by Platon Scheblykin
09/23/2008 | 09:31 PM
Not long ago we tested a wireless router from Trendnet called TEW-633GR. Its main traits were Gigabyte Ethernet ports and support for the IEEE 802.11n (draft N) standard. Today, we have got another router from Trendnet which offers the same functionality. The model we tested earlier features extended QoS settings whereas the TEW-672GR supports two frequency bands, 2.4 and 5GHz. To remind you, the 5GHz band is employed by the once-popular IEEE 802.11a standard.
We will see if the TEW-672GR differs greatly from the TEW-633GT in practical applications and what model is better.
- IEEE 802.11a/b/g
- WEP (64/128bit)
3 x 2dBi dipole antennas
- 802.11n: OFDM, BPSK, QPSK, 16QAM.
- 2.412 ~ 2.462GHz (FCC); 2.412 ~ 2.472GHz (ETSI)
- 802.11a: 14dBm
- 802.11a: -72dBm @ 54Mbps
Nominal data transfer rate
- 802.11n (draft): up to 300Mbps
11 for North America, 14 Japan,
1 RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet 10/100/1000Mb/s
4 RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet 10/100/1000Mb/s
External power supply unit
150(L) x 163(W) x 26(H) mm
- WiFi certified
The box contains the following:
Right now, the TEW-633GR and TEW-672GR are the top of Trendnet’s wireless router line-up. The exterior design of each device follows the same style indicating that these are top-end and expensive products. The black glossy case with three antennas looks stern, even austere. The exterior is impressive indeed. The TEW-672GR is noticeably smaller than the TEW-633GR although not inferior to it in functionality. In fact, the TEW-672GR is one of the smallest and lightest Draft N routers available. The glossy surface of the case of both models may be a problem, though. When we took the new TEW-672GR out of the box, we saw fine cardboard dust on its case where the router had been rubbing against the packaging. The surface of the TEW-633GR didn’t look very impressive after two weeks of heavy use, too. The second drawback of the TEW-672GR is that its antennas are not detachable, so it won’t be easy to use external antennas.
The TEW-672GR can be placed flat or wall-mounted using the fasteners in its bottom. This model is ventilated through the few holes in the side panels of the case. This seems to be enough because the router doesn’t get hot at work. Its components just do not generate much heat.
Notwithstanding the difference in size, the front and back panels of the TEW-672GR are similar to those of the TEW-633GR. The front panel carries indicators reporting the router’s current status. These indicators are implemented as shining vertical stripes (from left to right):
The indicators are all the same and are placed in a row, which is not very handy. They are bright, but not annoyingly bright, and can be seen at almost any angle and from a big distance. They are quite good overall.
The back panel offers the following (from left to right):
Besides that, there is a WPS button on the side panel for secure setup of the wireless network.
The other interesting things are hidden inside the router, so we took it apart. Besides the locks at the bottom, the parts of the case were fastened together with two self-tipping screws that we found under the rubber feet.
The system PCB occupies the entire case. It wasn’t easy to take it out because some of the elements were sticking out of the case. Moreover, the PCB was additionally fixed with special holders that prevented it from moving diagonally. Anyway, we managed to extract and scrutinize it closely. All the components are installed on the top side of the PCB. The mounting is very neat, just as you can expect from such a presentable product. There are almost no empty seats on the PCB, which indicates that this router model is not a cut-down version of something bigger.
There are few chips in the router, actually. Just the required minimum. Particularly, the TEW-672GR employs a chip that combines both a SoC controller and a wireless MAC-controller.
It is the RT2880 chip from Ralink.
According to the developer, the RT2880 is the first iNIC WLAN product (iNIC stands for Intelligent Network Interface Card) implemented as a single chip. The chip features an architectural solution that enables communication with the main processor’s interface (PCI or Ethernet) and the processing of 802.11n traffic. In fact, the main processor only has to execute a simple driver that resembles an Ethernet card’s driver in functionality. This solution looks perspective, but only if the router’s processor is a separate chip. Otherwise, the use of an RT2880 means that the manufacturer saved on the hardware components. While such saving is okay for entry-level products, we are disappointed to see it in a top-end router from Trendnet.
Like the TEW-633GR, the TEW-672GR comes with 32 megabytes of system memory in two M12L128168A chips from Elite Semiconductor (ESMT). Each chip is designed as 2Mb x 16 bits x 4 banks.
The router’s firmware is stored in a 29LV320CBTC flash memory chip from Macronix. It has a capacity of 4 megabytes.
The Gigabyte Ethernet controller of the TEW-672GR looks even more like a processor than the RT2880. It is s rather new model of Realtek’s network controller which is called RTL8366SR. By the way, all of the router’s five network ports (not four, as usual) are based on this controller. Such a solution may have a negative effect on the bandwidth of the WAN port because there is an additional link between the processor and the network.
Besides the MAC-controller integrated into the RT2880, the router’s Wi-Fi module incorporates an RT2850 RF-module.
There are two bonding pads for console connectors (UART and JTAG) on the PCB. You only have to solder the appropriate connectors.
In this section of our router-related reviews we usually talk about the existing versions and functionality of official and alternative firmware. This time we won’t talk long, though. The TEW-672GR has been released quite recently, and there are no even official firmware updates, let alone alternative firmware, at the time of our writing this. Running a little ahead, we have to acknowledge that the current version of the router’s firmware is far from ideal. It lacks some options that have become a de-facto standard for home routers. We won’t name them here – you’ll see what options are missing shortly.
When you connect to the router via your browser, you will see a Setup Manager.
Like the design of the case, the web-interface of the TEW-672GR is almost the same as that of the TEW-633GR. The gray-blue-white color scheme is appealing and the overall design of the pages is neat and pretty. Every page of the Setup Manager has three sections: a header, a list of pages with settings, and an area in which the contents of the current page are displayed. The header is small and performs no function at all. The settings pages on the left are organized into four groups that are separated graphically from each other. Only one group of settings can be open at any given moment. The other groups collapse automatically. The purpose of each group is intuitive, so even inexperienced users shouldn’t have problems finding a specific option. The pages with settings are also designed properly. They are not overcrowded with options, but all related options can usually be found in one page. Our only gripe is about the lack of a Help system. Of course, you can look for information in the user manual, but built-in information would be handier.
So, there are four groups of settings, the first of which is called Network.
The setup options of this group refer to the router’s network ports.
The WAN Settings page offers WAN port parameters. You can specify the type and parameters of connection to the external network, define the MTU size, and enter the MAC address the router’s WAN port will use for the external network.
The LAN Settings page is for specifying the router’s address on the local network. You can also define parameters of the integrated DHCP server and rules for IP-address reservation.
The DHCP Client List shows a list of addresses currently issued by the DHCP-server.
The Wireless group refers to the router’s Wi-Fi module, of course.
You can begin setting up your wireless connection from the Basic page. You can enable the WDS mode which is necessary for binding a few wireless access points into a single network. There are such traditional parameters as channel number, channel width, SSID, etc. By the way, you can specify multiple SSIDs and then define an individual security policy for each of them. The Basic page also offers a couple of fine-tune settings: Reverse Direction Grant and encoding (MCS).
More fine-tune settings can be found on the Advanced page. You shouldn’t touch them unless your wireless connection refuses to work at all.
The Security page is about encrypting your wireless connection. For each specified SSID you can select security parameters such as encryption standard, algorithm, and, possibly, encryption key. This is an original feature of the router, although we can’t see much practical value in it. You can also specify MAC addresses which won’t be allowed to establish connections with the router.
The WPS page is where you can set up the parameters of the secure automatic transfer of settings from the access point to the client.
The Station List page shows wireless clients currently connected to the router.
The Advanced group contains almost all settings related to the network services of the TEW-672GR.
It opens with the DMZ page where you can specify a node on the router’s local network all unprocessed requests from the WAN will be sent to.
The Virtual Server page is where you can create, delete and view virtual servers on the router’s LAN.
The router’s routing table can be viewed on the Routing page. You can only edit static routes. Dynamic routing protocols cannot be changed.
The rules you can define on the Access Control page help limit the access to the external network for some network nodes on the router’s LAN. This can be done by a schedule.
The Special Applications page is for specifying triggering rules for individual as well as sequences of ports.
Port forwarding rules can be specified on the Gaming page.
The Inbound Filter page is for filtering external traffic by IP addresses.
You can specify a schedule for some of the router’s services on the Schedule page.
There are a lot of settings in the Administrator group, but all of them refer to the router’s status and operation mode.
For example, the Management page allows you to change the administrator password and specify the router’s network name. You can also set up your DDNS account and enable remote management mode here.
The name of the Upgrade Firmware page is self-explanatory.
You can save the router’s settings in a file and restore them later in case of a failure. This can be done on the Settings Management page.
The router’s date and time can be set up on the Time page.
The last page is called Status. It offers information about the current status of the router. The monitoring of connections to the router’s network ports is implemented in a peculiar way: if the connection is active, the corresponding icon changes its color.
Summing it up, the current version of the router’s firmware offers a few interesting options (multiple SSIDs, icons denoting ports, numerous Wi-Fi settings) but seems underdeveloped overall. For example, it doesn’t have such basic features of home routers as an integrated and/or remote log, QoS, Help system, Firewall, etc. There are also minor flaws in page design (some captions in the list do not match the names of the corresponding pages, and there is an odd stripe on the Access Control page). This quality of firmware is low, even making allowances for the first version.
Besides measuring the speed of the router’s network interfaces, we will also compare it with the TEW-633GR, another router from Trendnet. We have mentioned this model repeatedly in this article and we are also interested to see what particular advantages the TEW-672GR has, besides the support for two frequency bands, in comparison with the TEW-633GR if they cost the same money. So far, we haven’t found anything special in it.
Here is the equipment and software we used for this test session, besides the TEW-672GR:
We measure the maximum data-transfer rate of the router’s wireless interface by sending data between two of its LAN ports.
The speed is okay if you don’t mind the occasional slumps – we haven’t seen them when we tested other routers.
Next we measured the bandwidth of the router’s WAN-LAN segment. We tested a direct connection as well as a VPN tunnel. As you know, a VPN connection is almost always accompanied with a considerable reduction in the data-transfer rate. We tested the direct connection by specifying the WAN port address manually and exchanging data between the two endpoints in both directions. When testing a VPN connection, we chose the PPPoE protocol. We established a PPPoE server on the Linux machine (see the list of test equipment above) and created an endpoint. Then we connected the tested rooter to that server and attached a notebook with IxChariot to the router’s LAN. Here are the results for both routers.
So, the TEW-672GR doesn’t show anything exceptional here. The LAN ports of this router are quite up to the Gigabit Ethernet standard in speed, but the speed of the WAN port is almost as low as Fast Ethernet, which is especially obvious with the VPN tunnel. The results of this test depend on the router’s processor, and we know that the processor of the TEW-672GR is based on a cheap SoC-controller.
The TEW-672GR has quite a lot of system memory, which may have an effect on the number of simultaneous connections the router can support. To perform this test we created a pair in IxChariot using the Throughput scenario in which we changed the file_size parameter from 100,000 to 1,000,000. Then we began to increase the number of pairs by replicating them until there were errors during the test. This test was performed for both direct and VPN (PPPoE) connections. We stopped at 700 direct connections and didn’t go any further due to the limitations of the test program. With PPPoE, the TEW-672GR reached 190 simultaneous connections whereas the TEW-633GR maintained 700 simultaneous connections.
The wireless connection in draft 802.11n mode was tested using WPA2 PSK encryption with the AES algorithm. These security settings are the default ones in the draft version of the new standard and are likely to remain such in the final version. The TEW-672GR is based on a Ralink chipset, so we tested it with a Wi-Fi card based on the same chipset (Edimax) as well as with a Wi-Fi card based on an Atheros chipset (Linksys) in order to compare the performance with the TEW-633GR.
And again we have to note that the TEW-672GR is inferior to its opponent. The Gigabit Ethernet router with Draft N support has no advantage when it comes to wireless connection speed.
Finally we tested the router’s coverage at different distances and with different obstacles. We measured the signal level in five points:
Point 1: Near the router
Point 2: At a distance of 4 meters without obstacles
Point 3: At a distance of 5 meters + two thin gypsum wallboards
Point 4: At a distance of 6 meters + one brick wall, about 30cm thick
Point 5: At a distance of 17 meters + one thin gypsum wallboard and two 30cm brick walls
Here are the results:
The TEW-633GR wins the last test, too. The TEW-672GR had a nearly zero speed at the last point, which is bad. It means the TEW-672GR is inferior to the TEW-633GR in every performance-related test. We guess this is all due to the relatively cheap hardware solutions as well as to imperfect firmware. We doubt the developer will be able to increase the router’s performance dramatically but perhaps its firmware can be improved so that the router was up to the high-end class it is positioned into.
Frankly speaking, the TEW-672GR router turned out a disappointment. Notwithstanding the good exterior design, it has imperfect firmware that lacks such basic functions as a system log. The lack of an integrated Help system may be inconvenient as you have to refer to the user manual for any information you may need.
Well, the router was tested with the first version of its firmware. First versions are likely to have various issues which are later solved by the developer. But while the functionality of the TEW-672GR may be improved with firmware updates, its speed can hardly become much better. It is only with the release of a new hardware version of the router that we may see a considerable growth of its performance.
Anyway, you shouldn’t hurry to buy TEW-672GR. Trendnet currently offers a better model, TEW-633GR, which is even a little cheaper. And even if you need your router to support the 5GHz frequency band, we’d recommend you to consider other solutions available in the market today.