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You are here: Wireless Wireless Reviews Linksys WET610N Wireless-N Ethernet Bridge with Dual-Band Reviewed

Linksys WET610N Wireless-N Ethernet Bridge with Dual-Band Reviewed

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Introduction

Updated 3/27/2009: Correction: Multiple clients are supported.

Linksys WET610N

At a Glance
Product Linksys Wireless-N Ethernet Bridge with Dual-Band (WET610N)
Summary Dual-band draft 802.11n Ethernet bridge with relatively smooth throughput.
Pros • Low throughput variation
• Above average 2.4 GHz band performance
Cons • Shorter 5 GHz vs. 2.4 GHz range
• 10% throughput reduction using WPA2/AES
• Doesn't function as an AP or bridge partner

The WET610N's product number is an obvious attempt to grab some halo effect from Cisco's popular WRT610N concurrent dual-band draft 802.11n router. But some of the design tradeoffs made in the WET610N's design may keep it from being as big a seller as its routing sibling.

The main drawback is that it does not function as an access point or a bridge partner. So you can't use a pair of WET6's to wirelessly join two Ethernet segments, nor can you use it in conjunction with an existing router to add dual-band draft 802.11n wireless.

Updated 3/27/2009: Correction: Multiple clients are supported.
My initial test of the WET6 appeared to find that it supported only one client. Both Cisco and a reader questioned this finding, so I took another look.

What I found is that the WET6 does support multiple clients. But I also found that it can get into a condition that makes it appear that it supports only one client.

Long story short, when I ran a multi-client check, both the WET6 and one of the two client machines connected to it via a switch leased the same IP address via DHCP. Although Windows did not flag an IP address collision, the duplicate-IP client was not able to communicate through the WET6, which caused my misdiagnosis.

The easy work-around (as well as good practice) is to assign a static IP address to the WET610N that is outside your router's DHCP server range.

Let's first see what makes the WET6 tick, then look at how it performs.

Internal Details

I already did a detailed internal look at the WET6 and compared it to Cisco's other dual-band draft 11n client bridge, the Linksys WGA600N. The WET6 uses a Metalink WLANPlus chipset comprised of a MtW8171 2x3 802.11n MAC/BB and MtW8151 2x3 2.4/5GHz 802.11n RFIC. (Figure 1).

WET610N board
Click to enlarge image

Figure 1: WET610N board

The chipset uses Forward Error Correction technololgy to allegedly optimize streaming video performance. The processor is a Star STR9101 SoC router and there is 32 MB of RAM and 8 MB of flash.

Features

The WET610N is smaller than a CD case with a vertically-oriented design that optimizes placement of its three internal antennas. Figure 2 describes the front and rear panel lights, controls and connections, which include a button to initiate a Wi-Fi Protected Setup pushbutton session and a 10/100 Ethernet port on the back.

WET610N Front and Rear panels

Figure 2: WET610N Front and Rear panels

The lights can't be dimmed or shut off. So if you're going to use the WET6 to connect a media player, you will probably want to hide it out of eye-shot.

The slideshow provides a walkthrough of all the WET6's screens, so I won't repeat all that information here. Figure 3 shows the site-survey feature used for finding networks to attach to. It was somewhat annoying to use, since it seemed that once it was associated to a network, it would not find new networks no matter how many times I hit the Refresh button. In the end, I had to reboot to get it to see all in-range networks.

Site survey result

Figure 3: Site survey result

I found two other "features" that made it less than a delight to configure. Since most users will set it up only once, they probably won't be bothered by the minute or so that it takes to save configuration changes.

The other annoyance is that it would not save WMM configuration changes, which I tried multiple times. So it seems that you are stuck with the default Background setting, although that seemed to provide pretty good performance.

In Use

One of the things that Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) is supposed to enable is setting up a secure wireless connection between wireless devices, merely by pushing a button on each one. So you would think that a product that is advertised for use with digital video recorders, set-top boxes, printers, scanners, cameras, storage devices (in addition to computers) and that has a WPS push-button, would encourage you to use WPS for set up.

Unfortunately, that's not the route that Cisco takes. Instead they slap a bright orange "Run CD First" sticker over the Ethernet port so that you run a "Wizard" that directs you to connect the WET6 to your router so that you can set it up! The printed Quick Installation Guide reinforces the run-the-CD method and even takes you down that path in the Wi-Fi Protected Setup section of the QIG, which is presented on Page 9 as a second option.

There is an easier way, however, especially if you have a current Linksys router that supports WPS. When I reset both a WRT400N and the WET610N to factory defaults, then pressed the WPS button on both, it took awhile (over a minute), but in the end the two connected with a WPA2 AES-secured link. Although I didn't try a WPS pushbutton setup with another router, I would hope that it would work.

I understand that Cisco may be taking a more general approach by using the attach-to-router-and-run-wizard method. But it should at least document the WPS-pushbutton approach. At least the Wizard doesn't end up installing LELA, or it least it didn't before I quit out of it...




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