AVM Fritz!Box 3390 review

AVM Fritz!Box 3390

Hopes were high for AVM’s latest 3390 wireless router. We’ve been looking forward to a more affordable mid-range model, ever since we first tried the German specialist’s flagship model – the all-singing, all-dancing Fritz!Box 7390. Its long list of functions includes about every setting you could think of, along with DECT cordless telephones management. See all Wi-Fi and networking reviews.

But we’ve been more disappointed by some following products, such as the 3270, which lacked gigabit ethernet; or the 3370, which irritatingly could only manage a single wireless frequency at once. But this new model, the Fritz! Box 3390 looked to be the router to establish AVM’s presence in the mid-range market. See also: Group test: what's the best wireless router?

It isn’t just the odd name or the unique silver and red plastic casing that helps AVM’s router line to stand apart from other networking equipment. There’s also the Fritz! OS interface, which is better designed and more advanced than most router software. It’s chockfull of settings to adjust your connection, or troubleshoot and diagnose any problems you might have. Even wireless ones. Take a look at our Apple AirPort Express 802.11n (2nd Generation) review too.

The 3390 has three internal antennae, a requisite of 450 Mb/s theoretical wireless speeds, and a built-in ADSL modem. As well as ADSL2+ this supports VDSL connections, making the 3390 one of the few routers on the market that can work as a single-box device for use with a BT Infinity fibre-optic line??Support for faster 802.11ac ‘gigabit’ wireless networking isn’t on the 3390’s list of features though. Its omission is more justifiable at this point in time – 802.11ac is still a ‘white-hot’ technology, built into only the most expensive routers and very few new laptops. The majority of today’s potential users are likely to be using 802.11n devices exclusively, for a while at least.

On the back are four gigabit ethernet ports, a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a connector for your phone line. There’s no separate WAN port for cable use, but you can sacrifice one of the four ethernet LAN connections for a cable modem.??In Standard mode, the 3390 creates a single wireless SSID, allowing connection from devices at either 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequencies, which we suspect will satisfy most users.

Switch to Advanced mode, and you can create individual SSIDs for 2.4GHz and 5GHz, should you need to separate them. This approach is the best way to cater for different user’s needs.

We’re pleased to see most aspects of AVM’s Fritz! OS software in place in the 3390. The Online Monitor shows how your connection is being used, at a router level, a great way to check for bandwidth-hogging programs running on the network.

You can fine tune interference compensation on a DSL connection, which may improve speeds or stability. There’s also a visual browser to check for congestion from other 2.4GHz or 5GHz networks within range of the 3390.

Once you’re hooked up to the internet, a further range of configuration options appear. Filters, or QoS settings are there, along with port forwarding and built-in VPN support.
?We tested the 3390’s performance at short, medium and long distances, at 1 metre, 5 metres and 10 metres respectively, with an outer stone wall sitting between the router and our test laptop at the longest range.

To measure transfer rates, we used a laptop to upload and download a file to a locally connected FTP server, at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies.

The results weren’t spectacular. At close range on 2.4 GHz, we recorded 91 Mb/s downstream (downloading to the laptop) and 73 Mb/s upstream.
?At longer range, it was a similar story of uninspired 2.4GHz performance. At 2.4GHz from 5 metres away, we saw 88 Mb/s downstream and 36.8 Mb/s upstream; and 77 Mb/s down and 16 Mb/s up at 10 metres.

Switching to 5GHz, with the laptop connected at an indicated ‘445 Mb/s’, speeds were better, but still rather disappointing compared with some of the speeds poossible with 11n.

Just 127 Mb/s downstream at close 1m range is less than half the speed we’ve seen from the fastest routers. At medium range this stayed close at 114 Mb/s but dropped off heavily at long range, to just 38 Mb/s at 10m distance.

Performance has never been the sole aspect of AVM’s routers, but since other router firms are now delivering decent 802.11n wireless transfer speeds, the 3390 looks like something of a tortoise in comparison.

AVM Fritz!Box 3390: Specs

  • Dual-band wireless modem router
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • 2.4 & 5 GHz simultaneous
  • 3 external antennae
  • 3.3 MIMO
  • 3x gigabit ethernet LAN
  • 2x USB 2.0
  • external power supply
  • 226 x 159 x 47 mm
  • Dual-band wireless modem router
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • 2.4 & 5 GHz simultaneous
  • 3 external antennae
  • 3.3 MIMO
  • 3x gigabit ethernet LAN
  • 2x USB 2.0
  • external power supply
  • 226 x 159 x 47 mm

OUR VERDICT

The middling wireless performance is our only real criticism of the Fritz!Box 3390. We’re pleased AVM has finally bundled every router function we need into a relatively affordable product. Dual-band wireless, via a single or separate SSID, guest access, three-stream MIMO, VPN support and a VDSL modem complete the package, along with other useful router settings. The Fritz! OS software is still the best graphical interface we’ve seen in a router, despite competing devices now giving it a real run for its money. AVM routers are usually pricier than the competition, but £120 isn’t a terrible price, especially if you have a BT Infinity connection and want a single box to handle all your network traffic. Admittedly, you’ll find routers with faster wireless speeds from other manufacturers, while 11ac is now upon us with units at the same price or less.

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