Monday, 14 July 2014

LB-Link BL-WA320RE Review

Today I have the pleasure of reviewing the LB-Link BL-WA320RE
LB-Link is a fairly unfamiliar brand to me. They are a Chinese company established in 1997 and specialize in SOHO and SMB WLAN and Networking products according to their company profile. They only recently (2012) started launching and promoting the brand internationally so that may explain the sparse info available

 


Box comes with a fairly standard assortment of accessories,namely
1x LB-Link 300Mbps Advanced Wireless N Range Extender
1x 2-Pin Power adapter
1x Software CD

1x Instruction Manual ( Very sparse,not really a manual )

Specifications (from AVS Website)
Interface
One 10/100M Ethernet WAN port (RJ45) and Four 10/100M Ethernet ports RJ45
External power supply
9V-0.6A
Wireless standards
IEEE 802.11n, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11b
Antenna
3 x 5dBi detachable omni-directional (RP-SMA)
Power consumption
3W
Frequency
2.4 to 2.4835GHz
EIRP
<20dbm eirp="" p="">
Reception sensitivity
270m: -68dBm at 10% per
130m: -68dBm at 10% per
108m: -68dBm at 10% per
54m: -68dBm at 10% per
11m: -85dBm at 8% per
6m: -88dBm at 10% per
1m: -90dBm at 8% per
Wireless functions
WMM, wireless Apples' Mac address filtering
enable/disable wireless radio
enable/disable wireless SSID broadcast
AP isolation
domain login function
Wireless security
64/128/152-bit WEP, WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK
Certificates
CE, FCC
System requirements
Microsoft's Windows 98SE, NT, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8                                                               
Apple's Mac OS, NetWare, Unix or Linux
Operating temperature       
0 to 40°C (32 to 104°F)
Storage temperature
 -40 to 70°C (-40 to 158°F)
Operating humidity
10 to 90% RH non-condensing
Storage humidity
5 to 90% RH non-condensing

Having 4 Wireless LAN Ports,1 WAN Port and 3 MIMO Antennas and offering Wireless speeds of up to 300Mbps makes for a fairly well rounded Router. Interestingly the Box advertises it as having PoE capability which would be a big plus if true but I haven’t seen anything to confirm this capability.

Coming in at a price point of R375 from AVSupply this device is likely to become an instant hit if its performance matches what we’d expect from similar routers.

Also of note is it seems in AP mode that the 5th LAN(WAN) port is actually a functioning LAN port,bridged to the other 4 ports. Connecting a device to this port it was fully visible to the rest of the network,so you effectively have a 5 port wireless AP.

The closest TP-Link routers I could find for comparison were the WR841HP and the WR941ND,neither of which sports repeater mode in the stock firmwares with an average price of R550+,and the TPLink WR740N at ~R350 which is only a 150Mbps single antenna router. For my tests I will be using the WR740N as it’s a similar price and popular entry model router.

Upon plugging in the router you can access the web management interface by opening http://192.168.16.1 where you are met with the following screen


Default username and password (listed in the manual) is admin/admin
Upon logging in you are met with a screen where you can select either AP or Repeater Mode,and the Wireless Network settings. Clicking Advanced takes you to the full menu where you can configure other options. Here I noticed the first issue – you can’t use an SSID with spaces so this is a definite minus (I’m waiting for updated firmware since the latest version on the LBLink website is the same firmware that comes preloaded)

Signal Strength tests
Signal strength tests were done using a Samsung Galaxy Tab3 and the Wifi Monitor Plus (beta) App

Test 1 was done in the Study where the AP was situated,first the TP Link and then the LB Link,then in a room on the far side of the house,and lastly 1 level down also on the far side of the house

The key info we are looking for here is Signal Level and the closer to 0 the better

TP Link Study
LB Link Study
TP Link Far Room
LB Link Far Room
TP Link Downstairs
LB Link Downstairs

From the signal strength tests we can see a consistent stronger signal from the LB Link,which is understandable given the 3 MIMO antennas in comparison to the TP Link unit.

File copy performance tests
To test file copying I’ll be using a tool called Copy Handler. The test file will be a 402MB ISO file. During these tests I will also be pinging the Routers to check for any packet loss during the process. The Laptop used for the testing and Router will be placed on the exact same spots for every test.

The tests will be done in the Study where the AP is situated,first the TP Link and then the LB Link,then in a room on the far side of the house,and lastly 1 level down also on the far side of the house.
Each test is run 3 times - added together for each room and an average calculated.




Study
Far Side
Downstairs

Router
Test Nr
Time
Data Rate
Time
Data Rate
Time
Data Rate



Minutes
MB/s
Minutes
MB/s
Minutes
MB/s

LB Link
1
04:38
1.45
04:39
1.44
05:07
1.31


2
04:48
1.4
04:09
1.62
05:14
1.28


3
03:52
1.73
03:35
1.87
05:09
1.3



04:26:00
1.526667
04:07:40
1.643333
05:10:00
1.296667
Average
TP Link
1
04:24
1.52
03:40
1.83
05:58
1.15


2
04:35
1.46
04:32
1.48
07:21
0.93


3
04:01
1.67
04:06
1.64
06:35
1.04



04:20:00
1.55
04:06:00
1.65
06:38:00
1.04
Average
Copy Results

Copy Handler

As you can see from the results,both routers are fairly comparable for the most part but there is a big difference when you reach the downstairs section. This seems to indicate the Signal Penetration for the LB Link router is quite good – it’s considerably faster through a thick slab floor.

Latencies were also fairly consistent for the most part,with responses varying between 4-12ms,but upon testing at the downstairs section I started seeing higher latencies (20-30ms) with spikes up to 200ms with the TP Link. The LB Link router in comparison showed latencies of 9-20ms in the same test.

AP Mode
AP Mode is the Default mode,and initial configuration only requires the network name and password (no spaces in the SSID!). Clicking Advanced takes you to the Home Screen where you can configure the rest of the settings like Security Type,Network Channel etc.

AP Screen

Repeater Mode
Repeater mode is quite easy to configure,plug a network cable linking to your network into the WAN port,log into the management interface and then clicking Scan to check for Wireless networks in the area. Select the network you want to copy settings from and click “connection”. Once done the Security settings are copied and you can click Apply to restart the Access Point with the new settings. As earlier unfortunately this Firmware version does not support Spaces in the network names.

Repeater Screen

Scan Screen

Pros:
·         Cheap
·         Multiple Antennas
·         Good signal penetration

Cons:
·         Some stability issues when changing wireless settings needs a hard restart
·         Some misprinted info on the box (PoE,Wireless Repeater function)
·         No spaces in Wifi SSIDs allowed

Overall I’d give this unit a 3/5 stars,if they correct the SSID issue it would likely be a 4/5

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