Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti 802.11n wireless router review

The Buffalo WZR-G300N Draft 802.11n specification wireless router, access point and bridge is, for some strange reason, more commonly called the AirStation Nfiniti by the Buffalo press office folk we have spoken to.

The key bit being that 11n at the end of the specification number, because this is the new all singing, all dancing super Wi-Fi that is meant to take us into an age of reliable media streaming around the home.

Well, at least, it might be once the various bodies responsible for such things can actually agree the specification and get it properly ratified. For now we are left with the draft version, which doesn’t include all the advanced technology of the real thing. Which means no "spatial streaming" using at least two data streams per channel, and two channels at once, to increase performance while dropping back to just a single channel when not needed so as to reduce possible interference problems.

Still with us? What you do get though is a multiple antennae array that can ensure the strongest signal is sent where needed at any given time, and in the case of the Nfiniti this means a router that looks like the resulting of a bizarre networking kit mates with reindeer incident.

It is not a pretty piece of kit, but it is a secure one. As well as a built-in firewall, you get the latest WPA-PSK with TKIP or AES encryption. In plain English: it stops the neighbours from using the Internet connection that you are paying for.

Being a Buffalo, you also get the AirStation One-Touch Secure System button. AOSS does away with all the complexity of setting up a secure router, and leaves you just pressing a button and telling the router and remote device to sort it out between themselves.

The proof of any wireless pudding, and it’s a term that pretty much sums up the draft 802.11n kit we’ve seen so far, is in the testing.

So test we did, and then some. Using a matching Nfiniti CardBus (WLI-CB-G300N) adaptor to give it every chance of performing to the max, we set about copying 100MB of assorted data between our desktop PC physically hooked up to the Nfiniti Wi-Fi router and our notebook PC which wasn’t.

At close range, with the notebook in the same small room as the router and no more than a couple of metres away, the performance was stunning. Not as stunning as the hype about 802.11n would have you believe, there was no 270Mb/sec data transfer happening here.

However, the 58Mb/sec we did see was faster than any other wireless router to pass through our hands, and a lot have we can tell you.

To put that in perspective, the average top spec MIMO wireless router averages around 30Mbps in exactly the same position here. Things slowed a little when the range was extended by moving the notebook a couple of rooms down the hall, 15 metres away from the router but still on the same floor. But the speed of 49Mb/sec was still impressive enough and rock steady at that.

Then we had to go and try something silly, after all who could possibly want to use their notebook 30 metres away from the router, and upstairs at that? Anyone would think that wireless networking was invented for just such a scenario, the way we are going on about it.

Anyone but Buffalo that is, because unfortunately the Nfiniti was having none of it. The connection was so unstable that we were unable to complete the data transfer test, and the maximum speed we did get a fleeting glimpse of was just 4Mb/sec.

Of course, Wi-Fi is notoriously unpredictable when it comes to working in different environments, and you may find that the upstairs and across the hall thing works just fine for you. For us it didn’t, despite other older wireless technologies such as MIMO managing OK.

Verdict

The WZR-G300N might go to Nfiniti, but certainly not beyond if that includes our upstairs room.

The problem being that this is a draft specification, and one that is liable to change at that. We recommend holding back until the specification is more mature and there is more kit out there to choose from.

Unless you really must have the latest gear, in which case it goes like the wind if your demands are not too heavy in terms of distance.