Dell's Wireless 2300 broadband router offers superior performance and a well-rounded feature set suited for the home user. Windows 2000 and XP users, as well as novices, will like the streamlined installation, which nearly runs itself (other operating systems are supported, but not as seamlessly). The Wireless 2300 supports both 802.11b and 802.11g and touts an excellent array of security options, including WPA, WEP, SSID blocking, stateful packet inspection (SPI) firewall, and parental controls. You can also link the router to two additional Wireless 2300 routers to increase your 802.11g coverage area. This is the most polished 802.11g router we have seen to date.
The initial setup of the Wireless 2300 is simple and quick, especially for those with Windows 2000 or XP systems. Inserting the accompanying CD starts the Setup Wizard. After a quick scan of your network, the Setup Wizard automatically configures the settings for both your computer and the Wireless 2300. With the Setup Wizard making all of the networking changes for us, we connected quickly and were surfing within just a few minutes. The process takes a bit longer with other OSs, but the included user guide walks you through the process.
Changing the router's configuration requires the Web-based configuration tool; unfortunately, it's a little convoluted. For example, the Setup Wizard warns you to lock down the wireless network by changing the SSID, enabling WEP or WPA, and turning off SSID broadcasts. The first two items are easily found in the Basic section of the configuration tool, but users must make their way to the wireless settings of the Advanced section to turn off SSID broadcasts.
The Wireless 2300 is packed with features and security, and it supports 802.11g and boasts an eye-pleasing exterior design. The sleek, silver-and-black chassis has wall-mounts built into its base. The clearly labeled indicator lights show activity for the Internet connection, each of the four ports on the built-in 10/100 switch, and the wireless LAN.
The Wireless 2300 offers the latest in security options for wireless networking. It supports the new WPA encryption scheme as well as the older 64/128-bit WEP standard. There's no support for 802.1x authentication, but the router does offer an expansive MAC address feature that can be applied to all clients of the Wireless 2300, whether wired or wireless. Stateful Packet Inspection, NAT, packet filtering, and intruder-detection alerts offer a high level of Internet security.
Additional security features include port forwarding, which allows for both a DMZ computer and the forwarding of specific packets to specific computers. The well-rounded parental-control feature lets you block Internet access for specific computers by time of day. You can also limit Internet access completely or restrict it to a list of Web sites.
Another great feature is the router's ability to create a wireless bridge with up to two additional Wireless 2300s. This lets it function as a bridge and a repeater, similar to the Buffalo WLA-G54.
The Dell Wireless 2300 offers some of the best 802.11g throughput rates we've seen to date, second only to the U.S. Robotics USR8054. In our tests, the throughput rates for 802.11g peaked at 23.5Mbps for 802.11g, and those for mixed-mode (with both 802.11g and 802.11b clients transmitting simultaneously) reached 18.2Mbps. The throughput degradation over distance is also very good. Most notably, both the Wireless 2300 and the USR8054 outperform their competitors in mixed-mode performance by more than a factor of two.
The Wireless 2300 has a few limitations. The user guide indicates that the Wireless 2300 can support only 16 wireless clients or 64 NAT clients; in addition, having more than 20 simultaneous users of any type degrades the device's overall performance. Most home users will never stress the Wireless 2300 to this extent, but small offices could begin to hit the performance ceiling if their network grows large enough.
CNET Labs maximum throughput tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)
The Wireless 2300 comes with a meager one-year warranty. Lifetime technical support is available 24/7 by phone, as well as by e-mail. The Dell support Web site includes a searchable knowledge base and a handy search tool for locating all of the driver, firmware, and software updates for a specific product.