AVM Fritz!Box 3390
The German market leader launches a VDSL router to tackle the UK.
Decent 2.4GHz &5GHz WiFi performance
Distinctive, fun design
Highly customisable user settings
Integrated VDSL modem
No dedicated WAN port
Baffling default settings
No power or reset buttons
Review Price £119.00
Key Features: Dual band 802.11n WiFi ; Integrated VDSL modem; Integrated media server; 4x Gigabit Ethernet; 2x USB 2.0
What is the AVM FRITZ!Box 3390?
This is the new flagship in the German networking company’s 3000 series. It is the first to offer dual band 802.11n in this range and marks the first major attempt of Fritz!Box (and its curiously placed exclamation mark) to break into the UK after taking nearly 70 per cent of the DSL market in its homeland.
Come in Thunderbird 6! Yes while Fritz!Box and its history may stem from Germany, the design of the 3390 immediately makes us think of 1960s UK cult show Thunderbirds. Its curved lines, matt red and silver paint job and distinctive fins (which hide antennas) certainly give the 3390 the look of a retro space ship and make it a welcome entry into a sector with only a few distinctive designs. Less interesting is the build quality which, while sturdy, lacks a premium feel. The problem is the chassis is constructed from a series of individual pieces that don’t quite fit together as well as they should and produce a slight rattle when tapped (update: having requested a second sample we found this flaw to be a one-off).
The 3390 also bizarrely lacks dedicated reboot and power buttons, which means pulling out the power cord is the only way to switch it off. We aren’t fans of the five huge green activity LEDs either, which can prove distracting and while their flashing patterns can be adjusted they cannot be dimmed or switched off completely. On the plus side the 3390 can be wall mounted and it is just interesting enough to look at that this might be an appealing option to those with a bold choice of interior design.
FRITZ!Box 3390: Features
The router’s looks got our attention and its feature list isn’t bad, either. This isn’t a next-gen 802.11ac device, but it does bring the aforementioned 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11n to Fritz!Box’s 3000 series for the first time.
Furthermore, it joins a fairly limited number of routers in integrating a VDSL (100Mb/s) modem making it ideal for fibre optic DSL customers who want an all-in-one product to replace their ISP’s modem and router. Interestingly, the 3390 also integrates a ‘Fritz!NAS’ which lets you network folders from connected devices directly through the router as it includes a built-in media server.
This won’t replace a dedicated NAS, but it is a step up from simply plugging in a USB hard drive. That said you can go this latter route too as the 3390 has two USB 2.0 ports and ticks off all the functionality you’d expect from a premium third-party router including WPA/WPA2 and WPS security, Dynamic DNS, IPv6 support and DNLA compatibility.
One downside is there is no dedicated WAN port, so those wanting to use the 3390 with cable broadband will have to give up the dual purpose LAN1 Gigabit Ethernet port, leaving you with just three 10/100/1000 ports for the rest of your wired devices.
FRITZ!Box 3390: Setup
We have gotten used to the well trodden paths of Linksys, D-Link, Netgear and others so it was interesting to see Fritz!Box take a fresh approach to getting up and running.
Like the best modern routers, the 3390’s entire setup is browser based so there’s no CD and the large round WPS button on its top means connecting to its wireless signal takes seconds. That said we did find a number of quirks such as a reboot merely after setting our language and country and extensive energy consumption settings which, while theoretically welcome, means the 3390 restricts its Ethernet ports to 10/100 rather than Gigabit by default. We also don’t like the company’s decision to unify its 2.4GHz and 5GHz SSIDs out the box.
It may keep things simple, but devices with faster 5GHz WiFi cannot choose which signal they connect to and it requires some digging around in advanced settings to change this. On the plus side Fritz!Box has taken a methodical approach to its UI (found at fritz.com or 192.168.178.1) with clear categories for each section and an array of options that go far deeper than most rivals. The downside is this approach will scare off the less tech savvy and it isn’t as slick as the Linksys Smart WiFi cloud-based platform which still sets the industry standard.
Up to now the 3390 has proved a mixture of pros and cons, but we found its wireless performance to be reasonably good. In our residential test environment speeds at 2m and 10m line of sight and 13m behind two standing walls 802.11n 5GHz produced speeds of 18.1MB/s (144.8Mb/s), 14.7MB/s (117.6Mb/s) and 5.63MB/s (45.05Mb/s).
This paces it close to the D-Link DIR-845L, the fastest dual band wireless n router we’d reviewed to date, except at 13m where it pulls away hitting 7.1MB/s (56.8Mb/s). The 3390 is also comfortably ahead of both the Virgin new Super Hub and BT Home Hub 4. 2.4GHz performance was strong too. Its 2m, 10m and 13m speeds of 11.4MB/s (91.2Mb/s), 8.48MB (67.84Mb/s) and 4.64MB/s (37.04Mb/s) place it in the upper echelons of 802.11n 2.4GHz performance – though again just behind the DIR-845L. USB performance was less impressive coming in at 3.2MB/s (25.6Mb/s).
This is fairly mediocre and illustrates the lack of computing horsepower in current routers, which must be addressed if networked USB is going to become a viable Ethernet alternative. Should I buy the FRITZ!Box 3390? Coming in at £119 we’d say it depends entirely on your circumstances. The integrated VDSL modem pushes up the price significantly, but it will be worth it for those determined to have a neat single box solution and with the tech skills to comfortably negotiate the 3390’s UI (which is necessary to enable basics like Gigabit Ethernet). If all-in-one isn’t a priority we’d steer clear.
The faster (though router-only) DIR-845L can be found for less than £100 online and the £150-160 price range will get you an 802.11ac router that not only future proofs your network, but brings significantly stronger 802.11n 5GHz performance as a consequence. How much faster? Over 20MB/s (160Mb/s) at both 2m and 10m and circa 10MB/s (80Mb/s) at 13m. Yes, it is strongly worth thinking about.
After carving out an impressive reputation in Germany, Fritz!Box has made an compelling play for greater attention in the UK.
The 3390’s wireless performance competes with the best 802.11n dual band routers, it integrates a VDSL modem and the design is both fun and distinctive. Then again out of the box setup issues and the fact it retails within touching distance of some much faster 802.11ac routers mean it just falls shy of a recommended award.
My original review for TrustedReviews can be found here.
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