With all of the high-speed hoopla surrounding wireless routers these days, it's refreshing to find a great product unobscured by marketing hype about turbo speeds. The Motorola WR850G wireless broadband router lacks a proprietary turbo mode but delivers fast throughput in both standard 802.11g and 802.11b environments, where it really counts. It also has a feature set that's well suited for both basic Internet sharing and advanced networking for the home and the office. A configurable firewall and support for various types of encryption protect your network from intruders. The WR850G doesn't have the range of the D-Link DI-624, but its WDS support makes it easy to expand your coverage area into the far reaches of a house or a building.
The Motorola WR850G wireless broadband router comes with everything you need to start building your network. Aside from the router itself, the package includes a power adapter, a power cord, one Ethernet cable, a CD-ROM with documentation and software, a printed quick-start guide, and a stand for vertical positioning. The hardware installation is clearly outlined in the guide, and the process takes only a minute or two. The router's bottom panel doubles as a mounting bracket, making it easy to affix the WR850G to a wall or a ceiling, and the user guide on the CD includes a handy template that you can print out and use to help you drill the necessary holes.
The Installation Wizard that runs off of the included CD makes network installation easy for those using a Windows PC. Unfortunately, the printed quick-start guide lacks information for those running Linux or Mac operating systems or for anyone who would simply prefer to perform the installation manually. The instructions for manual installation are clearly delineated in the user guide, but we would have preferred to see a little information, such as a default IP address, username, and password, on the quick-start guide. On the other hand, the tech-support number is clearly listed on the quick-start guide, so help is only a phone call away. The user guide is one of the best we've seen, with detailed instructions on using the WR850G, as well as basic networking and troubleshooting information.
The Motorola WR850G wireless broadband router has one of the finest and most configurable feature sets we've seen on a home router. Its full array of features sets it apart from most other routers, as does its support for Wireless Distribution System (WDS) mode. WDS enables the router to connect wirelessly to other WR850Gs or WA840Gs, with no need for an Ethernet connection. This makes extending your coverage area as easy as plugging in a second or third access point.
The WR850G also comes equipped with top-notch security features. The router supports not only the older 64- and 128-bit WEP, making it compatible with legacy devices, but also WPA, 802.1x, and the Advanced Encryption Standard, or AES. These advanced security options help future-proof your network, giving you immediate access to the security standards of tomorrow. You can also turn off the router's access point or disable SSID broadcasts, which helps conceal your wireless network from anyone scanning for accessible access points.
In addition to security for your wireless network, the WR850G includes a configurable firewall that fends off attacks from the Internet by keeping predefined types of data packets from entering your network.
Parental-control features let you to block connections based on both URLs and keywords, and you can restrict access by specific days of the week or times of day. You can also save and enable distinct control policies. For example, you can configure a policy for when you're at home and a different one for when you're on vacation, which might allow access to only your house sitter. The WR850G can also log connection information that tells you the URL, the MAC address of the machine that established the connection, the time the connection was established, and the port that was used for the session.
The Motorola WR850G wireless broadband router delivers fast throughput and good range. Its maximum throughput at close range lags behind so-called 108Mbps gear based on the Atheros chipset, such as the Netgear WGT624 and the D-Link DI-624. However, both the WGT624 and the DI-624 achieve their fast speeds in a proprietary mode that doesn't adhere to the 802.11g standard, which means you get the speed only if your network consists exclusively of matching devices. The WR850G, on the other hand, lacks a turbo mode but delivers the best performance we've seen with standard 802.11g clients. In a mixed-mode environment with both 802.11b and 802.11g clients, the WR850G is the second-fastest router we've tested and is a close second to the Dell Wireless 2300.
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 WR850G's range is better than that of both the Linksys WRT54G and the Microsoft MN-700, but it doesn't stretch as far as the DI-624's range or that of the WGT624. At 175 feet, the WR850G can transfer data at throughput speeds faster than 6Mbps, but it lost its connection entirely at 200 feet in our test environment.
For more information on how we test, see the CNET Labs site.
Motorola offers a two-year warranty on the WR850G wireless broadband router, which is the standard for most home routers these days. Motorola also hosts a well-designed support site with all of the documentation you'll need for the WR850G, including PDF versions of the product data sheet, the quick-start guide, the user guide, the troubleshooting guide, and the warranty information. The site also includes links to phone and e-mail support information, making it easy for you to reach Motorola's technical-support staff, even if you've already thrown away the box or misplaced the CD.
Phone support is toll-free and available 24/7 for the lifetime of the product. Motorola plans to post firmware upgrades on its site when they become available, but there are currently no software downloads for the product. We would have liked to see the router's current firmware and the software posted on the site. The Motorola support site also has an animated Network Planner that shows you what you need to connect computers, gaming consoles, and printers to your network.