by Alex Burn & Dr. Awk
06/14/2005 | 01:47 PM
Following the general trend towards total wirelessness, many major manufacturers of PC peripherals have recently entered new fields of activity and began to produce wireless access devices. Among them we see the leading makers of mainboards like ASUSTeK, Gigabyte and MSI. They don’t limit themselves with integrating wireless controllers directly into the mainboard or adding a special-purpose add-on card as an accessory.
Far from that, they come up with full-fledged devices like the wireless (802.11g) router ASUS WL-500G Deluxe we are going to review in this article. Strictly speaking, the WL-500G router from ASUS has been on the market for quite long, but the recently released Deluxe version features a slightly revised stuffing with several useful functions added, and thus stirs up our interest.
So here it is:
The ASUS WL-500G Deluxe router comes in a spacious box colored shades of gray and white, as is typical for the wireless solutions from this company.
The box contains the router proper with a separate power supply, a dipole antenna, a web-camera with a stand, USB and Ethernet cables, CDs with software, a user’s manual in English and a multi-lingual Quick Start Guide.
The silvery large plastic case of the router has two hinged flaps for positioning it upright, on the side.
You can also lay the router down on a horizontal surface (the rubber feet at the bottom of the case prevent the device from slipping off) or hang it on the wall by its “ears”.
The following indicators can be found on the front panel:
The back panel carries:
The antenna is also attached there.
The power supply is rather light and compact, but potent enough, as the router demands – up to 10 watts of power (+5V/2amp)!
That is, the ASUS WL-500G Deluxe consumes more power than some notebooks do. This rather high consumption may considerably reduce the time of autonomous work of some UPS-based configurations. And the router may prove very hot at work, too.
A kind of special feature of the ASUS WL-500G Deluxe is the eyeball-type USB web-camera enclosed with it. It is the QuickCamPro 4000 model, reportedly a top model in Logitech’s product range, with a resolution of 1.33 megapixels.
A microphone is built into the camera, a little above the lens. A rotating stand and a “curtain” can be used with the cam.
The specification of the router is presented in the next table.
The functionality of the device is visually described with such pictures:
So, besides the WAN/LAN/WLAN functionality proper, the router offers the opportunity to connect a network disk drive, printer or web-cam via USB, without a computer. We’ll learn more about the functionality of the router below as we will try to set it up.
What’s inside this device? First, a Broadcom BCM5364PKPB network processor with support of five “wired” ports and with RAM and ROM chips (its RAM is as large as 32 megabytes, while its ROM contains the core of a compact version of Linux, see below). Second, a wireless controller Broadcom BCM4306KFB and a Broadcom BCM2050KML transceiver. The USB section is supported by a VIA VT6212 chip. This PCI host-controller provides four USB ports, two of which can be found on the router’s rear panel and two more are pin-connectors on the router’s PCB. So, if you are skilled enough (particularly, at soldering), you can output these connectors to the outside (see this link for details) or use them inside the router’s case by putting there a USB flash drive of necessary capacity (see this link) or even a two-inch hard drive for 40 or something gigabytes via a USB-IDE adapter (an old and cheap 4200rpm model will suit all right here). There’s enough space inside the case to accommodate such a drive, and you’ll only have to add one ampere to the 5-volt line of the router.
So, here’s a list of the things added in the Deluxe version of the router:
In order to set up and manage the ASUS WL-500GD router you can access it right from your browser at one of the special addresses (http://my.router/, http://my.wl500gx/ or http://192.168.1.1/) or use the exclusive utility Device Discovery.
You type in the user name and password to get to the router’s home page.
Next you can opt for the Quick Setup variant and set the router up for the required role by answering a few questions or you can sail on your own among the specifications of network protocols.
So, helm in hand, let’s sail off (if you don’t want to plunge into the intricacies of the setup process, you can get right to the next section of this article).
You enter the following in the Interface page:
ASUS WL-500G Deluxe Authetication and Encryption Options
* - supports AES and TKIP encryption for WPA
The Bridge page allows choosing a special-purpose mode of the WL-500G Deluxe:
In the Access Control submenu you can permit or prohibit access to wireless clients with specific MAC addresses.
The Radius Setting submenu contains settings necessary for connection to the Radius server.
The last, Advanced submenu offers fine-tuning options for the 802.11x protocol as well as parameters not included into the previous submenus. From here, you can:
The settings in the WAN&LAN submenu concern the wired section:
The DHCP Server submenu contains such settings of the DHCP server as domain name, address pool (up to 254 addresses), address lease time, DNS and WINS server settings, and the option of choosing IP addresses manually in a list according to the MAC addresses.
The Route submenu allows setting up static routing for both LAN and WAN sections.
The Miscellaneous submenu contains various additional parameters:
The Port Trigger submenu allows opening specific TCP or UDP ports (or a range of ports) for connecting to computers attached to the WL-500G Deluxe.
The Virtual Server submenu allows setting the router up so that such servers as WWW or FTP available on the local network would also be available to remote users outside the LAN.
In the Virtual DMZ submenu you can set up forwarding of all incoming packets from the Internet to one computer (by providing its IP address), which can be useful if some of your applications use uncertain input ports.
The Basic Config submenu contains the basic firewall settings: enable/disable firewall, the type of LAN and WAN packets to be logged, accessibility of the router from the WAN, response to ping requests and requests via the LPR protocol from the WAN.
The WAN&LAN Filter submenu helps to set up the packet filtering rules: you can create a table of incoming/outgoing IP addresses (also with a mask) and ports (or a range of ports) and the protocol type. You can define the time and days of week when the filters will be active, set up the handling rules for packets not specified in the table (Allow or Deny).
In the URL Filter submenu you can block a series of URLs and select the time and days of week when this filter is going to be active.
The FTP Server submenu contains settings that refer to the use of the integrated FTP server to access USB-interfaced data-storage devices. The manufacturer warns the user that:
The access rights are listed in the table below:
We want to single out the Force to Eject USB Disk option which is the analog of the safe removal of the device in Windows. Then, a script may be run from the root directory on a connection of a USB device, while the Banned IP List can be used to prohibit to some users the access to the files.
The web-camera settings are grouped in the Web Camera submenu. The list of supported cameras and chipsets can also be found at www.asus.com. Besides the settings in the software of the WL-500G Deluxe it may be necessary to set up the client software: if you use Internet Explorer 5.x and higher, make sure it works with ActiveX as required.
The Operation Mode submenu allows choosing from three operation modes of the WL-500G Deluxe:
The other submenus – Change Password, Firmware Upgrade, Setting Management, Factory Default – are intended for changing the password for accessing the WL-500G Deluxe, updating the firmware, saving/restoring current settings in/from a file, and resetting the current settings to their factory defaults.
The Status submenu offers information about the current status of the WAN and LAN interfaces and the printer. You can free or update the current IP address of the WAN interface if the type of the WAN connection is selected as Automatic IP. The current print task may be cancelled.
The Wireless page displays information about the wireless clients connected to the router. From here you can permit or prohibit wireless communication. The DHCP Leases page shows info about the clients that lease their IP addresses from the DHCP server. The Port Forwarding and Routing Table pages contain information about the port forwarding rules (set up according to the Port Trigger table using Virtual Server, Virtual DMZ and UPnP) and the routing rules (static or dynamic, updated by the RIP). The System Log page displays the last 1024 system events.
Finishing this description of the router’s control software, we want to complain about the menu structure: it would be more logical to organize the settings hierarchically rather than linearly. That is, it would be easier to set the protocols and utilities up depending on a planned mode of operation of the WL-500G Deluxe rather than to search for a necessary setting through the entire the menu. The Quick Setup utility (an analog of Windows’ Wizards) helps but slightly to do that.
The software is distributed under the GNU license; the source is freely available for download from the ASUS website and is already being “perfected” by the community (visit this site, for example). However, be careful if you use unofficial software for the router since you risk losing the manufacturer’s warranty at the least. On the other hand, you may get some gains from it.
We tested the performance of the WL-500G Deluxe router with firmware 126.96.36.199 and with the following hardware:
We used all possible combinations of wired and wireless connections. To measure the traffic, we used the NetIQ Chariot version 5.9 (3186) suite with the template Throughput.scr and the default settings. The test was performed for 30 seconds. The speed of all the tested wireless devices was set to the possible maximum; we controlled them through their exclusive utilities rather than with Windows Zero Kit; the distance between the participating devices didn’t exceed 5 meters. Unfortunately, none of the three wireless cards we used in our tests supported Afterburner technology, so we couldn’t check the manufacturer’s claims of a 35% increase of the bandwidth. So, here are the results of our test session.
1. The WL-500G is used as an Ethernet switch in a fully wired connection.
As you can see, the data-transfer rate is quite high in this case.
2. The desktop computer is connected to the WL-500G with cable, and the notebook is connected to the network via the MSI UB11B (802.11b).
This is a rather high speed for an 802.11b connection, if we don’t count in the duplex mode. But the latter reproach is more about the MSI adapter.
3. The desktop computer is attached to the WL-500G Deluxe with cable; the notebook is connected to the network via the TRENDnet TEW-424UB 802.11g.
This is not a record-breaking performance, but it’s quite high nonetheless. Considering the results in the full duplex mode, it looks like the WL-500G Deluxe sends data with more eagerness than receives.
4. The desktop computer is connected to the network through the mainboard’s integrated ASUS WiFi-g™ IEEE 802.11g controller; the notebook is attached to the WL-500G with cable.
The use of another wireless card doesn’t change anything in the send/receive speeds, so these results are really indicative of the router’s capabilities, but the misbalance of speed in the full duplex mode has aggravated: the receive speed is now two times higher than the transmission speed.
5. The desktop computer is connected to the network via the mainboard’s integrated ASUS WiFi-g™ IEEE 802.11g controller. The notebook is connected to the network via the TRENDnet TEW-424UB 802.11g. Thus, we have a fully wireless connection.
The speeds are satisfactory; note also the long-awaited parity between reception and transmission in the full duplex mode. All the results we got in NetIQ Chariot are listed in the table below:
Next we performed copying in Windows Explorer to and from the USB hard drive attached to the WL-500G Deluxe and measured the data-transfer rate. The speeds are low: 1.3MB/s at writing and 0.7MB/s at reading.
So, here’s a highly functional router for you, with good accessories, extensive setup options and support of advanced modern wireless protocols with their speed-boost extensions. The performance of the ASUS WL-500G Deluxe is overall high. The fact that other manufacturers of network equipment like Belkin, Buffalo Technology, Linksys have also declared support of Afterburner technology gives us hope for higher networking speeds with various equipment in the near future.
The router isn’t blameless, though. Its performance as of a file server is low, and the structure of the control software is not quite logical. They might also have enclosed a color rather than black-and-white web-cam!
But anyway, the ASUS WL-500G Deluxe is worth every cent of its current price which is about $110. For us, it lacks one feature only – an ADSL modem.