Steady Draft of N
By Andy Sim
Many AP manufacturers are doing their best to ensure that their latest hardware is forward compatible with the evolving 802.11n standard, currently hovering at the Draft 4.0 juncture. This effort is similarly applicable to the Draft 2.0 router we're about to review. EnGenius Technologies is probably better known for its enterprise networking solutions. However, this doesn't mean they're powerless to compete with the big boys in the consumer sector.
Four Times the Charm
The ESR-9710 is a draft-N compliant router, equipped with a 4-port full duplex Gigabit switch. Backward compatibility is not an issue, with support given to the older 802.11b and 802.11g standards. Besides sporting three 2dBi antennas, a single integrated Gigabit WAN port is provided for basic internet connections like your cable or ADSL modem.
Setting up the ESR-9710 isn't a difficult affair either. The web interface proved to be a straightforward tool with clear options on the left menu bar. Furthermore, a "Wireless Wizard" is there to guide users through the various encryption options like WPA, WPA2 or WEP for example. We've chosen to configure the router manually though based on the v1.1.04 firmware revision.
Looks Good, Performs Better
Humble as it may look with its simplistic white exterior, this MIMO-based AP actually packs quite a punch in the features department. EnGenius has wisely elected to use Ubicom's StreamEngine. By classifying a set of IP ranges and protocols under the engine's rules, users can prioritize media applications such as games or VoIP-calls over basic network connections to reduce latency.
Additionally, users who work with file transfers on clients like MSN Messenger would find the Port Triggering option handy as well. In short, you have the flexibility to provide the best bandwidth for your oft-utilized applications. Security is also top on the list for the folks at EnGenius. Besides the usual SPI/NAT firewalls, other security options like DMZ, IP filters and ICMP Blocking are provided as added protection against hackers.
For our tests, we've hooked up a compatible EnGenius EUB-9701 Ext2 Wireless N adapter to a laptop to act as the client. Looking at our Chariot and QCheck benchmark results, the EnGenius router was able to hold its own against D-Link's DIR-655 on many counts. At a range of 2 and 10 meters, the ESR-9710 tallied an average combined downlink throughput of 65.574Mbps and 51.948Mbps, compared to the DIR-655's numbers of 68.376Mbps and 54.422Mbps respectively.
The highest burst rate we've gathered for the ESR-9710 peaked at approximately 90Mbps. For the UDP streaming tests, the EnGenius router might not be a strong campaigner on data transfer speeds (320 seconds at 10m for a 1GB file), but its ability to sustain an almost lossless streaming process is noteworthy still.
The Finishing Line
Supporting a frequency band between 2.4GHz to 2.484GHz with a whole slew of feature sets, the EnGenius ESR-9710 is a versatile AP which suits both amateurs as well as serious peer-to-peer users in nearly every aspect. D-Link's DIR-655 may have edged it out slightly in the throughput tests, but at least the ESR-9710 is able to maintain a constant up and downlink throughput rates even with WPA and WPA2 encryption enabled. That's a reliability users can depend on and all you need is to fork out a reasonable sum of S$169.