There are plenty of low-priced routers available that offer a basic home network setup, sometimes with surprisingly good performance. But the manufacturer often cuts a few corners to keep costs down when creating a product such as the Sitecom Wireless Media Router 300N WL-350, putting less attention on the help files, user interface, or fitting non-essential extras such as gigabit ethernet.
Sitecom has cut few corners with the Sitecom Wireless Media Router 300N WL-350. Even the packaging has had attention lavished upon it, with three separate sections for the router, manuals and cabling made from plenty of strong cardboard. Although not the greenest approach, this certainly keeps it well protected. The router itself is similarly robust, with a tough plastic chassis and no external aerials.
The Sitecom Wireless Media Router 300N WL-350 is very small, with bright blue activity LEDs on the front. As is standard on most domestic routers, the 300N has four LAN ports, here specified for gigabit ethernet speeds. The WAN port is also gigabit, which will become essential when broadband speeds exceed 100Mbps. There's also a single USB 2.0 port on the side for connecting hard disks, and a WPS button (which Sitecom calls One-Push Setup, or OPS) to quickly set up a secure wireless network.
It supports up to four wireless networks at 2.4Ghz and another four at the less congested 5Ghz frequency, although we can't think of a situation where we'd need so many. At each frequency, you could create both a standard and Guest wireless network, if this is something you consider useful. When the Sitecom Wireless Media Router 300N WL-350 is first switched on, both its default networks are protected with WPA2 security.
We had no trouble navigating the Sitecom Wireless Media Router 300N WL-350's on-board web interface to adjust settings. The Home page gives an overview of every aspect of the device, while under the Basic header are all the network settings. The firewall gets its own menu, with settings to adjust the virtual server, web filter, port forwarding and basic parental controls, while everything else such as dynamic DNS, static routing and MAC filtering is clumped under the Advanced Settings header.
You can also create users, share specific folders on external USB hard disks, and adjust their access permissions.
There are different Quality of Service (QOS) settings for various types of data. The 300N has a technology Sitecom calls Stream Engine, which it says uses a dedicated chip built into the router to analyse the network traffic, and prioritise HD video streaming to one computer, while another is playing online games, without the video pausing or the game performance dropping.
Wireless Intelligent Stream Handling (WISH) is also supported, which lets you choose whether to prioritise video streamed over HTTP (such as YouTube videos) or video streamed to other computers on your network, such as a Windows Media Centre. However, testing the effectiveness of these settings was tricky, since our 50Mbps broadband connection was rarely saturated.
We're pleased to see that in our wireless testing, the 300N approaches the best performing routers we've reviewed at 2.4GHz, at least at short range. We measured an average throughput of 86Mbps at a distance of 1 metre, with higher peaks during the transfer.
At long range, through two solid walls, it still managed 23Mbps, slightly below what we've seen from other premium routers.