If you don't need a fast, draft-n wireless network, the Linksys WRT54G2 is one of the best options on the market. This is mainly because it's so easy to set up, is a reliable performer, and comes with the convenient LELA configuration and monitoring utility. Plus, it looks good: it's black, sleek, and doesn't have any protruding antennas.
To set-up the router, you can either use the supplied software on the CD-ROM – LELA (Linksys EasyLink Advisor) – or just log-in to it via your browser. The second option is the quickest, but if you're not too comfortable with setting up a network, the CD-ROM option is recommended, even though it can take a few minutes for the configuration process to finish.
Unlike most current routers, the WRT54G2 wasn't able to detect our PPPoE connection automatically. We had to select it manually. This was the only blemish of the otherwise easy-to-follow set-up interface. After the Internet settings were entered, it then guided us through selecting the wireless network name and security settings.
Upon completing the wireless set-up, the LELA interface was installed, which provides a nice visual representation of your network. It shows you all the computers and network devices that are attached to your network, and even lets you identify and track intruders. Furthermore, you can log-in to your router and other devices' Web interface pages just by clicking on their icons and selecting 'Advanced Settings'.
Being an 802.11g router, it doesn't have ample bandwidth for network multitasking. You can either use it for streaming video to a single computer, or for transferring data to a single computer, but you can't use it to do both tasks simultaneously without one task taking a massive hit in performance. The router streamed a DivX-encoded movie effectively to our Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000, and it also streamed video to the EVA8000 without stuttering while also transferring data to a notebook PC.
However, performing that data transfer while streaming a movie meant that the data transfer was very slow – 1.49MBps. This suggests that the router is fast enough to allow an ADSL2+ connection up to 11Mbps to be used at its full speed while someone in another room is streaming a video.
While conducting a file transfer without any other activity on the wireless network, the WRT54G2 averaged 2.33MBps. This speed isn't fast enough to effectively distribute a very fast ADSL2+ connection, so if you currently get over 17Mbps from your Internet connection, you will greatly benefit from an 802.11 draft-n router.
As you can see from our performance results, if you only want a simple router that will distribute an Internet connection up to 11Mbps to a wireless laptop, and maybe stream the odd video to another wireless device at the same time, then the WRT54G2 will suffice. If you want to do more than that, or if you want a router that will be shared among more than two people, then you should look for an 802.11 draft-n product instead, such as the Linksys WRT160N, which also comes with LELA.
It's also important to note that the performance results we obtained were from a radius of 10m. The further the data has to be transmitted (and depending on the environment it's transmitted in) the slower the results will be.
Of course, apart from its wireless capability, the WRT54G2 has a four-port, 10/100 Ethernet switch, a built-in firewall with URL and keyword filtering, VPN passthrough for IPSec, PPTP and L2TP protocols, and port-forwarding and DMZ capabilities.