Asus WL-530g compact wireless router
Review The wireless router market is a tough one to crack. There are already many well-established brand names that offer products at very reasonable prices. To compete successfully, you have to either offer something new and innovative, and Asus has tried to do a bit of both. Its WL-530G pocket router is by no means a unique product - it does what every other Ethernet router does - but it's about half the size of most of them...
The design is surprisingly stylish for a router, with a black plastic body that has a brushed aluminium strip running round its middle. It measures a mere 12.9 x 4.4 x 2.9cm, not counting the antenna. It might not be quite pocket size, as you still have to carry the power adaptor if you intend to take it travelling. At least Asus has supplied a full set of removable power connectors, so you can use the WL-530G in pretty much every part of the world. The only other accessory in the box is a short Ethernet cable.
There are four LAN ports on the back of the router alongside the power port and antenna hook-up, and a WAN port on the right-hand side. There are three LEDs that indicate power, wireless LAN activity and Ethernet activity. Finally, there's a small reset button. I like the fact that Asus has put the default admin login details on a sticker on the bottom of the router.
The antenna is small and consequently the reach of the wireless link isn't as good as some other routers. Asus quotes a line-of-sight range of a mere 60m (197ft) outdoors, while indoors you won't realistically get more than about 25m (82ft). The WL-530g supports a wide range of configuration options for both the WAN, LAN and wireless sides, although for novice users it has a fairly simple-to-use set-up wizard. The user interface isn't the most intuitive one I've used, but it's far from the worst.
You get basic features such as a DHCP server, NAT, UPnP, VPN pass-through and an SPI firewall, as well as WEP and WPA encryption, and MAC address filtering to control who gets to use the wireless link. It also offers a range of more advanced set-up options for those that like to have a play. Interestingly, Asus also offer the router's firmware under a GPL licence, so if there's something you're not happy with, you can download the source code from Asus' website and change it yourself.
The WL-530g does what it says on the tin and it does it well. However, it costs £43, and you can buy cheaper alternatives or pay the same money and get something that's easier to set up. It doesn't appear to be Wi-FI certified, so there's no interoperability guarantee, but I didn't experience any problems here. The WL-530g has the advantage of being small, so you can easily hide it away out of sight, but size isn't everything.
The Asus WL-530g is certainly travel-friendly, but there's really nothing here to differentiate it from a wide range of similar products, many of cost even less than it does. ®