by Greg King on February 14, 2008 in Networking
Looking to move up to Draft N wireless but don’t want to spend a fortune? TRENDnet has a $70 solution for you, in the form of the TEW-631BRP. Despite it’s budget price and bright blue hue, the router turns out to be a great offering.
It’s hard to believe 802.11g wireless has been around for 5 years now. That’s a lifetime in the PC industry but still, the wireless spec that we have comes to know and love is alive and well. Even today, with the emergence of a newer protocol 11n, little has been until recently to slow down sales of the tried and true 54 Mbps.
Over the last year however, Draft N as saturated homes across the globe, bringing with it a promise of increased bandwidth and further range. Sadly, it seems that this protocol can’t seem to break the draft status and become gain the standardization that it lacks. However, regardless of the protocol’s status, companies have been coming out with more and more hardware that works on the latest addition to the wireless scene.
Today we are working with the TRENDnet’s TEW-631BRP. Started 1990, TRENDnet has been delivering networking solutions to home, small and medium sized business worldwide. Offering over 250 products in over 125 different countries, TRENDnet’s popularity in the US has been steadily growing over the past few years so when they contacted us to see if we were interested in working with their latest lineup of routers, we couldn’t resist. Sending us over the TRENDnet’s TEW-631BRP, they also included the TEW-621PC PCMCIA wireless card to round out the TRENDnet home network experience.
When we looked at the D-Link DIR-655, Draft N was entering its current variant, version 2.0. By releasing v2.0 compliant hardware, companies reduced a lot of the consumer fears of purchasing a router that might not even be relevant when N became a standard. Not ones to fall behind, TRENDnet designed the TEW-631BRP to use the v2.0 protocol, putting it on par spec wise with most other Draft N routers available today.
The pair of products on our bench today, the TEW-631BRP and the TEW-621PC, comes packaged in similar boxes filled with virtually everything needed to get your home network up and going. As with any box art, there is various information about the products such as system specs and performance claims.
The back of the packages both share the same home networked diagram showing just how useful a wireless network can be, especially with the newer Draft N. This information is repeated multiple times in several different languages as TRENDnet is currently far more popular overseas than they are here in the states and because of this, distributes their products across the globe.
Shipping with the TEW-631BRP is a setup CD, a short and simple manual with basic information about the device, a power cord and a single six foot CAT5 cable. Nothing that is going to set off any amazing alarms but just enough to get you started with you unpack your own router.
Getting to the TEW-631BRP itself, the first thing we noticed was just how ordinary the router is, a simple blue plastic casing with three antennas on the back. Weighing next to nothing (less than a pound), the TEW-631BRP is a slim router that should be able to be tucked almost anywhere you need it to go.
Running all along the front of the TEW-631BRP are 9 lights indicating everything from power to the wired LAN ports, WAN activity and WLAN activity. On the top in the middle of the router is the TRENDnet name stamped into the casing itself and in the upper right hand side, the model number is printed. There is also a jewel sticker just about the power light that simply says “Wireless Router” that lights up when the TEW-631BRP is in use.
Moving around to the business end of the router lined up from left to right and in between the three antennas, are a power jack, a recessed hard reset button, a WLAN on/off switch, a WAN port that is intended to connect to your cable or DSL modem, and four 10/100 ports that are a horrific yellow color. The most interesting thing out of all of these pieces is the on/off switch. With the price of this router hovering anywhere between 60 and 70 dollars, the TEW-631BRP could easily be picked up with a wired network in mind and with wireless to follow later on.
The addition of this switch makes those using this initially as a wired router even safer as the TEW-631BRP suddenly is closed off to any wireless clients that might be hovering around your apartment or home. Nothing ground breaking and many routers allow you to switch off the wireless capabilities through the web interface but a nice addition none the less.
Turning our attention to the TEW-621PC, one can instantly appreciate the thinness of the PCMCIA card. The edge of the card that will stick out of the PC is almost as thin as the rest of the case that fits into the notebook itself. There is a pair of LED lights on the card that indicate power and wireless network activity.
Shipping with the TEW-621PC, like the TEW-631BRP is a manual and a setup disk with a manual in .pdf form, device driver, wireless utility and a version of Adobe Acrobat for giggles. Like its router brethren, the package isn’t anything spectacular but exactly what we need to get going.
With the look out of the way, let’s move onto setup and checking out our available options.