Three and a half Stars
+ 3-year warranty
+ Low power use
- Time consuming set up
- No parental controls
- Lacks USB connections
Trendnet’s TEW 651BR router looks old school, with a traditional horizontal design and external antenna. But its stodgy looks don’t tell you about the three big things this router brings to the WiFi party: an easy to follow set up, a three-year warranty and an unbeatable price of $40. It might take a little longer to get online than the others, but for those on a limited budget, it’s worth it.
Like the others, the TEW 651BR comes with an AC adapter and Ethernet cable, but Trendnet thoughtfully adds a pack of four rubber feet so the router doesn’t scratch your furniture. Alternatively, it can be mounted on the wall.
Rather than using a memory key to do the hard work, the TEW 651BR asks you to plug a computer into one of the router’s Ethernet ports and type the router’s IP address into a Web browser; it’s 192.168.10.1. Once the client and router have made contact, click on the router’s start-up wizard at the bottom of the screen. The device takes over and guides you through the set up process.
The sequence is less automated and you can set the time zone, pick a password and select the type of Internet connection you have. When you’re finished, the router takes 30 seconds to restart. It fired up with a Web connection on the first try, but unlike the others, I wasn’t yet through with set-up.
Because the router comes with security turned off and with a transparent network name of TRENDnet651, I had to go back into the router’s set up screens and change the network name, as well as turn on security (up to WPA-2 encryption). It’s all simple and straightforward, but can be time consuming. For me, it took 12 minutes and 7 seconds to get online with the TEW 651BR, more than twice as much time as the Valet Plus or PlayMax required.
As is the case with the Valet Plus and Belkin PlayMax, the TEW 651BR has four wired Ethernet ports in the back as well as a reset button, but no USB connectors. The front of the router has LEDs for power, online connection, wireless, and activity status for the four wired connections, but like the Valet Plus and PlayMax, those connections peak out at 100Mbps. There’s a switch on the side for a one-button connection to a Wireless Protected Set Up device, but the TEW 651BR does not have parental controls as is the case of the Valet Plus.
Unlike the others, it has an antenna that can be swiveled and aimed to get the best signal. Unfortunately, it can’t be removed and replaced with a higher power antenna.
Trendnet’s GreenNet power saving technology promises to reduce power use by up to 70 percent by tailoring the device’s electricity use to the cables used and shutting parts of the system that aren’t being used. The router used 2 watts of juice, which is one-third the thirst for power as the PlayMax router. This translates into $1.92 a year in power costs.
Based on the TEW 651BR’s single-band technology, its performance and range were off the pace set by the Valet Plus. Its throughput was 33.7Mbps--9 percent less bandwidth than the Valet Plus delivered--and it lost contact at 115-feet from the router (five feet short of the Valet Plus). It allowed my computer to run high definition YouTube videos and Internet radio stations without a problem.
At just $40--less than one third the cost of the Valet Plus--the TEW 651BR is a bargain that is made even more appealing when you factor in Trendnet’s three-year warranty. Its set up may not be the quickest but its price more than makes up for this shortcoming.