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Thursday, 08 February 2007

Linksys WRT54G3G-ST Mobile Broadband EVDO Router Review

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UPDATE: The WRT54G3G-ST has been replaced by the WRT54G3GV2-ST. Click here to view the currently available 3G routers

Like other models in the WRT54* series, the Linksys WRT543G-ST Mobile Broadband Router will allow you to hook up your Cable/DSL connection and share that bandwidth among multiple computers, either by ethernet connection to its built-in 4-port switch, or via 802.11B/G wireless.

The feature that sets this router apart from the rest is that it comes with a standard PC Card slot that will accept a compatible pcmcia card, allowing multiple computers to share bandwidth from an EVDO wireless broadband connection. With this router, users in remote 'on-the-road' locations no longer have to share just one EVDO card among many laptops or struggle with complicated and unreliable PC/Mac internet connection sharing methods.

To protect your data and privacy, the WRT543G-ST can encode all wireless LAN transmissions securely with WEP or WPA Personal encryption. It can serve as a DHCP Server, has a powerful SPI firewall to protect your PCs against intruders and most known Internet attacks, and supports VPN pass-through. Configuration is a snap with the web-based configuration utility.

With the WRT543G-ST, you can create a secure wireless network with Internet connectivity, anywhere that EVDO service is available.

Connect MacBooks, iBooks, PDA's and UMPC's, and even your new iPhone!
MacBooks, PowerBook 12-inch, iBooks, PDA's and UMPC's do not have the necessary PC Slot to use EVDO. Of course, on those computers you could use the new Sprint Ovation U720 if you have an available USB port and drivers. Or you could use this router with an EVDO card, and share the bandwidth to any device via ethernet or Wi-FI.

Since the forthcoming iPhone doesn't really have 3G (yet) you'll have to rely on its built-in Wi-Fi for real speed. So with a Linksys WRT54G3G-ST in your car, you too can load Google Maps just like Steve Jobs did during the Keynote. If you try that over GPRS/EDGE, you will be waiting awhile!

Linksys WRT54G3G-ST and Desktops
Desktop computers such as Dell towers or Apple iMacs do not have the needed PCMCIA slot to use an EVDO PC Card. The WRT54G3G-ST Router has a built-in 4 port Ethernet switch allowing easy hook up to desktops or other ethernet devices, and providing them all Internet access through your Sprint EVDO card inserted into the side of the router. While some machines can be fitted with an aftermarket PCMCIA to PCI converter, the ease of use and 24/7 uptime of a router really makes more sense, especially when it comes to sharing the EVDO Card's connection.

Linksys WRT54G3G-ST and Gaming Consoles
Have you got a gaming console with network connectivity (like the Wii, PS2, PS3 or xBox), but you can't get Cable or DSL where you live? Get this router and an EVDO card, and get you online gaming going right now! Onling Gaming Fans on EVDOforums.com have said that the latency on newer EVDO Rev-A networks provides much better online gameplay, but even those on 1st generation EVDO Rev-0 networks have said that their experience beats satellite connections, or no connection at all!

Automatic Failover sets it apart from other EVDO routers
With the release of firmware version 2.00.9 , the Linksys WRT54G3G-ST EVDO Router now provides a unique failover feature that makes it attractive to home and office users alike. The router can be set up to serve up connectivty from a typical cable or DSL connection, and upon detecting a failure on that connectivity, it will automatically switch to serving connectivty from an installed EVDO aircard. Read more about failover in this EVDOforums thread.

Current Sprint EVDO PC Card Compatibility

  • Rev 0: Merlin S620, Sierra AirCard 580, Audiovox PC5740
  • Rev A: Merlin S720, Sierra AirCard 595, PX-500 (with latest firmware)

For the latest compatibility information, see EVDO Router Comparison.


Sprint released firmware 2.00.9 that supports the Pantech PX-500

The FEATURES

  • Sprint Merlin S720 Revision A & Sierra AirCard 595 EVDO card support.
  • VPN Passthrough actually works. Cisco Enterprise class, Nortel Contivity, Netopia, AT&T, etc all tested and/or reported to connection without issue.
  • 'Internet' Ethernet connection port with 'automatic failover '
  • HTTPS configuration page access support with automated security certificate setup.
  • A configurable DMZ that works. (Many have had issues with the KR1's DMZ and the Top Global routers lack them completely.)
  • Advanced Wi-Fi security support, including WPA and WPA2 Personal and Enterprise, RADIUS w/WEP, RADIUS w/WPA, and client isolation.
  • QoS priority control for both Ethernet and Wi-Fi devices, configurable by device (MAC), Ethernet port, or Application (port number). No indication if outbound traffic maintains QoS flags... EVDO Rev.0 would drop these as it doesn't support QoS, Rev A does support QoS, technically speaking*.
  • Better Wi-Fi performance than the Kyocera KR1, MB6000, and MB8000.
  • Firmware updates should be more painless than the Kyocera KR1†.
  • Has a nice user-friendly pushbutton for enabling or disabling the WWAN data connection (EVDO data card that is inserted).

The ISSUES

  • Does not include auto power adapter plug (includes AC/DC power adapter only).
  • No Internet port automated fail-over
  • EVDO PC Card must be removed to allow the Internet Ethernet port to work.
  • Setup Wizard only runs on Windows (but you don't really need it**).
  • PC Card slot is very narrow, peels up logo decal on older Sprint EVDO cards.
  • Raised plastic ring on housing prevents connecting some higher power Wi-Fi antennas with large base collars.
  • The screen-printing is small, low-contrast, and hard to read.
  • Does not support Appletalk. Any printers configured to use Appletalk would need to be reconfigured as IP printers (if possible).
  • While most users would stand the Linksys upright in the included "foot" (because that is how it is depicted on the retail package), we found the best orientation was usually FLAT.
  • No USB Port, so it cannot work with Novatel U720 USB EVDO Modem


Benchmarking the Linksys WRT54G3G-ST Mobile Broadband EVDO Card Router

I am sure the most important question that everyone will ask is, "How well does the EVDO card perform when plugged in the Linksys vs. plugged directly into the laptop?" This is one of the first tests that we performed. Also, "How does the Linksys WRT54G3G-ST compare to the competition?"

Here are some benchmarks using a Sprint Merlin S720 with Rev A firmware inserted directly into a Sony notebook, versus connecting to the Linksys via Ethernet on both a Sony and an Apple MacBook Pro, and then finally connecting through each of the other routers we sell (all tests chronological over an approximately one and a half hour period)††.

(It was interesting to note that both the Linksys WRT54G3G-ST and Kyocera KR1 with the S720 stepped up to Rev A during the tests, whereas the Top Global MB6000 and MB8000 never did. Could it have been just coincidence in timing/signal fluctuation or do the WRT and KR1 routers impart less RFI/EMI onto the radio card. We intend to test this further.)

Sony VAIO directly connected via S720 EVDO PC Card:
  • 847/129 front/elk
  • 850/131 front/elk
  • 805/135 speak/la
  • 777/136 speak/la
Roundtrip ping time in milliseconds: min 111, max 154, avg 130


Linksys WRT54G3G-ST (tested by Sony VAIO via Ethernet):
  • 491/195 front/elk
  • 538/198 front/elk
  • 634/178 speak/la
  • 389/171 speak/la
Roundtrip ping time in milliseconds: min 74, max 144, avg 105


Linksys WRT54G3G-ST (tested by MacBook Pro via Ethernet [stepped up to Rev A]):
  • 768/315 front/elk
  • 887/311 front/elk
  • 838/307 speak/la
  • 657/298 speak/la
Roundtrip ping time in milliseconds: min 85, max 125, avg 97


Kyocera KR1 (tested by MacBook Pro via Ethernet):
  • 454/133 front/elk
  • 318/125 front/elk
  • 359/130 speak/la
  • 500/133 speak/la
Roundtrip ping time in milliseconds: min 140, max 159, avg 148


Kyocera KR1 (tested by Sony VAIO via Ethernet [stepped up to Rev A]):
  • 522/139 front/elk
  • 497/143 front/elk
  • 654/171 speak/la
  • 515/156 speak/la
Roundtrip ping time in milliseconds: min 88, max 109, avg 98


Top Global MB8000 (tested by Sony VAIO via Ethernet):
  • 168/136 front/elk
  • 339/132 front/elk
  • 239/136 speak/la
  • 230/128 speak/la
Roundtrip ping time in milliseconds: min 119, max 166, avg 136


Top Global MB8000 (tested by MacBook Pro via Ethernet):
  • 324/130 front/elk
  • 333/128 front/elk
  • 354/126 speak/la
  • 365/125 speak/la
Roundtrip ping time in milliseconds: min 148, max 190, avg 170


Top Global MB6000 (tested by MacBook Pro via Ethernet):
  • 518/126, front/elk
  • 519/128, front/elk
  • 518/112 speak/la
  • 541/130 speak/la
Roundtrip ping time in milliseconds: min 148, max 178, avg 159


Top Global MB6000 (tested by Sony VAIO via Ethernet):
  • 281/133 front/elk
  • 488/128 front/elk
  • 426/136 speak/la
  • 504/133 speak/la
Roundtrip ping time in milliseconds: min 127, max 166, avg 146


Linksys WRT54G3G-ST (tested by Sony VAIO via Ethernet [stepped up to Rev A]):
  • 491/195 front/elk
  • 538/198 front/elk
  • 634/178 speak/la
  • 389/171 speak/la

Roundtrip ping time in milliseconds: min 74, max 144, avg 105

 

The WRT54G3G-ST and the Kyocera KR1 were the fastest EVDO Routers in our testing.

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* No detail yet if Sprint or Verizon's Rev A "jump" allows for prioritization, or whether the WRT54G3G-ST's QoS implementation supports prioritization flags that continue out WAN or WWAN and tie into EVDO Rev A's QoS support.

†The Linksys supports backing up setup configuration using .cfg files (similar to the KR1), the firmware binary extension is a standard .bin binary file (thankfully!), unlike the KR1's .bix file that has cause many many headaches. Linksys has yet to post a downloadable firmware binary for the WRT54G3G-ST. But the source code is available.

**For the setup wizard software... you do not need to run this for first-time use since the router's configuration page is easily accessible by a standard Internet browser. So Mac users, fear not - the Linksys works fine with Macs and can be configured to your heart's content (or just plug in your Sprint EVDO card and turn it on and GO!

†† front/elk= Frontiernet speedtest/Elkgrove, CA server, speak/la= Speakeasy speedtest/Los Angeles, CA server, speak/chi= Speakeasy speedtest/Chicago, IL server.

Test computers (all TCP/IP stacks are stock, no optimization):

Sony VAIO 1.83GHz CoreDuo, 1GB RAM, Win XP SP2, Sprint PCS Connection Manager version 3.007.006, Firefox Internet Browser

MacBook Pro, 2.16GHz CoreDuo, 2GB RAM, OS 10.4.8, Firefox (this computer has an ExpressCard34 slot, so no direct S720 tests were conducted)

Router Firmwares as tested: Linksys WRT54G3G-ST= v2.00.4, Kyocera KR1= RK1008, Top Global MB6000= v1.1.26pre1, Top Global MB8000= v3.05(0001)

All routers were tested in the exact same physical location, EVDO Cards in the exact same place/height, and orientation.



Browser Based Administration

The Linksys WRT54G3G-ST can be configured va your browser (Mac/Windows/Linux). The browser based administration allows you to configure your LinkSys WRT54G3G-ST.

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Below are all the configuration options available from the web interface:

(Setup)-Basic Setup

Mobile Connection: Connected/Disconnected
Network Name
Signal Strength

Selection Between:
Automatic Configuration-DHCP
Static IP
PPPoE
PPTP
L2TP
Telstra Cable

Router Name
Host Name
Domain Name

MTU (Auto/Manual)
Size
Local IP Address
Subnet Mask
Mode 1- Fixed Configuration (Default)
Mode 2- Network Supplied
Mode 3- Manual Configuration

DHCP Server (Enable/Disable)
Starting IP Address
Maximum Number of DHCP Users
Client Lease Time (in minutes-0=one day)
Static DNS 1
Static DNS 2
Static DNS 3
WINS 1
WINS 2

Time Zone
Automatically adjust clock for daylight saving changes


(Setup)-Mobile Network

Auto Connect (Auto/Manual) Maximum idle time____Min. before auto disconnect
Network Name
Signal Strength
Connection Time
Current Session Usage
Card Model
Card Firmware


(Setup)-DDNS

DDNS Service: (Disable/DynDNS.org/TZO.com)
User Name
Password
Host Name
Internet IP Address
Status


(Setup)-MAC Address Clone

Enable/Disable
User Defined Entry: __:__:__:__:__:__ (MAC Address Entry)



(Setup)-Advanced Routing

Operating Mode: Gateway/Router
Select set number
Enter Route Name
Destination LAN IP
Subnet Mask
Default Gateway
Interface: (LAN & Wireless/WAN(Internet))
Show Routing Table


(Wireless)-Basic Wireless Settings

Wireless Network Mode: (Disabled/MIXED/B-Only/G-Only)
Wireless Network Name (SSID):
Wireless Channel: (1 through 11)
Wireless SSID Broadcast: (Enable/Disable)


(Wireless)-Security

Security Mode: (Disable/WPA Personal/WPA Enterprise/WPA2 Personal/WPA2
Enterprise/RADIUS/WEP)


(Wireless)-Wireless Security


Wireless MAC Filter: (Enable/Disable)
Prevent PCs listed from accessing the wireless
Permit only PCs listed to access the wireless network
Edit MAC Filter List


(Wireless)-Advanced Wireless Settings


Authentication Type: (Auto/Shared Key)
Basic Rate: (1-2Mbps/Default/All)
Transmission Rate: (Auto/1-54Mbps)
CTS Protection Mode: (Disable/Auto)
Frame Burst: (Disable/Enable)
Beacon Interval
DTIM Interval
Fragmentation Threshold
RTS Threshold
AP Isolation: (On/Off)


(Security)-Firewall

Firewall Protection: (Enable/Disable)
Block Anonymous Internet Requests
Filter Multicast
Filter Internet NAT Redirection
Filter IDENT (Port 113)


(Wireless)-VPN

IPSec Passthrough: (Enable/Disable)
PPTP Passthrough: (Enable/Disable)
L2TP Passthrough: (Enable/Disable)


(Access Restrictions)-Internet Access

Internet Access Policy
Status
Enter Policy Name
PCs: (Edit List of PCs)
Deny/Allow: (Internet access during selected days and hours.)
Days: (Everyday/Sun/Mon/Tue/Wed/Thu/Fri/Sat)
Times: (24 Hours/From: 12:00AM To: 12:00AM)
Blocked Services
Website Blocking by URL Address
Website Blocking by Keyword


(Applications & Gaming)-Port Range Forward

Application/Start/End/Protocol/IP Address/Enable (10 port forward fields)


(Applications & Gaming)-Port Triggering


Application/Start Port/End Port/Start Port/End Port/Enable (10 Port Triggers
fields)


(Applications & Gaming)-DMZ

Enable/Disable
DMZ Host IP Address:


(Applications & Gaming)-QOS


Upstream Bandwith
Device Priority
Ethernet Priority (Port 1-4)
Application Priority (Specific Port Fields)

Wireless QOS
WMM Support
No Acknowledgement


(Administration)-Management


Router Password
Re-enter to confirm
Access Server: (HTTP/HTTPS)
Wireless Access Web: (Enable/Disable)
Remote Management: (Enable/Disable)
Management Port: (_____)
Use https:
UPnP: Enabled/Disabled




(Administration)-Log

Log: Enable/Disable
Incoming Log:Outgoing Log


(Administration)-Diagnostics


Reboot Button
Ping Test
Traceroute


(Administration)-Factory Defaults

Restore Factory Defaults: Yes/No


(Administration)-Firmware Upgrade

Please Select a file to upgrade:__________________________Browse Button
Warning: Upgrading firmware may take a few minutes, please don't turn off
power or press the reset button.
Upgrade must NOT be interrupted!


(Administration)-Config Management

Backup Configuration: Backup Button
Restore Configuration: Please select a file to
restore:_________________Browse Button
Restore Button


(Status)-Mobile Network


Network Name
Signal Strength
Connection Time
Current Session Usage
Card Model
Card Firmware


(Administration)-Router

Firmware Version: v2.00.4, Aug. 9, 2006
Current Time
MAC Address
Router Name
Host Name
Domain Name
Login Type
IP Address
Subnet Nask
Default Gateway
DNS 1
DNS 2
DNS 3
MTU
DHCP Release Button/DHCP Renew Button


(Administration)-Local Network


MAC Address
IP Address
Subnet Mask
DHCP Server
Start IP Address
End IP Address
DHCP Clients Table Button


(Administration)-Wireless

MAC Address Mode
SSID
DHCP Server
Channel
Encryption Function



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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 06 May 2009 )
 
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