Small businesses that worry about office aesthetics will love the Linksys WRV54G Wireless-G VPN broadband router. This silver, angular device looks sophisticated compared to most boring, boxy routers. In another nod to small companies, Linksys has outfitted the WRV54G with impressive support for up to 50 VPN tunnels, allowing as many employees to securely access the office LAN while traveling. The router also includes an extensive firewall. However, the WRV54G pulls up surprisingly short in wireless security, lacking the WPA support now commonplace among Wi-Fi routers, and its maximum throughput is less than stellar. Coupled with a high street price of about $160, the WRV54G's deficiencies make the router a niche product targeted at businesses that prioritize the convenience of a combined VPN and wireless router over the most advanced Wi-Fi security. Companies that seek better wireless security and can accept fewer VPN tunnels should check out the WPA-capable Zyxel Prestige 334W router. The Linksys WRV54G has the same slick case design you find on the Linksys Wireless B Media Adapter. You can snap four feet onto the case to stand it on its short end; the feet include nice rubber grips, which should help prevent scratches on whatever surface the device calls home. Or, you can hang the WRV54G on a wall, using the built-in brackets. Either choice can assist you in positioning the antenna for ultimate signal strength; you can also bend the antenna 90 degrees and turn it 360 degrees. If you're still not getting the signal you want, you can unscrew the antenna from the device and add an optional antenna instead.
Let's face it: router technology is complicated stuff, so anyone new to computers would have a hard time understanding even the most well-written router installation guide. That said, Linksys still should have made the WRV54G's guide easier to follow. The quick-installation guide's text descriptions are fairly clear, but its images would be more helpful if they were labeled. Neither does the guide explain how to configure your router using Mac OS X, though the router does support the OS. Fortunately, the guide doesn't skip important steps, such as choosing an SSID, or wireless network name, and automatically detecting your Internet connection from among four common types: DHCP, static, PPPoE, and PPTP. If it all goes awry and you want to start over, you can press the reset button on the router's back panel.You access the Linksys WRV54G's wired and wireless features via its browser-based utility, which includes seven tabs for setup, wireless, security, access restrictions, applications and gaming, administration, and status. The most intriguing features of the lot can be found within the Security tab, where you can enable the firewall and VPN settings. The firewall settings appear on the tab's first screen. From there, you can filter out unwanted cookies, Java applets, requests from the Internet, and more. Drilling down through the tab reveals the utility's VPN settings. IPsec and L2TP passthrough help usher data safely through up to 50 tunnels that you've specified (PPTP is also there to assist those still using a Windows NT 4.0 or 2000 server). You can then alter encryption and authentication settings for each tunnel, choosing either DES or 3DES encryption, as well as MD5 or SHA (secure hash algorithm) authorization.
The Security tab is also the place where you determine the WRV54G's wireless-encryption settings. Things start off fairly well, with the standard 64- and 128-bit WEP encryption, plus 802.1x authentication via a RADIUS server. Unfortunately, WPA support is nowhere to be found.
The remaining tabs offer a few of their own highlights. Under Access Restrictions, you can personalize filter schemes, then save those schemes to swap in and out, depending on your needs at the time. The Applications And Gaming section includes the same DMZ (short for demilitarized zone) function as that of the Linksys BEFSX41; this feature lets a single system on your network take a firewall hiatus to play online games or participate in a videoconference. Finally, you can change the router's password and manage other settings through the Administration tab.As Wi-Fi routers with VPN support go, the Linksys WRV54G shows solid maximum throughput speeds of 24.2Mbps--precisely the same score earned by the Zyxel Prestige 334W router. Pitting this score against those of all wireless routers, however, proves that the WRV54G actually has much slower maximum throughput than other devices, such as the D-Link DI-624 Xtreme G wireless router. The Linksys WRV54G's mixed-mode throughput is another story: its 18.1Mbps score is nearly as fast as the speedy Dell Wireless 2300's.
|Throughput in Mbps|
|Throughput in Mbps|
For more details on how we test networking devices, see the CNET Labs site.The Linksys WRV54G Wireless-G VPN broadband router includes a generous three-year warranty with toll-free technical support 24/7. You can also get Internet support via several different methods. First, you can engage in a live chat with a Linksys tech-support rep or e-mail a support rep for help. You can surf the Linksys knowledge base, which provides a decent amount of WRV54G-specific content. The online troubleshooting guide also helps you through a few of the more common problems associated with installing the router and altering its settings. In addition, the Linksys Web site hosts a complete collection of downloadable firmware updates and product docs.