Edimax is a networking hardware vendor that’s not well known in the U.S. market, but I’ve been seeing a number of interesting products from the company of late, such as the Edimax AC1200 Wireless Concurrent Dual-Band Router and the excellent Edimax AC1200 Wireless Dual-Band USB Adapter. The Edimax router and adapter both registered some of the fastest wireless throughput I’ve seen in my testing. The Edimax N600 Universal Dual-Band Wi-Fi Bridge is Edimax’s latest product to catch my eye. This unusual-looking device lets you connect Ethernet-only devices to Wi-Fi and stream audio via a back-panel jack. While it’s got that oh-so easy setup of Edimax’s other products and a quirky, conversation-inspiring design, throughput takes a hit when a device is connected to this bridge rather than to a router.
Specs and Design
This is the oddest networking device I’ve seen, and that’s not necessarily a negative: The bridge is shaped like a mini-megaphone with a flattened end. The end is the rear panel, which has the port connections including the power button, a Fast Ethernet and a Gigabit Ethernet port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a WPS/Reset button. And by the way, the device is black and orange—not your typical network device color scheme!
The N600 is a dual-band device that supports 802.11n and up to 300Mbps at the 2.4 GHz band and 300 Mbps at 5 GHz. 64/128-bit WEP, WPS-PSK, WPA2, and 802.1x authentication are all supported.
There are two internal 5dBi antennas. The device is rather small and lightweight measuring 3.74 by 3.81 by 3.93 inches (HWD) and weighing 8.8 ounces.
The bridge’s specs start at a disadvantage compared with other wireless bridges available on the market. Unlike the Linksys WUMC710 Wireless-AC Wi-Fi 5GHz Universal Media Connector Bridge with 4-Port Switch the Edimax bridge only has two Ethernet ports (and one is Fast Ethernet, not even Gigabit), whereas the Linksys bridge has four Gigabit Ethernet ports and supports 802.11ac (although the Linksys bridge does not support the 2.4 GHz band). The specs of the Edimax bridge are a little dated compared with those of other bridges on the market.
Edimax uses a similar setup process across its line of products, called iQ setup. This makes setting up the company’s network products extremely simple. The bridge ships with a hard copy quick installation guide and a disc with user manuals in multiple languages. Also in the box is an access key card which has the URL for accessing the bridge’s management interface, as well as the default IP address of the device and the login information to get into the interface. The card details the preconfigured SSID information (the bridge ships with its own wireless network setup) and the MAC address for each wireless radio.
The iQ setup method involves powering up the bridge and waiting for the LED light located on the front of the device to flash red. Once it does, you connect to the bridge’s wireless network via a laptop or other wireless client and access the interface.
The interface opens to a page which has an image of the bridge and a big, blue “Get Started” button. The interface is clean and simple to use. After you click “Get Started” a chart of all wireless networks in range is displayed. Simply click the radio button next to the wireless network you want to bridge to and enter in that network’s passphrase. You can also opt to connect to an SSID that is not broadcasting by clicking the “connect to a hidden network manually” option.
The interface than shows the bridge performing a connection test with the network selected. Hit “apply,” the bridge reboots, and then it’s bridged to the wireless network—very easy setup.
Up to this point of the review process, I was quite impressed with the Edimax bridge, but performance disappointed me somewhat. To test bridges, I connect a NAS first to a router via Ethernet and time an upload and download of a 1.5GB video clip. I then do the same test with the NAS connected to the bridge’s Ethernet port.
An upload from my laptop to the NAS connected to the Edimax’s AC router took 2 minutes and 20 seconds; download time was 1 min 56 seconds. With the NAS connected to the Edimax Bridge, the time increased significantly: 3 minutes and 51 seconds for upload, and 5 minutes and 6 seconds for download.
Now, this is a bridge, not a repeater. A bridge simply delivers wireless connectivity to Ethernet-only devices. A repeater actually re-broadcasts a wireless signal. With a repeater, you can expect a loss in throughput; by almost half. You shouldn’t see substantial throughput loss with a bridge.
For example, the Linksys WUMC710 actually improved upload speed from a wireless client to a NAS connected to it via Ethernet, versus the same NAS connected to Linksys’ Smart Wi-Fi AC 1750HD Video Pro EA6500 router. When connected to the router, the upload time was 2 minutes. When connected to the WUMC710 that time was cut a tad down to 1 minute and 42 seconds. Not a huge difference, but enough to make an impact while buffering video or if you have multiple computers and devices connected to the network. Buffalo’s Airstation AC1300/N450 4-Port Gigabit Dual Band Wireless Ethernet Bridge (WLI-H4-D1300) actually improved upload time to 2 minutes faster over connecting to Buffalo’s AirStation router.
Not Exactly Troubled Water
Edimax’s bridge offers a great setup and a unique design. It can work fine as a bridge but not for devices that are performing HD video streaming or for wirelessly copying large data files. However, the throughput it registered is fine for streaming music via the audio jack. If you want a relatively low-cost bridge, (with the Edimax listing $69.99 versus the Linksys WUMC710 listing at about $160) and your main goal is to use it as part of a music streaming solution, it would make a good device choice. For NASes, video streaming, and any really demanding tasks, you are going to want a higher-end bridge such as the Linksys WUMC710 or Buffalo’s AirStation to use with a premium dual-band router. The Edimax N600 Universal Dual-Band Wi-Fi Bridge scores three out of five stars.
While we don’t have a current Editors’ Choice for bridge-only networking hardware, take a look at the Buffalo or Linksys for more robust bridging capability.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc