A long time ago, long before wifi was invented and the World Wide Web was still merely an idea in someone’s head, a contractor built my house. Not knowing this would hinder wireless LAN reception, they used reinforced concrete, and put the cable and telephone connectors in a far corner of the structure. As a result, I now have an upstairs study that’s almost impossible to get to with wires, and where only the best wireless adapters get a decent signal.
To deal with this, I’ve been using an wireless bridge. Strategically placed for best reception, it connects to my wifi, and allows (wired) devices in my office to connect through it. This setup works pretty well, except that the first, rather low-end adapter I got turned out to have some pesky issues. The most irritating being that it lost the wifi password every time the power was disconnected, and had to subsequently be reconfigured. So when DrayTek offered to send me one of their offerings to check out, I jumped at the opportunity.
The DrayTek VigorAP 800, like my previous Conceptronic, is an “Access Point”. This means it’s primarily meant to be connected to a wired router and set up a wifi network. But most of these Access Points can do a lot more than that. The Draytek can also be used as a “wireless bridge”, a repeater, and can even connect to several other VigorAP 800s to distribute wifi over a large area.
For me, the VigorAP 800′s best feature is that it has a built-in 4-port ethernet switch. This means I can connect my laptop, printer and two more devices, without having to add a separate switch. It supports wireless-n, has a RADIUS server, a print server, supports two separate LANs and can broadcast up to four SSIDs (VLAN). Plus, if you have a “Power over Ethernet” (PoE) setup, you can leave the power cord in the box.
The biggest problem with setting up devices like these is that you need to connect them directly to your PC, and set up a temporary LAN between the two. Fortunately, DrayTek’s user manual explains this procedure in great detail. Unlike my previous Access Point, the VigorAP can be assigned an IP address in your LAN’s range, so that once set up, you can tweak its settings from any PC without having to connect directly to it. If you like, the initial setup can even be done over wifi.
From there on in, I found the VigorAP easy to set up using the “wizard” mode. Because this is a device that can do so many things, and has tons of features, the rest of the web interface could be a little intimidating for novice users. Enthusiasts however will find everything they need, exactly where they expect it.
To get an idea of the VigorAP’s performance, I used my ISP’s online speed test to measure “real world” internet speeds. I know this is by no means a scientific test, but then again this is a real home, not a laboratory. The DrayTek’s web interface would show link speeds of between 11 and 48 mbps. My network is 54 mbps, so considering the room’s “blind spot” location in the house this seemed pretty good.
Despite the fluctuations in link speed reported by the device, I found that actual internet speeds were very consistent. After moving the device around a bit I managed to get a steady 22 mbps, which is plenty for my needs. As with every DrayTek product I’ve ever used, the device did not get hot, and was completely stable throughout testing.
This great looking little box is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to setting up, extending or bridging wireless connections. It’s a little more expensive than the cheapest Access Points on the market, but in return you do get an integrated 4-port switch, an excellent user interface, and lots of professional features. Recommended.