Most British broadband ISPs are giving away wireless modem routers these days. While these freebies will be sufficient for most peoples' needs, there are some who need that little bit more. And that's where higher performance models such as the Sitecom Gaming Router WL-308 may be appealing.
To start, the Sitecom Gaming Router WL-308 uses the latest 802.11 draft-n technology to increase bandwidth to a theoretical 300Mbps. Note the ‘theory' here: as with all 11n products, real speeds will be far below this figure in practice, in the same way that 11b and 11g standards mean much lower real-life throughput than the 11 and 54Mbps that the headlines suggest.
Sadly for those wishing to rise above the 2.8GHz smog to the clearlands of 5GHz, as the 11n standard allows, you'll be thwarted by the single-frequency binding of the Sitecom Gaming Router WL-308 router.
The Sitecom Gaming Router WL-308 is a compact unit measuring only 180x110x28mm, despite the oversize gift box packaging which suggests something altogether heftier. Three detachable antennae protrude conspicuously from the rear, where you can also find one WAN port and four LAN ethernet ports, all specified to gigabit (1000MBps) operation.
To facilitate connection to a PC or laptop, the Sitecom Gaming Router WL-308 includes the increasingly-common Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) function, whereby you need only press a button on the router's top to start a connection to a computer, without messing around with the typing of passwords, etc. Earning the router its Gaming appellation is its ability to prioritise traffic according to use, so that game players who connect to other online users can ensure their data can queue-jump other domestic data through the router. The StreamEngine technology, licensed by Ubicom, should also ensure that VoIP and video streaming all attain good Quality of Service (QoS).
To access the setup controls of the Sitecom Gaming Router WL-308, you use the standard routine of a java-enabled web browser. Here you can drill into the many functions available, such as the in-built firewall, traffic filters and VPN passthrough. The graphical interface was initially found difficult to navigate as the view window was very limited, but after upgrading the router's firmware to v2.0 - an easy enough operation with a wired ethernet link - we were pleased to see that Sitecom had redesigned the interface, making it much more usable.
Less easy to configure are the Sitecom Gaming Router WL-308's bridge-mode settings. Most users will probably attach this router downstream of an ADSL or cable modem, and setting the router to bridge rather than network address translation (NAT) provides more transparent operation, negating the need to use port forwarding or UPnP to enable connections from the outside world. Unlike some wireless routers we've seen, there's no automatic configuration here after clicking the Bridge Mode button. You'll need to be a little au fait with your network to fill in the correct DNS server and default gateway details.
Changing the Sitecom Gaming Router WL-308's configuration also caused some issues when connecting with a MacBook Pro. We had to manually type in the router's SSID and encryption type, which then fixed the issue.
We found the Sitecom Gaming Router WL-308 could maintain the all-important strong, reliable connection. In a home environment with a laptop some 12m and two rooms distant, we found it could confidently stream 1,080p HD video without any dropped frames.