Published on December 3rd, 2011 | by Greg0
TRENDnet Brings Speed To Your Media Center
Speed matters. We've discovered this again through our last few days, as we relocate to New York City's West Village! We're going to miss the Mission, the sunny San Francisco weather, the old winery that offered a sense of history. But it was time to move on to a quicker pace, and where better than Manhattan? I'm sure you'll notice changes as we adjust to the new climate (and not just a renewed focus on cold weather clothing to keep out the chills). But one thing won't be different: we like our networking equipment to be zippy.
TRENDnet's 450 Mbps Dual Band Wireless-N HD Media Bridge (TEW-680MB) is the perfect addition to your home network, if you fulfill a few basic requirements. First, you'll need to have other existing gear to really get the most out of it- if your router isn't also a dual band, wireless-N, 450Mbps model, you won't see the performance gains that you might. Also, it's important that your network need expansion- if you don't have a media center, with gaming consoles or a Roku or other connected media player, then you might be able to pass this one by. We have all three major gaming consoles, as well as a library of media players, an Internet-connected HDTV, and Blu-ray players as well. And our primary router continues to be the TRENDnet we reviewed earlier this year, though we do recommend the Linksys E4200 and it's similar feature set but superior interface.
But our router has always been a bit far from our media center area, with our projector and receiver and sound system. We've used switches to compensate for this, and ran ethernet cables around the floor. It was time to see how a wireless solution could work, and this one serves as a handy bridge, taking that dual-channel wireless signal and sending through up to four connected devices. We plugged in our consoles and the power cable, and let the box go to work. One touch of the WPS button on the box and router connected the pair, and pretty much immediately, with no other tweaking or setup, our Xbox and PS3 were online and seemed faster than before.
But we wanted real tests, so we also plugged in a laptop and did some speedtests, and noticed that our streaming speeds were definitely superior. Hardwiring through a switch is still preferable and guarantees the fastest speeds, but using your consoles built-in wireless isn't optimal- they can't really make use of your fancy new router with their normal default hardware. By adding this bridge, you give them a new lease on their networking lives, upgrading their range and speed without much fuss. We found the model a bit on the light side, and though no unattractive, certainly not quite sleek enough to blend in with your home media gear. It also must stand horizontally, as far as we could tell.
At $160, it isn't a bargain, but there simply aren't that many bridges in this class- most are limited to 300 Mbps, or are single-channnel. This is a solid pick, at $170 MSRP but available for under $100 on Amazon.