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Wireless Reviews

Hands On

Although the features table (above) should help you make a choice, I'll share a few thoughts from using both products.

The WMR-300 is one of the smaller travel routers we have tested. I liked that it had a storage compartment that stores the flat Ethernet cable. Out of all of the travel routers tested, the AirStation was the only one that supported multiple SSIDs. A total of 3 SSIDs are available plus an additional guest network. The first three SSIDs use the same LAN subnet, but you can enable client isolation. The third SSID is reserved for WEP clients. This is a nice feature since WEP is more easily cracked than the current WPA2/AES wireless encryption standard.

Not only is there a guest network, but it has a few features not normally found in guest networks. Optionally, of course, you can enable security. But in addition, you can create users and require them to enter credentials before they can use the guest network. A login is valid for 24 hours and thereafter must be re-authorized. The guest network is on a different subnet. The gateway is 172.31.54.1 and clients on this subnet have no access to the router admin page or any other devices on the 192.168.13.0/24 network.

The user interface (see gallery below) isn't as slick as found on the NETGEAR PR2000, but it gets the job done. Every menu page has a strip of help content that relates to the items on the page. The WMR-300 doesn't support DDNS, but arguably that may not be something you'd use when traveling. It does support port forwarding, but not port range forwarding or port triggering. It's missing features such as MAC access control and URL blocking, and, as noted above, doesn't support IPSec or L2TP pass through. You can enable remote management on a port of your choice, but only HTTP is supported.

When you're not using the WMR-300 for your travels, it's easy to turn it into an AP. Just change the mode on the home page of the admin UI and it becomes a wired to wireless bridge.

If you already own another NETGEAR router, the PR2000's UI is going to look very familiar to you . The PR2000 uses the "NETGEAR genie" user interface that has "BASIC" and "ADVANCED" tabs. Like most other travel routers, it lacks a guest network, but it does, like the N150 D-Link and TP-LINK routers, support WPA/WPA2 Enterprise (RADIUS) mode. \

Compared to desktop routers, like the WNDR2800 that I currently use, the feature set of the PR2000 is a fairly small subset. It lacks port forwarding/port triggering as well as URL blocking. MAC filtering is a "Permit" list, not a Deny list. Firewall features are limited to Port Scan and DOS Protection. It does support a DMZ, has a built-in SIP ALG and VPN passthrough support for IPSec, PPTP and L2TP. You can block services for an individual IP address or for a range of address as well as create a schedule for blocked services.

The PR2000 supports three DDNS providers (DynDNS.org, No-IP.com and 3322.org). Optionally, you can enable a traffic meter that lets you control either the monthly volume of traffic (in MB) or monthly time limits (in hours). In addition to WMM support for QoS, there are a number of pre-defined Qos rules that you can enable

I tested switching between a wired WAN connection and a wireless WAN connection by unplugging the WAN Ethernet cable and turning the router off. I restarted the router by moving the "Internet Via" switch to the wireless position. After a device reboot, the PR2000 automatically scanned for available wireless networks. I selected the Buffalo WMR-300 to use as my "WISP" and entered in its network key. After a reboot and ~ 2 minutes, the PR2000 was connected to the Internet through the WMR-300.

To give you a feel for the user interfaces of the two routers, I've included galleries for the Buffalo...

and NETGEAR.

Performance

As noted in our most recent review of the D-Link DIR-510L AC750 class router, testing travel routers creates a unique and challenging test scenario. Normally, the tests we run on wireless routers involve the use of a Wired LAN port as well as a DMZ feature. Those are used for testing both wireless performance as well as routing performance. Unfortunately travel routers don't have LAN ports and some lack a DMZ feature, so we can't provide our normal Chariot-based benchmarks.

To address these problems, we created a new test process. It's worth a read, because the performance numbers in the charts won't directly correlate to conventional routers. In addition, to make it easier to cull out travel routers from the many other routers in our Router Charts, Ranker and Finder, we created a new filter category for Travel Routers.

Though normally our charts can be filtered by class of routers, the travel router "class" includes N150 and N300 routers as well as an AC750 class router.

In the WAN to LAN Throughput comparison below, you can see that the DIR-501L as well as the WMR300 and the PR2000 clearly outperform the all of the N150 class of routers. Of course, you would expect them to have better performance since they are all linking at 130 Mbps, and the N150 routers link at 65 Mbps. Due to our testing methods, WAN to LAN routing performance is limited to wireless performance speeds.

Travel Router Wan to LAN routing performance comparison

Travel Router Wan to LAN routing performance comparison

Similarly, the composite image of the 2.4 GHz Downlink and 2.4 GHz Uplink tests show that N300 routers, as well as the AC750 router that uses N300 technology on the 2.4 GHz band, have a clear performance over the N150 class of travel routers, but all of them perform better than the fastest hotel links I've seen in the US.

The Buffalo WMR-300 was the clear performance winner in both the downlink and uplink tests. Arguably, NETGEAR's rotatable antenna didn't really translate into better throughput performance as it came in third in both tests.

Travel Router 2.4 uplink and downlink performance

Travel Router 2.4 uplink and downlink performance

Closing Thoughts

It's not often that we review products that have such a narrow spread in price. Right now, the NETGEAR is the cheaper of the two... by $3. Oddly, my favorite from the N150 Travel Router Roundup, D-Link's DIR-506, is more expensive than both routers at $44. But keep in mind it has a built-in 1700 mAh battery that can power the device for up to 4 hours or charge other USB devices

Again, the final decision will come down to features and performance, not price. With the addition of N300 products to the mix, you can see that there is a significant jump in performance compared to the N150 class travel routers for not a whole lot of additional cost. Thus, the N300 routers, if the feature set matches your requirements, could be a better value.

For the N300 travel routers, the clear choice for me is the NETGEAR Trek PR2000. It supports all operating modes and has VPN passthrough that works with the VPN service that I use. The file sharing capabilities of ReadySHARE, not to mention the charging capabilities of the PR2000 are just icing on the cake.

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