Cheap as chips router replacement?
If, like me, you’re a Virgin Media customer, then you probably get quite fed up with their “Superhub” which they insist on forcing on all customers.
Not only have there been several network wide errors relating to the “Superhub”, but it also has trouble doing anything more than the simplest of tasks.
Thankfully it works quite well when operating in modem mode, which allows users to connect their own third-party router rather than using the routing features that are built in.
Doing so allows you to easily connect a third-party router such as TRENDnet’s TEW-712BR wireless router, which can help solve a multitude of problems.
Of course, the TEW-712BR is not the only such router out there, there are tons of different models to choose from, with a whole list of different features and a huge range of price points.
This model is routed firmly in the “budget” area of the market, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth considering, especially if your requirements aren’t that great.
Read on to find out more…
Out of the box
The TEW-712BR isn’t too bad to look at. The piano-black finish gives it a high quality look without going over the top.
People will always be divided when it comes to high gloss finishes. Personally, I like them, but I know others who will be swayed away from such products through fear of them becoming finger print magnets.
On the back of the router you’ll find four 100Mbps network ports as well as a 100Mbps WAN port for connecting to your modem. To the right of these ports you’ve got the power jack and an on/off toggle button. To the far left you’ve got a single WiFi aerial for the built in 150Mbps wireless access point.
To the front of the router you’ll find a series of LED indicators for each of the LAN ports, WIFI, Internet activity and power.
One thing that struck me was how small and light this router is. It might not have all of the latest features (we’ll get to that later), but it’s one of the smallest and most discrete home routers that I’ve seen.
Also included in the box you’ll find a single Ethernet cable, a quick start guide, the power supply and the product manual on CD.
Setting up and using it
To get yourself up and running with the TEW-712BR you’ll need to first put your existing modem/router into “modem only” mode. This strips out all of the routing functions of your existing device and allows you to connect up your own router to a designated LAN port (usually indicated by being a different colour).
Once you’ve done that, it’s just a case of connecting the TRENDnet router to your “modem” via the WAN port and then connecting any devices on your home network to the LAN ports. Fire it up and it should auto-configure based upon the information passed to it from the modem.
The first time you access the web interface, you’ll be taken through a wizard which confirm with you the various settings for your home network:
When I was setting this unit up on my home connection I didn’t have to change any settings during the initial configuration (short of changing the admin password for the router). Most people will be in the same boat, though you do have the option to change various WAN, LAN and WiFi settings if you wish.
I wasn’t expecting much from this router when it comes to wireless throughput or signal strength.
I mean, look at that aerial, it’s tiny when compared to some other devices on the market.
Fact is, the TEW-712BR provides a consistently stronger and faster WiFi connection than the Virgin Media Superhub. I have a rather modest home, but the Virgin connection would still drop down to one or two bars depending on how far I was from the Superhub. With TRENDnet’s router, I might drop down to four bars if I’m very unlucky. It was the same whether I was using my iPhone, a tablet PC, my laptop or a wireless dongle plugged into one of my test rigs.
Not only this, but file transfers between devices were generally quicker than when using the WiFi built into the Superhub, even though both devices are rated as having a maximum throughput of 150Mbps.
One last point, the TEW-712BR comes with WPS technology, which allows you to connect compatible devices by pushing a special button on the side of the router, rather than worrying about WiFi keys. This is a feature that is appearing on more and more WiFi enabled devices these days, so it’s nice to see it included here.
As mentioned previously, this router features four 100Mbps LAN ports for connecting PC’s, printers and storage devices using an Ethernet cable. Unfortunately, this is one area where the Superhub has TRENDnet’s offering beat. The Superhub features Gigabit Ethernet ports, which are 10 times faster than the ones in the TEW-712BR. That being said, this shouldn’t affect web browsing as most domestic connections are still well below 100Mbps.
What it will affect is data transfer between connected devices. So, if you have all your media stored on a network storage drive, then it could take around ten times as long to transfer large amounts of information. This assumes that both devices have Gigabit Ethernet connections as well, obviously.
The TEW-712BR doesn’t have an amazing feature list, but the features is does have are presented well by the web interface and work well.
One of the more common routing requirements, port forwarding, is easy to set up. Dynamic DNS is also supported, which means this router would be well suited for accessing resources on your home network from elsewhere on the Internet.
Popular VPN protocols are also supported and can be turned on/off, so connecting to your office network from home should present few problems.
Other than these, and a few security related options, there’s not much to speak of in terms of configurable options.
There’s no guest wireless network available, and no time based filtering to stop the kids playing around on the Internet 24 hours a day.
These are features that are becoming very common on home routers these days, so it’s a shame that they’re missing from this one.
One thing that does stand out from the spec sheet is that the TEW-712BR can make use of open-source firmware, which would perhaps give the user a greater deal of control over how they use it. Of course, TRENDnet are quick to point out that any such action would void the product warrenty, so on your head be it.
|Standards||IEEE 802.3 (10BASE-T), IEEE 802.3u (100BASE-TX), IEEE 802.11b|
IEEE 802.11g, Based on IEEE 802.11n technology
|WAN||1 x 10/100Mbps Auto-MDIX WAN port (Internet)|
|LAN||4 x 10/100Mbps Auto-MDIX LAN ports|
|WPS Button||Enables Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) function (Hold for 3 seconds)|
|Power Switch||On/Off power switch|
|Connection Type||Dynamic IP, Static (fixed) IP, PPPoE, PPTP, L2TP|
|Supported Web Browsers||Internet Explorer 6.0 or above, Firefox 2.0 or above, Chrome, Opera, Safari|
|Internet Access Control||MAC Address Filter, Domain/URL Filter, Protocol/IP Filter, Virtual Server, DMZ host, UPnP, PPTP/L2TP/IPsec VPN pass through|
|Management / Monitoring||Local/remote configuration, upgrade firmware, Backup/Restore configuration via Web browser, Internal System Log, Syslog, E-Mail Logging, Ping Test Tool, Dynamic DNS|
|LED Indicators||Power, LAN1 – LAN4, WAN, WLAN|
|Power||Input: 100~240V AC, 50~60Hz|
Output: 5V DC, 1A
|Power Consumption||3 Watts (max)|
|Dimensions (L x W x H)||158 x 109 x 34 mm (6.2 x 4.3 x 1.3 in)|
|Weight||204 g (7.2 oz)|
|Temperature||Operating: 0° ~ 40°C (32° ~ 104°F)Storage: -10°C ~ 70°C (-14° ~ 158°F)|
|Humidity||Max. 95% (non-condensing)|
|Frequency||2.412 ~ 2.484 GHz ISM band|
|Antenna||1 x 2dBi fixed dipole antenna|
|Media Access Protocol||CSMA/CA with ACK|
|Data Rate||802.11b: up to 11 Mbps802.11g: up to 54 Mbps802.11n: up to 150 Mbps|
|Output Power||802.11b: 15dBm (typical) @ 11 Mbps802.11g: 17dBm (typical) @ 54 Mbps802.11n: 18dBm (typical) @ 150 Mbps|
|Receiving Sensitivity||802.11b: -85dBm (typical) @ 11 Mbps802.11g: -68dBm (typical) @ 54 Mbps802.11n: -62dBm (typical) @ 150 Mbps|
|Encryption||64/128-bit WEP (HEX/ASCII), WPA /WPA2-PSK, WPA/WPA2-RADIUS|
|Channels||1-11 (FCC), 1-13 (ETSI)|
The TEW-812BR doesn’t have a long list of features, but the ones that it does have it does perfectly adequately.
Wireless performance is as good as any other 150Mbps device that I’ve used, and as mentioned previously; far better than that of the Virgin Media Superhub.
That being said, with a restrictive list of features the TEW-812BR has only one redeeming quality: the price.
You can pick one up online for less than £25 online, which makes it one of the cheapest home routers available to buy.
At that price, it’s no surprise that it doesn’t feature the latest and greatest in technology. But a lot of people wouldn’t be interested in all of that anyway, and could end up needlessly shelling out money for features they’ll never use.
One feature that I haven’t mentioned previously is the TEW-812BR’s green credentials. It’s maximum current draw is only 3W, which is great considering that this is a device intended to be left turned on 24/7.
I’d recommend this router for anyone who is having issues with their existing ISP-supplied router. It might not have all the features of your original router, but it does seem to offer a rock solid base for your home network, which can be just as important a huge list of product features.