The SMC WBR14-3GN gives average speeds for a router using its technologies and for its price range. But its support for 3G modems that plug-in via USB makes it a great product to consider for those who’d otherwise have had to buy a full-fledged computer and software to set up an internet gateway.
The SMC WBR14-3GN Barricade N Wireless Router 300Mbps (with a model number of SMCWBR14-3GN) can be your fail-safe gateway to access the internet. It is designed in the classic wireless router style, you’d be forgiven for thinking at first glance that this router is something from at least half a decade ago. The features it offers are not to be trifled with, but this router is resolute about wanting to be positioned in a horizontal sitting posture. It cannot be stood up vertically by itself nor is a stand supplied, and you cannot wall-mount it either.
The box in which this device is sold showcases its features. Besides the SMC WBR14-3GN wireless router itself and its power cable, the bundle includes a Quick Installation Guide and an RJ45 Ethernet cable. It operates over the normal 2.4 GHz radio spectrum. As you will see, this is not a bad product at all, but it is crippled by three factors. These factors are that the LAN ports are not Gigabit Ethernet (100 Mbit only), the USB port cannot be used with a storage device or printer, and there is no support of the 5GHz band for interference-free operation. Considering these, it would seem to be priced higher than we'd expect.
Tested in the PCWorld.in Labs
But then the SMC WBR14-3GN is an unusual product, with its uniqueness lying in its ability to uplink to the internet via a 3G USB modem. This is besides the normal methods of uplinking to a modem through a WAN Ethernet port or an existing wireless network. It can behave as a simple wireless Access Point (AP) and also as a router that keeps you connected to the internet through any means available. Until now, if you wanted to be able to fall back to a 3G USB wireless modem when your primary wired ISP has a problem, operating a whole computer as an Internet Gateway for both connections was the only option. Compared to that, the SMC Barricade-N WBR14-3GN is a far more economical solution both in terms of initial investment and the recurring expense of electricity bills.
Managing it is a snap, we tested this wireless router using an MTS Mblaze USB modem (also referred to as a dongle) and it worked just as well as it usually does when connected to a PC/laptop directly.
To get it connected, all you have to do is open the SMC WBR14-3GN's web-configuration page, enter the username and password provided by your ISP, the number to dial and restart the router for the settings to take effect. You can set it up such that traffic from within your LAN is routed through your primary wired internet provider, and when they are down it will “fail over” to the 3G connectivity as a backup connection and ensure continued access to the web for your users (it is aimed at businesses too for sure).
The “Budget Control” option can be enabled to track the bandwidth usage and to maintain records of the time periods when the router pressed the 3G modem into service. If your HSDPA card offers a fairly good monthly data transfer cap, you can also run the router in dual-WAN mode, thus giving it two uplinks and aggregating the bandwidth for sharing internet over WiFi or the 4 LAN ports.
Perhaps one laudable feature is the SMC WBR14-3GN's support of the 300 Mbps draft-N WiFi mode. So you can have your device (like laptops) communicating with the router at good speeds when in close range. You can select to run WiFi in 802.11 b/g/n mixed or exclusive mode. Two SSIDs can be setup, with differing security levels on each to help control what users on that “Network” can access. All of the usual expected settings are present for NAT, DHCP, Access Control, Stealth Protection, etc. SMC has even managed to work in support for more sites than the usual DDNS service (they go beyond the DynDns.org site).
First time configuration is easy and quick with a web-page based wizard that runs off the router since there is no CD supplied. The web configuration interface is well sorted and neat, finding the setting you are looking for is fairly intuitive. But the "Help" item is just one lengthy page, with no context-sensitive help or icons specific to sections. If you want help about something and you do not know the exact term you should be looking for, good luck with scrolling through the long Help page to get to an approximation of the setting you are looking for! Administering the router is pretty well provided for, with even multiple user accounts that can be created to give people varying levels of access to router settings.
Three buttons are present on the SMC WBR14-3GN router, labelled WLAN (for WiFI direct control), WPS (for quick pairing with devices that support Wireless Protected Setup) and 3G. There are 3 non-detachable antennae (2dB each), to provide for better signal strength and coverage area. As is usual, this router seemed to run a cut-down variant of the Linux OS, so it just might be supported by the DD-WRT project at some point.
On flat open ground/surface with no objects to come in between and no walls, just a green field – we saw a maximum range of 24m and wireless transfer speeds that are pretty good for a router at this price point. SMC offers a warranty of one year on this router.
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