Gigabyte B49GU Router Review

What separates the Gigabyte B49GU apart from other 802.11g routers we have tested is the inclusion of business-class features.
What separates the Gigabyte B49GU apart from other 802.11g routers we have tested is the inclusion of business-class features.
What separates the Gigabyte B49GU apart from other 802.11g routers we have tested is the inclusion of business-class features.

Highs

  • 'Business class' features; speeds of up to 108Mbps; three mounting options.

Lows

  • Poor documentation; wirless dropout problems; speeds lower than expected.

DT Editors' Rating

Home > Product Reviews > Router Reviews > Gigabyte B49GU Router Review

Summary

With a host of advanced features, Gigabyte’s B49GU is a SOHO router with a lot of promise for business users. Unfortunately, its lack of quality documentation and its issue with wireless dropouts and a general lack of wireless speed make it a less than stellar performer.

Based on the Atheros 802.11g chipset that supports Extreme-G speeds of up to 108Mbps, the B49GU was just as disappointing and erratic as the very similar D-Link DI-624. As a wired router, the Gigabyte B49GU is a solid performer with a lot of useful enhancements. But when you dig deeper into its feature set and take the wireless performance, or lack thereof, into account, the B49GU looks like a good idea that was poorly implemented and rushed to market.

We had hoped for more from Gigabyte because they really do make some high quality components. However, one poorly performing product shouldn’t doom a company. Hopefully Gigabyte (or Atheros) will straighten out the issues with this chipset in the near future and come back with a stronger product.

Introduction

Known mostly for its enthusiast motherboards and graphics cards, Taiwan’s Gigabyte Technology is actually a manufacturer with a rather diversified product lineup. From laptop, desktop and small form factor computers to optical drives to LCD displays, Gigabyte has one of the broadest product ranges of the companies known to the enthusiast community. Gigabyte also has a diverse networking collection, with the majority of its newer products featuring wireless technology.

Gigabyte’s B49GU (also known as the GN-B49G – the “U” represents the U.S. model) is the company’s latest wireless broadband router. The B49GU is based on the Atheros 802.11g chipset and supports Atheros’ Super-G, a technology that allows for improved throughput on 802.11g networks. While standard 802.11g devices boast a 54Mbps maximum transfer speed, Super-G-enabled networks can reach a theoretical maximum of 108Mbps. Of course, as we have shown in reviews of other 802.11g products, such as the D-Link DI-624 which also uses Super-G technology, the maximum speeds are only theoretical numbers and real-world results are usually significantly slower.

Features and Design

As is the case with most other 802.11g SOHO routers, the B49GU features four wired Ethernet ports in addition to its wireless capabilities. The model is what we’d classify as average-size for today’s wired/wireless routers and can be placed horizontally on a flat surface or, with the included bracket, can be stood vertically or mounted to a wall. With a plain white top and a light grey bottom, the relatively featureless B49GU won’t win any design awards, but it also won’t look out of place in your office.


The B49GU can be mounted on a wall, stood up vertically, or laid horizontally on a flat surface.

Features and Design (continued)

Incorporated in the B49GU are many of the same features we have come to expect from wireless routers: WEP and WPA encryption; NAT and DHCP (obviously); port forwarding; DMZ hosting; and MAC address control. As a default, broadcasting of the wireless SSID is disabled – which is a good thing from a security standpoint, but might cause problems for some inexperienced users.

What separates the Gigabyte B49GU apart from other 802.11g routers we have tested is the inclusion of several business-class features that greatly improve its usefulness for small businesses and even home users. Besides the usual feature set mentioned above, the B49GU also includes advanced routing and security measures often only found in more expensive devices. On top of the list are advanced firewall features. The B49GU has ability to allow IPSEC, PPTP and L2TP VPNs through the firewall. Static rules can also be set to block or allow specific data through the firewall. The firewall also supports stateful packet inspection, a protection scheme that allows the device to examine packets coming in or going out through the network, which helps in the identification of DOS attacks or Trojan horses sending data over the internet.

The B49GU’s WAN configuration also allows for you to specify up to four WAN’s to connect to. At home this may be unnecessary because you probably only have one ISP – most likely a single cable or DSL provider. But for office environments, this helps with network redundancy. If your internet connection on your first ISP fails, the B49GU can then start using the second ISP, ensuring you uninterrupted internet service.

Another advanced feature of the B49GU is what Gigabyte calls “forced IP mapping.” This allows you to still keep using DHCP, but to force specific IP addresses to the specific MAC address of a device. This ensures that certain devices get the same IP address while other devices can get IP addresses assigned dynamically as they access the network.

Yet another feature incorporated into the B49GU is Dynamic DNS. This allows you to host a website with your home internet connection, even if your IP address changes often. The router allows you to link the router to one of four Dynamic DNS services such as http://www.dyndns.org/. When you do so, traffic destined for your web server will be routed to the right location on your network.

On the wireless side, the B49GU supports WDS (Wireless Distribution System) which allows the device to act as an access point bridging another wireless network. It also supports the use of RADIUS servers (Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service) which allows users to dial in remotely and authorize their use on the network.

And finally, the B49GU supports URL or IP blocking. The device will allow you to set up a table of IP addresses or key words that are blocked from access. This feature can be useful if you want to block access to certain sites or URLs with certain key words. Unfortunately, this feature could use a bit more work. It only allows you to block up to 10 different IP addresses or key words and when it does block a site, there is nothing that tells the user they are being blocked. The browser just keeps trying to access the site, and at times will display some data, like the screenshot of Microsoft.com below when we blocked the word “soft”. It would also be nice if the URL blocking allowed you to block specific IP addresses or MAC addresses. The feature also is either completely on or completely off. If you add a blocking rule and want to temporarily disable it you can’t – you have to delete the rule and add it back in later if you ever want it back.


URL blocking can disallow some sites, or in this case (Microsoft.com) it can just strip it down.

Setup and Management

Setup of the B49GU is generally as simple as most other SOHO routers. Much like other manufacturers are doing now, Gigabyte offers two setup wizards to walk you through basic setup. The “Smart Setup” button detects what kind of internet connection you have and connects your router to your ISP’s modem. If you have DSL with PPOE it can even detect that and prompt you for your username and password. The button labeled “Setup Wizard” allows you to fine-tune your LAN settings such as the IP address of your router and the range of addresses DHCP will assign.

But for wireless setup, you’re on your own in the sense that there is no setup wizard. And because of the layout, the wireless setup can be confusing to inexperienced users. One oddity of this setup is the fact that the layout allows you to enable both WEP and WPA encryption at the same time. Client computers wouldn’t be able to connect to a network with both algorithms in use at once. As you can see from the screenshot below, this can be quite confusing.


A strange occurance, the layout seemingly allows for both WEP and WPA to be turned on.

The main problem we had with setup of the B49GU was the poorly translated instructions. This was evident in both the printed and online documentation, as well as in the web-based management console. First time users may run into problems because the English instructions just don’t make sense in many cases. For instance, Gigabyte’s explanation of the setup wizard is: The “Setup Wizard” will direct you to inclusive the internet connection setup. The description of the management tool says “The “Management Tool” offer the other service of the Router for you.” As the screenshot below shows, the settings in the firewall management section are even more cryptic.


Gigabyte’s English instructions are often hard to follow, even for experts.

Besides the often unintelligible instructions, our other major setup issue was the fact that nearly every action required a reboot of the router. This was the case with the D-Link DI-624 but D-Link’s reboot time was minimal. The B49GU uses a 30-second timer after for most reboots, a 65-second timer for some wireless changes, and a 110-second timer after a firmware upgrade. This often-encountered long reboot time can be very annoying to say the least. One of the things that impressed us the most in our review of the Compex NP26G-USB was the fact that very few actions required a reboot. In the case of the B49GU, that is exactly the opposite as most actions require a 30-second wait for a reboot.


Every change in the management tool requires a reboot which can seem like an eternity.

The management console also suffered from a few inconsistencies such as some reboots happening automatically and some reboots requiring you to hit a “click to reboot” button and then a “reboot” button. The left side navigation had a few inconsistencies as well, with some links highlighting and underlining as you hover over them and some not changing in appearance at all. This certainly may be a small issue, but combined with the poor documentation and the often confusing menus, the B49GU management application looks like a product that was rushed to market.

Wireless Performance

Confusing setup menu aside, wireless access should be relatively easy to set up for anyone that has done it before. Our Macintosh and Windows laptops had no problem seeing the Gigabyte wireless network and connecting to it. However, we did experience an unusual amount of signal dropouts. At distances where other wireless routers reached with no problem, it seemed like the Gigabyte router just couldn’t get a consistent signal. This became troublesome as we often lost the signal at distances where we rarely lost it with other routers. We made sure to remove any possible sources of interference, but in the end, it just wasn’t a dependable connection.

When it stayed connected, the B49GU performed about on par with other 802.11g solutions, boasting a top speed of about 15.1 Mbps in normal 802.11g mode and only a slight improvement of about 23.4Mbps in Extreme-G mode, which is theoretically supposed to reach 108Mbps. This is quite a difference, and not even close to the top transfer speed recorded on the D-Link DI-624, which was able to reach over 45Mbps. Average transfer rates were about 13.2Mbps in 802.11g mode and 16.8Mbps in Extreme-G mode. Look for an article next week at Designtechnica that compares the transfer speeds of several of the latest routers, including the Gigabyte B49GU. The wireless connection icon in Windows XP Service Pack 2 would consistently show excellent signal strength at 54Mbps and even 108Mbps in Extreme-G mode, but those speeds were certainly never attained.

Another issue we had with the Gigabyte router was the time it took our notebook clients to find the network after they came out of standby. This was most evident in Windows XP clients, and the Service Pack 2 enhancements did nothing to improve it. This undoubtedly was an issue with the Gigabyte router and not the OS or laptop because the B49GU was the only router that took this long to reconnect. It often took more than two minutes to find the network with our internal Broadcom 802.11g card, when it took only a few seconds with the Compex router at the same distance.

Conclusion

With a host of advanced features, Gigabyte’s B49GU is a SOHO router with a lot of promise for business users. Unfortunately, its lack of quality documentation and its issue with wireless dropouts and a general lack of wireless speed make it a less than stellar performer.

Based on the Atheros 802.11g chipset that supports Extreme-G speeds of up to 108Mbps, the B49GU was just as disappointing and erratic as the very similar D-Link DI-624. As a wired router, the Gigabyte B49GU is a solid performer with a lot of useful enhancements. But when you dig deeper into its feature set and take the wireless performance, or lack thereof, into account, the B49GU looks like a good idea that was poorly implemented and rushed to market.

We had hoped for more from Gigabyte because they really do make some high quality components. However, one poorly performing product shouldn’t doom a company. Hopefully Gigabyte (or Atheros) will straighten out the issues with this chipset in the near future and come back with a stronger product.