SpeedStream Powerline Wireless DSL/Cable Router

By Joseph Moran

April 16, 2003

Because of its high level of integration, this router is an excellent way to lay a foundation for a mixed Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and HomePlug network with a minimum of configuration hassle.

Model: SS2524
Price: $159.99
Rating: 4 out of 5

When choosing hardware for a home network, conventional wisdom states that you usually obtain the best performance and flexibility by combining separate components. Whether or not this approach results in superior results compared to using an integrated system (it doesn't always) it does almost always result in added cost and complexity.

With this in mind, the value proposition of the $159 Siemens SpeedStream 2524 Powerline Wireless DSL/Cable Router seems clear. It gives you a broadband router, 802.11b WLAN access point, and HomePlug 1.0 interface all in one. Without a doubt, these three components residing in the same chassis cost substantially less than they would purchase as two or three separate components.

While some may see Wi-Fi and HomePlug as redundant or mutually exclusive technologies, they actually make a lot of sense in a home environment where wireless range is a problem or where far-flung and fixed devices like video game consoles or desktop computers need to be networked.

A brief comment on the product's physical characteristics is warranted--as a featureless black rectangle, the SpeedStream 2524 won't win any aesthetic competitions. A single external dipole antenna protrudes out the back, which is removable. (Siemens offers a number of replacement antennae that can be used in its place.)

Considering the router's integral HomePlug adapter and the fact that HomePlug devices are not known to be particularly petite, the 2524's low-profile chassis is noteworthy. As both the AC transformer and the HomePlug circuitry are contained within the confines of the unit, its needs only a thin two-prong "shaver cord" to connect to a wall outlet.

Getting the SpeedStream 2524 up and running with the setup wizard was easy in the extreme.

Unlike some SOHO routers, the SpeedStream 2524 offers numerous features for those looking to control network traffic to or through the router. Content control is present in the form of URL and keyword filtering. Remote management is offered, along with the ability to specify a particular port number for access. Static routing capability is also provided.

The 2524 lets you prevent wireless clients from individually accessing the LAN or the WAN. So, if you want to allow only LAN access to some clients (family members, employees) and only WAN access to others (visitors, guests) you can do that. (You can also restrict access to individual network services by wired or wireless clients).

In my opinion, though, configuration of access control is more inconvenient than it needs to be. This is because the 2524 access control lists require you to identify clients by IP address, not by MAC address -- which is typical. Ultimately the router cross-references the IP address to the MAC of the adapter, but this means that the client must be online and leasing an address to be added to a filter.

Siemens says it chose to identify by IP address because users are more comfortable with them. That may be so, but because of the aforementioned limitation, I think it would be easier to simply work with MAC addresses in the first place. Incidentally, the default (and unalterable) DHCP lease time is 3 days, and Siemens says that if a client's IP address should change, the filter restrictions will still remain in place, though I couldn't confirm this in my testing.

The 2524 offers a separate configuration screen for the Powerline interface, and once you select a network password the router can then remotely configure Powerline client adapters with this password, saving you a trip to one or more devices.

The wireless performance of the 2524 was on par with expectations, at least up to a point. It offered throughput figures solidly in the 4.5 Mbps neighborhood up until about 50 feet.

Between 50 and 100 feet though, the 2524's signal strength became extremely tenuous, and as a result, throughput and range suffered. I obtained a low 3.15 Mbps figure at 75 feet, and beyond that, was not able to consistently get a strong enough signal that would last the 60-second duration of a Chariot run.

My initial testing was performed with a D-Link DWL-650+ card as the client, and subsequent tests with other client adapters didn't alter the 2524's wireless performance characteristics.

The Powerline side of the equation fared better, both in terms of performance and consistency. Perhaps not surprisingly, the throughput from the 2524's Powerline component was somewhat better than that from the wireless side. Testing with a Speedstream SS2502 Powerline to Ethernet adapter, from an outlet about 50 feet away from the router (and on a separate circuit) yielded throughput of 5.22 Mbps.

Because of its high level of integration, the SpeedStream SS2524 can be an excellent way to lay a foundation for a mixed wired, wireless, and HomePlug network with a minimum of configuration hassle. The limited wireless range is a cause for concern, but the 2524 may not exhibit the same behavior in all environments. If ease-of-setup is your paramount concern, then the SpeedStream SS2524 should serve you well.

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