A multifunction network device
Linksys includes everything you need to set up your home network in one easy-to-install package. The $229 EtherFast wireless router basically combines a wireless 802.11b access point with Linksys's hot-selling four-port cable/DSL router. The unobtrusive design has four sturdy legs supporting a rounded, rectangular black-and-purple case. Should you wish to connect two or more routers via the uplink port, recesses on top simplify stacking. The wireless access point acts as a DHCP server and assigns IP addresses to PCs on the network. It also supports WEP encryption and claims a top operating range of 300 feet (91 meters) indoors and 1,500 feet (457 meters) outdoors.
The Ethernet switch operates at 10Mbps or 100Mbps and has four LAN ports, plus a WAN jack for the modem. Front LEDs indicate power status, as well as broadband, wireless, and cable activity. A Reset button on the back lets you restore the router to its default factory settings. In addition to the EtherFast wireless router, the kit includes a power adapter, a CD-ROM with software and documentation, and a printed user guide.
Simply plug it all together
Installing the EtherFast wireless router was relatively painless. We came across some confusing sections in the 1-page quick-installation guide, but fortunately, the excellent and well-detailed 60-page user guide answered all of our questions. To get started, connect the router to its power source, the cable/DSL modem to the WAN port on the back of the router, and the installation PC to one of the LAN ports. Finally, set the TCP/IP settings for the installation PC's network card to obtain an IP address automatically, then reboot. Once you've successfully installed the router on your network, you can configure it using your Web browser. Simply type the provided IP address and password to launch the router's setup page.
Watch your network take off
Performance was great when it came to throughput, notching 92.5Mbps on the Ethernet connection and 4.2Mbps wirelessly in CNET Labs' tests. Wi-Fi compatibility was also seamless. The EtherFast wireless router worked as well with an Orinoco 802.11b wireless PC Card as it did with Linksys's own cards. Range was about as good as we've seen: with 75 feet and several walls separating the EtherFast wireless router and the wireless clients, signal strength fell marginally, but most messages passed at the top 11Mbps rate, and dropped information was minimal.