Published on July 24th, 2012 | by Greg0
EnGenius ESR600H Router: Solid, Unexceptional
Routers are the mostly-invisible nuts and bolts of the internet, holding everything together, sending your Netflix and Youtube video traffic from one spot to another, serving as monitors and policeman and mothers even. Stretched analogies aside, they're pretty important pieces of hardware, critical for any home network. And when considering which one to buy, you'll want to balance the usual priorities- price, speed, features.
We haven't seen gear from them before, but we were initially pretty impressed with the EnGenius ESR600H XtraRange Dual-Band Wireless-N Router. It looks similar to smany others, with two large antennas and a fairly small footprint and a sleek black, glossy appearance. Setup proceeded as usual, with both direct wired connections via gigabit ethernet as well as setting up a few different devices to use wireless-N and wireless-G 802.11 connections. iPhones, consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3, as well as Mac and PC laptops were setup to use the network, and we tested out large file transfers as well as streaming video.
The results were pretty decent, though not stellar- about ten percent or so slower than our other current routers, though with solid video streaming performance. 300 Mbps is quite good, and like most recent routers, this one can run in both the crowded but widely-support 2.4GHz band as well as the faster, less crowded, but not always-supported 5GHz band. Top-end gear can theoretically support 450 Mbps if you have adapters that will use it (few do, though we've seen some, including some with longer range). Compared to other recent routers from Cisco/Linksys and Belkin, two of our top-rated models, this one felt a bit less configurable, with fewer administrative options or tools. Weirdly, modifying most basic settings requires a complete reboot of the router, something few others require- not a big issue, but annoying nonetheless.
Note that we did appreciate the new firmware- most tests were run with the original manufacturer's firmware but recently an update did fix a few small bugs and offered at least a few boosts to speed, especially in the 2.4GHz band. The 100 mW of power isn't anything to laugh at, and we do like the built-in USB port for printers and hard disks- but we only tried the latter, which appeared to require some software installation, unfortunately. Plus, we did find that signal strength wasn't pushed here- we were able to connect to two of the three routers mentioned earlier farther away than the EnGenius. QoS (quality of service controls for advanced users who want to prioritize traffic) also is very basic; we missed open firmware like DD-WRT or Tomato and their many options for control and configuration.
But the price is reasonable- at just under $100, this is a competitive value proposition against some of the bigger names. We hope to see more from EnGenius in the future, and always appreciate innovation in the field- but this model doesn't quite bring enough to the table to recommend highly against a somewhat-crowded field of contenders.