Wi-Fi Buzzwords: Features to Look For
Draft-802.11n routers support an alphabet soup of really useful features including that are mostly missing from older, 802.11g models--features like UPnP, DDNS, WMM, WPA2, WPS, WDS, and DHCP address reservation. Here's why you should want them--and which of the products we tested have them:
DDNS (Dynamic Domain Name System): Solves the problem of most home users not having a fixed IP address. If you want to run a Web server, a Slingbox, or pretty much any remote-access service, you need some type of DDNS to keep tracks of your current IP address so your home network can be "found" on the Internet. Again, only the Apple lacked DDNS.
DHCP Reservation: Solves the same address problem within your LAN. It's extremely useful for making network printers, NAS drives, and other devices easily findable from within and outside your network. both inside and outside your network. You simply tell your router which IP address to reserve for each peripheral. All routers tested except the Belkin N had this capability.
UPnP (Universal Plug-and-Play): Makes it easier for network devices to "see" each other and work together. For example, a UPnP AV media player box connected to your TV can automatically recognize and stream video from a UPnP AV network storage drive. Only one router we tested, the Apple AirPort Extreme, lacked UPnP.
WDS (Wi-Fi Distribution System): Allows you to extend the range of your network wirelessly by adding access points. Also known as "repeater" functionality, WDS usually works only with equipment from the same manufacturer. The Apple and Netgear routers had this capability.
WMM (Wi-Fi Multimedia): Prioritizes voice and video streams over other data traffic on your network, helping to prevent dropouts and improving call and video quality. It is commonly referred to as QoS (quality of service) and is part of the 802.11n spec. All routers we looked at had WMM, but the two Linksys routers also had extensive customization capabilities, allowing you to prioritize specific applications.
WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access): With AES encryption is the strongest form of Wi-Fi security. WPA2 is part of the 802.11n hardware specification, making it the fastest encryption method to use with 802.11n, as well as the safest. All six routers we tested had WPA2 support.
WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Access): Eases connection of new devices to an encrypted network with a PIN or push-button setup. WPS must be supported by both the client device and the router to work properly. Only the Apple and Linksys dual-band routers lacked this feature. Linksys, however, expects to add WPS in a firmware update this summer.