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 Asanté FriendlyNet Wireless Cable/DSL Router

Page 2 

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 7/24/2001


Wireless Features


You can buy the AL with or without the 802.11b radio card which supplies the wireless capability.  If you buy the version without the radio (the 3002AL), you can use only an Asante AeroLAN PC Card if you decide to add it later.  The AeroLAN card uses the Intersil PRISM II chipset and has an integrated flat "paddle" style antenna.  There's no provision for connecting any sort of range extension antenna.

This card supports both  64 and 128bit WEP encryption and you'll be able to enter four Hexadecimal WEP keys in either mode.

:Asante Wireless Router - Wireless Page

The only other wireless settings you can control are the Channel number (default is 6) and ESSID.  Note that Asante has not added the MAC address based access and Access Point association controls that have been added on the FriendlyNET's kissin' cousins from SMC.  I hope that Asante corrects this soon via a firmware update.

Finally, don't look for any wireless monitoring features because, like most other consumer wireless Access Points and routers, they aren't included.

That about does it for the feature summary.  Let's put the AL through its paces.

 

Routing Performance


I ran the Qcheck suite to test routing performance, with the following results:

Firmware/Driver Version:

2.13AL

Test Description

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

[1Mbyte data size]

Qcheck Response Time (msec)
[10 iterations 100byte data size]

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@500Kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

WAN-LAN

4.3

 3 (avg)
4 (max)

499

 0%

LAN-WAN

4.2

 3 (avg)
4 (max)

404

 19%

(Details of how we tested can be found here.) 

Comment: Good routing performance, with plenty of speed for most broadband connections. UDP WAN-LAN performance was better than most other routers.  Further testing showed data loss started around a 600kbps stream rate.
NOTE: Be sure to upgrade to version 2.13 firmware if your router doesn't already have it.  Performance was significantly slower with the 2.11 firmware that came loaded in the router.

 

Wireless Performance


I used an ORiNOCO Gold PC card as the wireless test partner and ran my usual Qcheck test suite. (More details of how I tested can be found here.) 

Test Conditions:

Firmware/Driver Versions:

- WEP encryption: DISABLED
- Tx Rate:
Automatic
- Power Save:
disabled

AP f/w: 2.13AL

Wireless client driver:
Variant 1, V6.44
Wireless client f/w:
 
 - Primary Functions: Variant 1,  V4.04
 - Station Functions: Variant 1, V6.16

Test Description

SNR (dB)

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

[1Mbyte data size]

Qcheck Response Time (msec)

[10 iterations 100byte data size]

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@500Kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

AP to Client - Condition 1

52

4.7[No WEP]
2.3[w/WEP]

3 (avg)
4 (max)

492

0%

AP to Client - Condition 2

45

4.7

3 (avg)
6 (max)

492

0%

AP to Client - Condition 3

20

4.6

3 (avg)
6 (max)

491

0%

AP to Client - Condition 4

20

2.4

4 (avg)
6 (max)

453

0%

Comments: Good Transfer rate and SNR with steady signal level, even with just the PC card flat antenna.  Throughput (Transfer Rate) takes a 50% WEP-enabled hit with either 64 or 128 bit WEP enabled.

 

Summary


Although Asante has produced a wireless router with good performance built on a stable and proven routing engine, I was somewhat disappointed in the total result.  Although many prospective buyers won't care about the missing dial up support, they may think twice about having only two LAN ports and no built-in uplink capability.

Pricing at the time of review was $330, which is way out of line with current competitive wireless router offerings.  Sure it's just about the only game in town for a router with "official" MacOS support and built-in print server that will support printing from Macs.  But good as the AL may be, until Asante gets their pricing in line, take the $100 or so you'll save by buying a similar product from someone else and pick up an 802.11b PC card for your first client!

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