moving to the more perfunctory side of the D-Link DIR-868L, it also packs Gigabit WAN, 4x Gigabit Ethernet ports and a USB 3.0 port for sharing a wireless printer or USB storage across a network.

Being picky, we would like D-Link to supply a second USB port (increasingly common on routers these days) and more Ethernet ports, but no router-maker seems to be listening to this latter request. One larger complaint is the 868L’s Ethernet ports have no flashing LED activity lights. Some may welcome this as the lights can be distracting, but they are a useful element in troubleshooting problems should you ever run into difficulties.

Switching to software the D-Link DIR-868L offers WPA/WPA2 security plus WPS for adding devices at the touch of a button (here it is positioned on the rear below the USB port). There is also compatibility with IPv6 and support for guest access, which grants devices a web connection but restricts access to your local network and router settings.

To top its features off, we have mydlink, the company’s cloud platform, which allows users to check the status of their router from any web browser from any location by logging into the mydlink.com website or using the company’s mydlink app for Android and iOS. Additional mobile apps SharePort’ and ARS Mobile let you access media remotely from your network and offer a step-by-step setup guide respectively.

mydlink-UI

D-Link DIR-868L – Setup
Something D-Link has aced in recent years is the simplicity of its router setups. This is again the case with the D-Link DIR-868L Cloud Router.

Just connect your modem to the DIR-868L’s WAN port (a modem restart may also be required), plug in the power cable, switch it on and connect to the wireless signal using WPS or the password written on router and supplied on a card. Once connected you are prompted to change the default router password and asked whether you want to change the SSID and wireless passwords for the two signals its projects (2.4GHz wireless for b/g/n and 5GHz for a/n and ac).

As mentioned the mydlink Cloud platform remains basic, but its ability to check the router status, connected devices, set email alerts for any network activity you specify and change passwords and SSIDs is all most people will need. For more advanced users the traditional text heavy router interface we have seen for the last decade remains at 192.168.0.1 which will no doubt please techies.

D-Link DIR-868L – Performance
ac-preformance802.11ac performanceWe had high hopes for the D-Link DIR-868L and by-and-large they were met. Our tests showed some barnstorming wireless ac speeds when transferring files with the D-Link.

Testing at our usual distances of 2m and 10m line of sight plus 13 metres between two solid walls the D-Link DIR-868L Cloud Router recorded speeds of 34MBps (272Mbit), 31.2MBps (249.6Mbit) and 24.5MBps (196Mbit). This was when transferring data within the home network, letting us max-out the router’s speed.

All are far in excess of any fibre optic broadband speeds and provide local network speeds fast enough to enable multiple streams of 4k video let alone 1080p. These speeds make the 868L our second fastest wireless ac router to date, just behind the retested Linksys EA6700, which clocked 36.7MBps (293.6Mbit), 35.2MBps (281.6Mbit) and 28.8MBps (230Mbit) in an identical test scenario.

5GHz 802.11n performanceAnd what the much hyped 802.11n SmartBeam performance? At 5GHz its speeds of 20.7MBps (165.6Mbit) at 2m and 19.4MBps (155.2Mbit) at 10m were actually topped by the EA6700, which managed 24.5MBps (196Mbit) and 22MBps (176Mbit) respectively, but it blew away the Linksys at arguably the most important distance of 13m with two solid walls recording 14.1MBps (112.8Mbit) verses the EA6700’s fairly poor 7.7MBps (61.6Mbit).

868L-5GHz-NIn fact the 14MBps figure at 13m is the fastest 5GHz n speed we’ve recorded from any router, besting (surprise, surprise) D-Link’s original wireless ac router, the 865L.

The good news continued on the wireless n 2.4GHz band as well hitting speeds of 11.5MBps (92Mbit), 10.1MBps (80.8Mbit) and 3.3MBps (26.4Mbit) at 2m, 10m and 13m. At 2m and 10m these again were records besting the EA6700 at 2m (9.1MBps) and 10m (9MBps) though interestingly not the EA6700’s predecessor, the EA6500, at 13m (3.9MBps). All in all though this means the 868L is not just a great router for 802.11ac wireless, but one that will deliver a sizeable performance boost to your existing 802.11n equipment.

We also got reasonable speeds from the DIR-868L’s USB 3.0 port. Dragging files from USB connected storage produced speeds of 4.9MBps (39.2Mbit) which remains some way off the 7.1MBps benchmark of the EA6700, but still the second fastest USB network speeds we have had. That said these figures do illustrate that USB network speeds (whether 2.0 or 3.0) are still a long way down on what can be achieved over a Gigabit Ethernet connection.

Incidentally D-Link restricts the 868L’s USB 3.0 port to USB 2.0 by default saying it interferes with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. We didn’t see any evidence of that with USB 3.0 enabled, but it is something we will keep an eye on in future USB 3.0-enabled routers.

DIR-868L-A1-Image-L-Side-Left-

Should I buy the D-Link DIR-868L?
Based on its performance alone, the answer to whether you should buy the D-Link DIR-868L is a resounding ‘yes’, and sweetening this further is that the 868L retails for £30 less than the EA6700 at £139.99, comapred to £169.99. D-Link products also traditionally fall faster in price online than Linksys models.

That said there are some caveats. The EA6700 does remain the faster wireless ac router and mydlink is significantly less developed that Smart WiFi. As such we find ourselves still slightly inclined to lean towards the Linksys EA6700. But there is only a hair’s breadth in it. For all intents and purposes D-Link has produced a router every bit as appealing as Linksys’s benchmark and consequently we highly recommend it.

Verdict
The D-Link DIR-868L takes all the best elements of previous D-Link routers and wraps them into a single package. As such it has superb wireless ac performance, class leading wireless n performance and tops it off with an appealing price tag. The company’s mydlink cloud platform does still need to develop though and we’d like to see a second USB port and activity lights on the Ethernet ports, but otherwise this is truly superb product.
Read more at http://www.trustedreviews.com/d-link-dir-868l-802-11ac-cloud-router_Peripheral_review_performance-and-verdict_Page-2#g79yzTmLRqWUWh6A.99

To read the original review on TrustedReviews click here.

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.   

 

 

 

 

 

TR – Moto X: Motorola’s statement that top-end Android handsets have got it wrong

August 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

The Moto X is a premium smartphone like no other, but is it trendsetter or freak?

Google used Motorola to make an announcement last night: premium Android handsets are getting it wrong. The message was delivered via the Moto X, a smartphone the two companies have been working on since Google bought Motorola for $12bn nearly two years ago. What are they getting is wrong? Apparently just about everything.

MotoX (1)

The slogan for the Moto X says it all: “Made for you, responds to you, designed by you”. It may sound like a Christmas perfume ad, but the key message to customers is ‘we understand you better than they do’. The result is a handset that shuns the key specifications of virtually every 2013 premium Android smartphone: 5-inch display, 1080p screen resolution, quad-core processor, 12-megapixel camera (or greater), expandable storage and sub 10mm thickness.

Furthermore, following numerous leaks that gave the hardware elements away, the biggest shock of the night turned out to be the Moto X’s price: $199 with a two year contract. This is the same bracket as the Samsung Galaxy S4, Sony Xperia Z and HTC One. Contract-free prices weren’t much better: 16GB – $575 (£380); 32GB – $630 (£415) with the latter price again putting it within touching distance of these handsets once tax is added.

Initial impressions would suggest Google and Motorola are not only the ones who misunderstand their audience, but that they have both lost the plot.

Brains not brawnMotoX-512x460
Moto XBut perhaps they haven’t. Techies may find this a shock, but the Moto X primarily bins what the mainstream consumer could not care less about. Instead it preaches terminology that may well appeal to a very wide audience: accessibility, design, camera quality, one handed use, real world performance and crucially… battery life. Each brings genuine differentiators:

Accessibility sees voice control made touch-free which may finally ease the stigma around its use while an ‘Active Display’ helps prioritise and give quick access to handset notifications. The Moto X is also context aware and can change mode automatically depending on your activity (such as selecting its car mode when you start driving).

Designs can be unique thanks to over 500 styling combinations. This entails two frontplate options (white or black), 18 backplate colours and seven finish options. Cleverly these individual appearances are chosen at the point of sale (via the ‘Moto Maker’ website) and come with a free two week exchange option. The inspiration? Nike’s ID shoe and Mini Cooper customisation.

Camera quality is delivered via the first ever smartphone RGBC image sensor (dubbed ‘Clear Pixel’). Motorola claims it brings 70 per cent better low light performance due to an extra set of white pixels and we’re curious to see how it stands up in testing. The Moto X can also shoot 60fps 1080p video with both the front and rear cameras, which is unusual.

One-handed use is viable since Motorola gave the Moto X the smallest footprint of any premium Android handset (129 x 63mm). This is due to a very slim bezel which makes operation less of a stretch. Motorola has also optimised the camera app to shoot burst photography and zoom in and out with just one finger, which is clever.

Real world performance may well patch up some of losses the Moto X’s dual-core processor suffers in artificial benchmarks against quad core (and greater) rivals. This is because Motorola has equipped the handset with ‘the X8 Mobile Computing System’ which is made up of eight ultra low power cores that specialise in doing the heavy lifting for typically resource intensive software functionality such as motion sensing and voice recognition. It still won’t beat other flagship Android handsets in the latest games (despite an Adreno 320 GPU), but everything else should feel snappy and potentially even smoother given its minimum skinning.

Finally the biggie: battery life is claimed to last up to 24 hours with standard usage. That’s 50 to 100 per cent more than the competition manages. This is due to the compromises of a smaller screen size, lower resolution and the drop from a quad to dual core processor, the X8 system and those extra few millimetres not shaved off its width to squeeze in a layered battery. Interestingly battery life may be enough to win over heavy users who tend to be attracted to high end handsets. After all a still functioning phone is better than any flat one.

Give it more Googlemoto-x-insides
Moto X constructionAnd yet the Moto X does have some significant weaknesses and they come from the most unlikely source: the surprising lack of synergy between Motorola and Google.

For a start the Moto X will not ship with the current version of Android and is not guaranteed to receive prompt updates to future releases. This seems unthinkable for a handset Google has been so heavily involved in shaping and for a company run by a CEO and product head it installed from its own staff.

Surprisingly Google has also let Motorola customise stock Android. Even more surprisingly it appears the genuinely impressive functionality Motorola has added is being developed independently of Android 5.0. This includes exciting glimpses of future proximity based screen unlock technology from a chip in your pocket to even a pill you swallow and Motorola’s already available Chrome-based browser extensions which bring call and text message alerts from your phone to your laptop.

But the biggest concern remains the Moto X’s RRPs. Google’s track record with the Nexus range meant it was widely predicted the Moto X would give us all its goodies while hitting Nexus 4-like bargain pricing to suck in a wider market. As it is even mainstream consumers will have to learn to look past the headline features the Moto X lacks and we feel it would’ve been a far stronger proposition fighting midrange rather than flagship Android handsets.

Lastly the sales strategy is extremely atypical of Google with Motorola confirming there will be no international launch for the Moto X and it will be sold solely in the US with customisation options initially limited to AT&T. This will kill a lot of buzz for the phone and seems a strange tactic given Europe is Android’s most successful hunting ground.

The pros of the Moto X are genuinely differential and disruptive, but its cons feel like basic failings by Motorola and Google to properly leverage their relationship and target the right price bracket. As such it seems the Moto X has as much to learn from the existing smartphone market as it has to teach.

To read the original article on TrustedReviews click here

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 


 

 

TR – UK porn filter: 5 reasons it won’t work

August 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

From a technological standpoint, the new pornography laws don’t stand up…

Pornography will be blocked from every UK home and across public Wi-Fi services according to plans announced on Monday by Conservative prime minister David Cameron. Those still wishing to access pornography will need to speak with their Internet Service Provider (ISP) to opt back in.

In a speech Mr Cameron said the move was taken to crack down on child pornography as well as limiting access to pornography to “protect our children and their innocence.”

David-Cameron

In addition to the block, Mr Cameron said videos streamed online will be subject to the same restrictions as those sold in shops. Search engines have until October to implement stronger filters to block access to illegal content, and police and experts from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) will have greater powers to trace illegal content and examine file sharing networks.

The new laws will come into practice for all new ISP customers by the end of 2013 while existing customers must be contacted by their ISP and asked whether they wish to use “family-friendly filters” or not.

Since the announcement supporters and objectors have been in strong voice. Supporters backing the protection they argue it will give to children and less technologically aware families. Detractors citing the evils of censorship, the moral stigma created by opting against the filters, the shifting of responsibility from good parenting and the hypocrisy of the government’s funding cuts to CEOP last year.

We have a bigger complaint: the new laws suggest politicians don’t understand technology. Consequently – for better or worse – the measures taken to enforce them will fail. Here are the reasons why:

Reason #1: Filters don’t worktor-onion
Tor The subject may be controversial, but we have been here before with another equally polarising topic: piracy.

Due to legal rulings, ISPs were last year required to block access to prominent piracy sites and for search engines to filter results.

While this may dissuade the most casual of pirates, a quick search will reveal numerous ways to get around these blocks from VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), DNS patches, web proxies, alternative addresses to access the sites in question, browser extensions, anonymous browsers like Tor (simplified version of how it works pictured above), smartphone apps and even via a hack using Google Translate!

The result? In April, illegal downloads of Game of Thrones broke piracy records.

In short, even effectively deployed filters are easily bypassed whether it be for piracy or pornography.

Reason #2: ISPs are an ineffective police
The final sentence to Reason #1 is particularly pertinent here because even though “effectively deployed filters” are easily circumvented, most ISPs are in no position to effectively deploy them in the first place.

The prevalence of pornography has fuelled the new laws, but prevalence also reflects demand and no ISP has the resources – either in manpower or financial – to keep a lid on it all. “It’s technically not possible,” said Trefor Davies, chief technology officer at ISP Timico to the Telegraph. Furthermore, what isn’t blocked rises straight to the top and most likely stems from the darkest and least well trodden areas of the Internet.

Equally problematic are the mistakes that will happen. “Blocking lawful pornography content … will lead to the blocking of access to legitimate content” argues Nicholas Lansman, secretary general of ISP industry body ISPA. “It is only effective in preventing inadvertent access.”

Reason #3: Free software does a job better
Moralists will argue that taking the responsibility for what children surf away from parents and placing it on ISPs encourages neglectful parenting. Whether or not this is true from a technological standpoint the bigger concern is it will push more effective, free filtering software into the background.

To their credit much of this software is already supplied by the majority of ISPs including Virgin Media (Virgin Media Security), BT (NetProtect Plus), Sky (McAfee Parental Controls), TalkTalk (HomeSafe) and many more. There are also family filters built into Windows and Mac OS X as well as the majority of smartphone platforms.

In addition, most third-party routers have integrated parental controls these days and Cloud platforms like Linksys Smart WiFi and D-Link’s mydlink can be controlled from any location with a web browser. Furthermore, all these services let parents tailor settings to their own preferences, limit content based on time of day, specific devices and so forth.

By contrast, the new laws tell families to either block pornographic access for everyone in the household or grant access to everyone in the household. It is a blunt instrument that risks giving parents a false sense of security when better control is already at their fingertips.

Reason #4: Impacts net neutrality
DatainOneMinute

DomoThe secretary general of ISPA has already said the new laws “will lead to the block of access to legitimate content” and this means a system of white listing innocent sites must be undertaken.

Where the line is drawn – soft pornography, lads’ mags, tabloids, lingerie shops, galleries, social media websites… – is already a problem, but it also favours the larger sites who will be vetted more quickly.

The concern is this creates a two tier internet where there is no hope of vetting every possible website that may sail within touching distance of a ban. How not? According to Domo (graphic right) last year there were 48 hours of new YouTube video, 571 new websites, 347 new WordPress blogs, 27,778 new Tublr blogs, 3,600 new Instagram photos and 684,478 new pieces of content uploaded to Facebook every minute.

As such only broad strokes can possibly be used with the major corporations getting preferential treatment while a small online gallery specialising in artistic nudes, for example, may go out of business.

Net neutrality is the principle that all data on the internet is treated equally by ISPs and governments. As battered as it is by search engine rankings and piracy blocks, it cannot remotely hope to exist under the new pornography laws.

5. Private networks are child pornography’s distribution system

While minors’ inadvertent access to pornography is deeply concerning, child pornography is clearly the deeper evil and it is hard to see from a technological standpoint how the new laws can better control it.

“[Child pornography is] invariably shared over private networks and not found by a simple image search,” argues Daniel Foster, founder of web hosts 34SP.com. “History shows us that they will be quicker at keeping this target moving than law enforcement will be at catching it.”

Where the new laws may have some success, however, are the greater search powers given to both CEOP and the police to examine file transfer networks, but they will likely run into strong opposition on privacy grounds.

That aside it is hard to see how the majority of the new laws can successfully address child pornography or children’s access to pornography and they may in fact do more harm than good.

To read the original article @ TrustedReviews click here

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

 

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