As the home router market continues to get even more crowded it’s hard to know what else manufacturers can do to stand out. The SMC Wireless Barricade N Gigabit Router delivers an 802.11n wireless access point and Gigabit Ethernet router – fairly typical features in today’s mid-range routers. However they attempt to stand out by adding a USB port that can be used for either printer or scanner sharing.
Starting at the top installation was painless. After connecting to the Barricade N with Firefox 3 running under Windows Vista we ran through the Internet connection wizard. On point of minor confusion was that the Barricade N ships with a bunch of pre-configured settings for a number of ISPs. However none are Australian so you’ll still need to know the settings required by your ISP. If you’re on Bigpond Cable there’s support for their “heartbeat” so that the connection doesn’t dropout while you’re not actively using it.
Once the Internet connection was up and running we ran the Wireless Security Setup Wizard. The three-step process is designed for networking novices. Rather than using the annoying cacophony of different acronyms for the various wireless security options SMC uses “None” “Good” “Better” and “Best” as you choose between WEP WPA and WPA2. The last step in the wizard prompts you write all the settings or print a summary page. While not as nice as other routers that save settings to a text file to your computer it’s a “good enough” solution.
The third wizard to negotiate was for printer sharing. Our test printer a Canon Pixma ip4300 was detected although we did have to wait about 30 seconds after connecting till the router could detect it. One thing to note is that the USB port is on the front of the Barricade N and not the back with the LAN ports. This might be convenient for some but if you prefer to hide all you cabling behind the router it might be a little annoying.
The printer setup wizard copies an executable to your system that then runs printer setup on your computer. For this to complete you’ll need to have the driver disk for the printer handy. While the process was a little cumbersome the net result was that we had access to the full set of printer features such as in our case duplexing and CD/DVD printing.
In operation the Barricade N handled everything we threw at it. Wired and wireless connections with a Toshiba Portege R500 MacBook Pro and Eee PC 900 all just worked with no connection hassles.
The Barricade N has a dazzling array of advanced options. While we doubt that any one user will take advantage of all of them this router offers excellent flexibility. For example if you’re setting up an internal FTP or gaming server you can use the DDNS settings and virtual server options to configure a particular machine on your LAN for that purpose. What we liked was that enabling these settings was made easy by the Barricade N. Rather than having to check the machines on your LAN for their IP addresses the Barricade N provided lists of connected machines so you could easily choose which computers will be used for these purposes.
One other bonus was the Barricade N’s ability to be used with a scanner. It was possible to use for the router’s configuration tool with a scanner connected to the Barricade N. There’s support for flatbed and automatically-fed scanners.
File transfers over a wired connection were quick with a 350MB file taking less than 10 seconds to copy between machines. Over wireless connections this time blew out to about 8 minutes with the maximum speed hovering between 600 Kbps and 1 Mbps. There were no other network tasks in progress during this testing.
Wireless range while not brilliant was acceptable. Through a single wall and 2o metres we maintained a full strength connection with no dropped packets during our ping test. However beyond that distance signal strength fell away quickly and at about 30 metres we had no signal.
So would we buy the SMC Barricade N Barricade N Wireless Router? We couldn’t think of a feature it didn’t support and it was dead easy to have up and running. Wireless range wasn’t market-leading but it was certainly good enough. If you’re in the market for a new router then we’d recommend that you put this unit on your shortlist.