Like the Dell TrueMobile 2300's streamlined installation routine, the MN-700's Setup Wizard gathers the necessary network information automatically before configuring both your wireless network adapter and the MN-700. The Setup Wizard supports all Windows platforms; a nonautomated, browser-based interface is available for other OSs.
We uncovered a bug in the Setup Wizard software that prevented the application from completing normally when we attempted to use a workgroup name that contained a period. Microsoft tech support worked quickly to determine the cause and promised a fix in a future release.
The MN-700's documentation is excellent. In addition to the printed installation guide, you get a thorough, printed user guide with a lengthy troubleshooting section, as well as detailed instructions for nonstandard installations, such as using the MN-700 as an access point instead of as a router.
You use the Broadband Network Utility, which you install on one of your networked machines during setup, to check network status and adjust the MN-700's configuration. Like the Setup Wizard, the Broadband Network Utility is novice-friendly; it's easy to navigate, with clear help information on each screen. The utility also checks automatically for updates, making it simple to keep the firmware current.
The MN-700's impressive security setup includes one unique and much-needed touch: wireless security is enabled during setup--no other product we've seen does this--and other security features, such as Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) firewall and NAT, are always on. Additional security features include parental controls, client filtering, 64/128-bit WEP, 256-bit WPA, DMZ, MAC address filtering, and detailed logging.
While the MN-700 boasts 802.11b/g Wi-Fi certification and an impressive feature set for home users, it doesn't offer much advanced configurability. For instance, it lacks options such as support for RADIUS and wireless bridging, which are available on similarly priced products, such as the Buffalo AirStation router. Also, you cannot control the output wattage for the wireless network or adjust the security level of the firewall. The only option available for configuring the firewall is a check box for enabling ICMP blocking. The Dell TM2300 gives you more control of the firewall.
The MN-700's hardware features mirror those of most other home routers. The device sports a rotating external antenna and a four-port 10/100 Ethernet switch that autosenses crossover cables as well as the line speed. The MN-700 is designed for the desktop and is not well suited for mounting on a wall or a ceiling.
With a healthy throughput of 21Mbps in 802.11g mode and nearly 12Mbps in mixed 802.11b/g mode, the MN-700 outperforms many of the wireless broadband routers we've tested. However, the MN-700 still falls short of the throughput we've seen in the broadband routers released since the 802.11g specification was ratified, specifically the US Robotics 8054 and the Dell TrueMobile 2300.
Thanks no doubt to its rotating external antenna, the MN-700 showed solid performance over distance, outperforming even the US Robotics 8054 and the Dell TrueMobile 2300. In our tests, the MN-700 achieved a throughput of nearly 6Mbps at a whopping 175-foot distance in 802.11g mode, and it didn't completely drop off until it approached 200 feet. That gives it about a 25-foot advantage over the Dell and US Robotics products. The extra distance could be important, because unlike the Dell TM2300, the MN-700 cannot be linked via a wireless bridge.
CNET Labs maximum throughput tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)
CNET Labs throughput tests with mixed b/g clients (Longer bars indicate better performance)
The MN-700 comes with an ample two-year limited warranty. It is backed by Microsoft's worldwide technical support, which is accessible in North America via a toll-free, 24/7 number. The printed user guide has a thorough FAQ. The product Web site is also very helpful, offering links to tech support, network how-to guides, and an expanded FAQ that includes information on connecting the router with an Xbox. You can also access Microsoft's excellent knowledge base, which contains numerous troubleshooting articles.