Articles: Networking

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Exterior Design and Internal Configuration

Linksys’s routers have always been different from regular home routers, ever more so since the transition to the Draft N standard. Right now Linksys uses two design concepts in its routers, the WRT350N representing the earlier of them. This model looks like a clever gadget from a sci-fi movie rather than a humble network device for your home.

The router is shaped in an original manner, one of its antennas resembling a radar reflector. The exterior design is attractive and the WRT350N can easily match any interior. The router also represents a clever ergonomic solution: although its case lacks fasteners for wall mounting, you can install it both horizontally and vertically (using the included stand). The case’s feet are oval-shaped and can be fixed in two positions, too. When the router stands upright, the feet are turned in towards the center of the case to become inconspicuous. And when the router is placed horizontally, you can turn its feet by 180 degrees to make the device steady. By the way, when the device is positioned vertically, the router’s antennas are at the top, making it easy to connect the cables at the back panel.

The router’s case is made from thick plastic, all the details being neatly fitted to each other. The surface is matte, save for the front panel, and dust is inconspicuous on it. The front panel carries all of the router’s indicators – nine in total (from left to right):

  • Power (it also shows the router’s status by changing color from green to orange)
  • Four Ethernet (LAN) indicators
  • Internet (reports the active status of the WAN connection)
  • USB (alight when a compatible device is plugged into the USB port)
  • Wireless (indicates the activity of the wireless interface)
  • Security (indicates that the wireless connection uses encryption)

The indicators are implemented not quite well to our taste. Their labels are too small and their light is too dull because of the translucent front panel.

The router’s Reset button and external connectors can be found at the back panel of the case (from left to right):

  • USB 2.0 port
  • WAN port
  • Four LAN ports
  • Power connector

The router is ventilated by means of two square vent grids in the top and bottom panels of the case. And this ventilation turns to be rather insufficient. The router doesn’t overheat, but becomes really hot at work. The heatsinks of its chips were scorching hot when we checked them out after removing the top panel. Thus, the ventilation system of the WRT350N has to be listed among its drawbacks.

It is quite a problem to take this router apart. Externally, it is perfectly unclear what to start with. It’s only after some scrutiny that you notice that you should first lift up the panels with the vent holes. This will call for a screwdriver and some effort on your side. To take the PCB out after that, you’ll have to unblock four locks simultaneously to release the translucent front panel. And you also have to unfasten the four screws on the case to take it apart into two pieces and extract the PCB.

There is almost no free space left inside the case. The main PCB and the Wi-Fi module occupy the whole interior. A part of the main PCB near the processor is screened from both sides with copper foil, and there are heatsinks on the network controllers (we removed them to make the photos). The Wi-Fi module is implemented as a small mini-PCI card plugged into an appropriate slot of the main PCB. Component mounting is neat on both cards, but there are small stains on the main PCB.

We usually begin to describe router’s hardware from its processor, but we’d want to break the rule for once. The described model came to us with a UART console connector and we decided to make an adapter to connect to the router via a serial port. We found the console connection schematic for the NSLU2 and this schematic worked for the WRT350N, too. When assembling the adapter, you should keep it mind that you need to connect Pin 1 to Pins 4 and 6, and Pin 7 to Pin 8 in the serial connector that goes into the PC in order to be able to enter data in the terminal window. Everything should work right after you assemble and connect the adapter. To establish a terminal connection you must use the following parameters:

  • 115200bps speed
  • 8 data bits, no parity, 1 stop bit (8N1)
  • No flow control
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