This article first appeared in HWM April 2012.
SMC Networks has flown under the radar as far as broadband routers go, but they do carry a decent collection of wireless SOHO gateways despite the lack of marketing fanfare. One such example is the SMC Barricade N WGBR14-N2, which also happens to be the successor to the SMCWGBR14-N model released almost five years ago.
SMC’s rather plain N2 is notably less attractive than sexier rivals such as the Linksys E4200 or ASUS RT-N66U. Then again, this all-black gateway is equipped with most of the standard features you might expect from a current-generation N-router. Three detachable 3dbi antennas are located behind, along with a USB slot and a pinhole reset button. The USB port, however, is made exclusively for data sharing purposes. In other words, print server functions are unfortunately not part of the N2’s portfolio unlike its predecessor. Wired Gigabit connections are possible via four LAN ports.
The N2 router itself does not carry a power switch but you will find one on the power adaptor’s cable. The device can be mounted vertically with the bundled stand as well. Like most routers, this single-band router can be configured via its setup wizard (included in the CD) or web browser interface. And for the benefit of the geeks among us, last we checked, the Linux-flavored DD-WRT firmware isn’t available for this model as yet.
SMC’s sterile browser interface was easy to navigate, and that’s a plus. However, less savvy users might require some assistance with the networking jargon sprinkled about the interface. Thankfully, explanations are readily available by means of the Help button. Moving on, users can manage their own QoS rules on the N2, although SMC did not provide any presets for services such as chat clients or VoIP applications. Users on the network clients can also access the shared USB volume by punching in the router’s URL on the web browser, followed by the volume name, such as “http://192.168.2.1/MyDrive”.
The N2’s wireless performance was average at best. Downlink throughputs measured 64Mbps and 40Mbps at 2m and 10m respectively, while uplink results clocked in at 40Mbps and 33Mbps respectively. Comparatively, its performance is similar to that of the Buffalo AirStation AG300H. However, the AirStation has a significantly longer range than the N2. In fact, we had to run the Chariot benchmark a few times at 25m before we obtained an outcome for the SMC router. With a measly downlink throughput of 3Mbps and over 50 percent of data-packets lost during UDP streams, we won’t recommend positioning this gateway any further than 10m from your wireless clients.
In summary, SMC’s latest Barricade N is an adequate affordable router if you want an AP capable of data sharing over the network and mostly for short range use. If you don’t mind paying a more, you can opt for dual-band models such as the Linksys E4200 or Belkin N750DB which offer a greater mileage and not to mention the benefits of a less congested 5GHz band.