Home > Product Reviews > Router Reviews > Linksys Etherfast BEFW11S4 Review

Linksys Etherfast BEFW11S4 Review

Highs

  • Easy to setup and configure

Rating

Our Score 8
User Score 7

Lows

  • Can recieve interferance from some 2.4GHz phones
Wireless technology has come a long way, and Linksys has done a bang up job of bringing it to the average household computer user.

Summary

The Linksys BEFW11S4 Etherfast ® Wireless AP + Cable/DSL Router is an incredibly easy to use wireless device. After using this router and looking back at my previous bouts with wireless technology, I am simply amazed. Wireless technology has come a long way, and Linksys has done a bang up job of bringing it to the average household computer user. For the average computer user, this wireless router will be a good choice. However, I would be lying to you if I told you it was perfect, indeed there were often momentary lapses in connectivity and, as with all wireless devices, security is still very much an issue. I have heard that problems stem from the USB receiver and not the router itself. Another downside is that the router felt cheap in its plastic casing. But, compared to its peers in the wireless network market it stands alone in bringing an easy to use network to your home or office. The Linksys site often has firmware updates that address problems so check frequently. A truly wireless network connecting your families or offices’ computers together would be a dream come true. It seems like every company under the sun, in the past few years, has tried to come out with their own way of setting up a wireless network. I myself have tried two different wireless network gizmos: The Diamond Homefree network, and Intel’s Any Point Home RF wireless network (both were 2.4 GHz devices, which is the same frequecy as a wireless phone.) Both did what they said they would do but with a bonus of tons of bugs and even more restrictions. These two previous devices tried to connect to the internet through a host computer, which required you to have the “Gateway” computer on which was often inconvenient. Additionally, for whatever reason, the only programs that worked over these networks were those that were certified. Things are now changing. The IEEE 802.11b wireless standard has made a wireless network not only a cool concept, but one that works as expected.

The Linksys Wireless AP (Access Point) Model # BEFW11S4 does a very good job of bringing this standard to the average PC user. In addition to acting as a wireless AP it also functions as a standard Cable/DSL router and 4 port switch. Using the IEEE 802.11b wireless standard, it provides a very reliable connection with incredible range. (Linksys says 91m indoors & 457m outdoors, however I did not have the chance to test these claims) It provides numerous options for network administrators, such as blocking specific internal users’ access through filters. Also, it is capable of 128-bit WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) protection. 

This wireless router was my first go around with a router of any sort, and my previous experience with networking had been fairly small, yet the installation and setup seemed extremely easy to me. When attempting to install it I first glanced through the quick install sheet, but the quick install sheet was very little help to me. So, I decided to tackle the included book. As a newbie, this book was a daunting size. By this time the whole task seemed daunting because of my own nerves about doing this alone. I flipped it open and to my surprise it provided easy-to-follow instructions and clear explanations. The installation of the main router unit was as simple as plugging it in. All other configuration I did from my computer one floor up. Once I had the router itself installed I tucked the wireless network card unit under my arm and rushed up the stairs. I fired up my computer and went to work installing the included software, restarted my computer and then plugged in the USB network “Card”. From here I followed the instructions in the manual on how to setup the network, which was again very easy. Finally, the manual told me to continue the configuration through a website on my computer. I couldn’t believe my eyes. They wanted me to go to the website to configure, on THIS computer, already? So I started up my browser and boom, it just worked. Using the online network wizard I plugged in the basic information that my ISP had provided me (IP, Domain, etc.). Setup of the Linksys W11 is done through your browser and feels very intuitive.

After the very easy installation which took all of 15 minutes, I ran a bunch of tests that I was sure would bring the wireless network to its knees. Again, I had used two previous wireless network gizmos, and both were very finicky. I played all the computer games I had installed (Unreal Tournament, Age of Empires 2, StarCraft, Diablo 2, and Red Faction) on-line and all of them worked flawlessly. I sent and received files through ICQ without any trouble. In short, everything just worked, it was a dream I couldn’t believe it. With the PCMCIA card and a laptop, I was able to move to any room in the house and flawlessly surf the net. The wireless PCMCIA adapter even worked outside on the back porch! 

There are a couple of downfalls that you should take note of when using this router, like its inability to handle many computers. This usually isn’t a problem for home users, but for a small business it may be a problem. Unlike a switch these wireless access points pass all data to all computers connected to them. This is much like a hub except that a hub will give you 10 or 100 megabits to play with; these wireless networks do not have that much bandwidth to begin with. So, if you’re looking for performance between computers behind your firewall this isn’t the device to be using. It also has substantial packet loss as compared to its wired relatives of cat5. This packet loss would probably only give you some speed problems, but because most games use UDP to transfer the packets you could run into some problems over distances and through walls. In case you do not know, most internet activity is done via TCP, which is an acknowledged transfer. If a packet that is expected doesn’t arrive, it is simply sent again. With UDP this isn’t the case at all, if the packet doesn’t arrive, that’s just too bad. So, with the regular tolerance of loss on these wireless networks, true gamers may notice that they are getting packet loss on their new wireless networks if they are of any distance from the access point. Packet loss will of course increase as you get farther and farther way or as you go through more fixed objects like walls and floors. There are other minor downfalls, but for the most part the good outweighs the bad for most people. 

In conclusion, The Linksys BEFW11S4 Etherfast ® Wireless AP + Cable/DSL Router is an incredibly easy to use wireless device. After using this router and looking back at my previous bouts with wireless technology, I am simply amazed. Wireless technology has come a long way, and Linksys has done a bang up job of bringing it to the average household computer user. For the average computer user, this wireless router will be a good choice. However, I would be lying to you if I told you it was perfect, indeed there were often momentary lapses in connectivity and, as with all wireless devices, security is still very much an issue. I have heard that problems stem from the USB receiver and not the router itself. Another downside is that the router felt cheap in its plastic casing. But, compared to its peers in the wireless network market it stands alone in bringing an easy to use network to your home or office. The Linksys site often has firmware updates that address problems so check frequently.

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