Buffalo WZR-RS-G54

If you've got a small office and need remote access, then the WZR-RS-G54 is a solid choice. For most home users, however, it's pure overkill.


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Editor's note: Uniden provided CNET.com.au with a pre-production model of Buffalo's WZR-RS-G54 to review. According to Uniden, the router was due to hit Australian shelves in April, but they have now decided NOT to launch this product locally. August 2005

Design
It would be a fair stretch to call any router pretty, and to be honest, that's not what you buy any router for, but in the WZR-RS-G54's favour is the fact that it's got a pleasant enough design, with very clear indicators for all of its function lights -- a step that many of its competitors miss out on. The base station is a vertically mounted chunk of silver plastic that should be able to be shoved into any handy corner -- so with the exception of diagnostics, you won't be looking at it anyway. If your wireless reception prohibits you from hiding it, however, you won't be stuck with a barren black box.

The back of the WZR-RS-G54 hides four separate ethernet ports, and a single port labelled WAN that's used for connecting up your ADSL connection. For the home environment that may cause some initial confusion, as many competing units specifically state which socket is for ADSL connection -- as always, it pays to read the manual. The top back of the WZR-RS-G54 includes a socket for installing an external antenna if required.

Features
Installing the WZR-RS-G54 involves plugging it into an existing ADSL modem and preferably into a PC, although it could in theory be configured wirelessly. The WZR-RS-G54'S setup screen starts off in a very basic manner, asking the user what type of connection -- DSL or cable -- is being used. From there, inexperienced users will want to cling quite closely to the supplied manual, as the WZR-RS-G54 pulls few punches and offers little in the way of hand-holding while you're setting it up. For what it's worth, the dialogs used are well laid out and it's easy enough to find where you need to alter particular settings, but this isn't really a router for the first-time user.

The WZR-RS-G54 also features a number of settings that are less likely to be of use for home users, except perhaps for those who operate a home office or do a lot of travelling and want access to their home PC on the move. Top of the list is VPN access, allowing the WZR-RS-G54 to act as a remote server, and, via its VNC software, to remotely control computers on your home network. Interestingly enough, while the configuration and explanation on the ground for every other network setting is as basic as can be, the VPN pages are lushly laid out and much easier on the networking novice than the rest of the product. Still, it'll take an inexperienced user a lot of work, and a not insignificant amount of sweat and swearing to get a VPN up and running.

The WZR-RS-G54 also supports Buffalo's AOSS system (AirStation One Touch Secure System) for simple and secure configuration of compatible wireless adapters. Additionally, the WZR-RS-G54 offers high speed connectivity that Buffalo labels as 125 High Speed Mode. There are a few catches here -- it's Windows XP only, and like every other manufacturer's high speed 802.11g offering, you've got to remain within the compatibility group in order to get the benefits of this speed of connection. If you're primarily using wireless connectivity to share an internet connection, the benefits of this kind of faster wireless will be less evident, but if you shuffle a lot of files around between PCs at home, it's a nice boost to be able to play around with.

Performance
Uniden supplied us with an AOSS/125 High Speed Mode compatible PC card to test with, and, if you are happy sticking to the one vendor, it's not a bad way to go. AOSS in particular is something of a pain-saving utility -- just install the Buffalo Client software, select AOSS and hit the button on the side of the WZR-RS-G54. Within a few seconds, the supplied card had found the access point and set itself up with a secure connection. It's worth noting, however, that if you're already using the WZR-RS-G54 wirelessly, the AOSS setup will overwrite your existing setup -- great for the system you're running with the AOSS card, but fatal to the net connection of other cards, until you update their parameters, as we found out running one Buffalo card and one Netcomm card concurrently.

The WZR-RS-G54 had reasonable performance in our testing in a Sydney suburban home, although we did find that even with the Buffalo high speed card, we more often than not couldn't get a high speed connection working. In testing in our US labs the WZR-RS-G54 performed in the middle of a pack of routers at best.

CNET Labs maximum throughput tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Throughput in Mbps
Netgear WGT624
47.1
Buffalo WZR-RSG54
37.1

CNET Labs maximum throughput tests with mixed 802.11b/g and MIMO clients
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Throughput in Mbps
Buffalo WZR-RSG54
25.3
Netgear WGT624
12.1

CNET Labs long-range tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Thoughput in Mbps measured indoors at 200 feet
Netgear WGT624
12.9
Buffalo WZR-RSG54
4.1

In most real world situations, it's probably got enough grunt for home users, but it's worth considering that faster alternatives are out there. In a home setting as well, you may find the VPN/VNC connection features to be pure overkill, and the lack of an integrated ADSL modem to be a shortcoming, but if you're setting up a home office with a particular need for remote access and strong security -- well, as strong as wireless security gets, anyway -- then the WZR-RS-G54 is a decent wireless router option.

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