Linksys WRT160NL Wireless N Broadband Router

Published: January 18th, 2010

I bought my first wireless router about four years ago, one of the old-school blue and black boxy Linksys models picked-up on the cheap at Walmart. It’s hard to believe how far the company now known as Linksys by Cisco , and soon just Cisco Systems, has come in those few short years with the WRT160NL.

I’m not a techie; I’m a typical consumer and I found my old Linksys box anything but simple to install and configure. And once I had it going, it always seemed to just stop working within a month. Eventually I just gave up, stuck the router in a closet, and tethered myself to my desk. The old router is still there, next to a 10-year-old ThinkPad in my closet museum of out-dated electronics.

So usability and ease of configuration were top of mind for me when I unboxed the WRT160NL, Linksys by Cisco’s Wireless-N broadband router with Storage Link. First though, I need to comment on the design of this router. The days of boxy utilitarian designs are long over. Recognizing that routers no longer sit in the dusty corners of a home office but are moving into the living roomLinksys and other vendors have put a new focus and attention on design, something which was once an afterthought to engineering.

For Linksys, that means an end to the boxy old designs in favour of a sleek and shiny moulded black plastic design that won’t look out of place in the stereo cabinet. It features external antennas for added range, but can also be used with just the many small internal antennas for a sleeker look. The router’s black design goes well with my black HP desktop PC and other computer accessories.

Really though, looks mean nothing if the performance isn’t there as well. And along with the improved design, Linksys by Cisco has also improved the engineering inside the box. TheWRT160NL is a Linux-powered product, featuring a 400MHz processor, 8GB of memory and 32MB of DDRAM. It boasts two external R-SMA antenna connectors, and has a built-in USB port that allows you to easily add shared storage to your network and allows you to stream content to UPnP AV digital media streamers.

While with my past Linksys router I had a lot of difficulty with set-up and storage, this time it was a breeze with Linksys EasyLink Advisor (LELA). With the included CD, I was walked through a relatively simple install process step-by-step, enabled security, set my key, and was up and running in less than 10 minutes. Much improved from the older generation devices.

I also like the easy and graphical network management options that LELA offers post-install. With the LELA tool I can add wireless devices to my network, manage security, and even configure wireless home audio in an easy-to-use, graphical interface. With one click I get a graphical representation of my network, from my PC and laptop to my Nintendo Wii. I can designate endpoints as safe, set security, view connection status and diagnose problems.

It’s a much easier way to manage a network for a novice user, and I can see it becoming even more powerful and useful as we add more wireless devices to our homes, as companies such as Cisco build-out their Connected Home visions.

The Linksys WRT160NL Wireless N broadband router is available now at retail and through the Linksys by Cisco channel, starting at US119.99. And if your laptop isn’t compatible with the 802.11N wireless standard, you can get the speed boost of up to 12 times that the Wireless N standard enables with the Linksys Dualband Wireless N USB Adapter, also available now starting at $69.99.