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Linksys WAG-54G Wireless ADSL Gateway Review

The Linksys WAG-54G looks like most other routers in the Linksys range however it is currently (June 2004) the only one with an ADSL modem in it, and therefore suitable for direct connection to an ADSL enabled phone line. The WAG-54G is an all-in-one design, encompassing ADSL modem, NAT router, wireless access and four port Ethernet switch. The wireless capability is of the 802.11g standard and supports WPA security.

The router runs in NAT mode by default which makes the unit suitable for use with single dynamic and static IP address accounts. For people assigned a block of static IP addresses, the NAT can be disabled, though this has not been tested as part of the review. Other features of the router are support for port forwarding, including port ranges and port triggers, SNMP, UPnP and various firewall filters. The VPN support appears to be extensive with support for PPTP and IPSec pass-through, and up to 5 IPSec VPN tunnels which would aim the device at more than just the home market. Access control to block services and define periods of time for Internet access for computers is available.

What you get for your money

As can be seen there is the usual array of goodies included with the router, the list includes:

  1. The router
  2. Power supply
  3. ADSL microfilter
  4. RJ45 Ethernet patch lead
  5. RJ11 to RJ11 ADSL lead
  6. CD-ROM with manual and a 60 day trial of Norton Firewall software
  7. Quick set up guide
  8. List of support phone numbers (0870 rate for UK)

The router itself is in the usual Linksys case, with plenty of air vent holes, though these do seem to make the case a bit weak on the top. The single wireless antenna is permanently attached, so no option to put an antenna on the end of a cable to improve coverage.

The front of the router carries a profusion of indicator lights, these actually provide very useful feedback as to what the router is doing when it is starting up and running.

  1. Power - shows that the power supply is connected and turned on
  2. WLAN - illuminated when the wireless network is on, and flashes to show wireless traffic
  3. 1 to 4 - connected to the four Ethernet ports, these light up when an active Ethernet connection is found, and each LED will flash to show traffic on that port
  4. ADSL - flashes when the modem is connecting to the DSLAM at the exchange, and will stay on once connected.
  5. ACT - indicates activity across the ADSL part of the connection.
  6. Session - flashes when the modem is negotiating the PPPoA connection, i.e. authenticating the username and password. The LED stays on once connected.

The rear of the router is fairly simple. From left to right, the wireless antenna which can rotate, although only through 180 degrees; the RJ11 ADSL port for connecting to the phone line; the four Ethernet ports; a reset button and the power input socket. In use, the router does get warm, but only slightly above average for a router.

The user manual on the CD-ROM is pretty extensive; however you have to scroll through all the various European language versions of the quick set up guide to reach the actual manual on page 57. What follows is around 43 pages of detail on how to set up features like the VPN tunnels and security.

Basic Configuration

The router should work with the vast majority of operating systems. The one requirement is a reasonably capable web browser to display the web configuration interface. There is no software that needs to be installed on any computers - everything is done via a web server built into the router. The routers default IP address is, the username/password to use to gain access is admin and admin. Set up is possible via either the Ethernet or wireless interfaces, since the router is shipped with wireless enabled on the default network name (SSID) of linksys. The screen shots in the review show the router as using for its IP address, this is because in the initial set up we altered its LAN IP address to this value to fit in with an existing network.

The basic configuration is all handled on one web page, shown here split across two screenshots. The quick set up guide discusses what values need entering, which is the same as the screen shots here - apart from the LAN IP address which most will want to keep on the default of

Do not forget to set the Time Zone if you want times in the log files to be correct. Once these settings are saved, the router will try to authenticate you with the ISPs authentication server. It should have previously synchronised with the exchange automatically. To view the IP address and other details handed out by the ISP, click the Status link.

The status page displays the IP set up that your ISP issued to the router, and also what version of firmware the router is running. The screenshot above shows one problem that was present throughout this review - a number of the images on the web page would frequently not download from the router; however it did not seem to affect its ability to work. This seems to be a problem possibly with just this router. We have not seen this problem before on this PC, and using the Mozilla web browser did not help.

Application and Gaming Configuration

This section deals with what other routers commonly call 'virtual server setup' or port forwarding. Port forwarding is needed when you have a service running on a computer behind a NAT router, and you require people to be able to access it over the Internet. This can mean running a web server, peer to peer applications, games servers and much more. The vast majority of software applications such as web browsing, email and text chat in messenger applications will not need this extra level of configuration.

The first section to cover is the 'Single Port Forwarding', this has space for just 15 rules, and has 10 of these pre-defined but not enabled. The pre-defined rules can be changed if you have no need for them. The two msmsgs rules that can be seen in the screenshot are actually the result of a PC on the local network running MS Messenger, and the UPnP functionality of the router allowing it to automatically add these rules. To use one of the pre-defined rules you simply need to specify the last part of the IP address of the computer and check the enabled box, then click Save Settings. One note, once the save button is pressed the WAG-54G will actually reboot to apply the rules. This means if setting up rules, you may want to check that someone is not in the middle of a large download, or important activity.

The port range forwarding page, gives you an additional 15 rules. The difference is that you can specify a range of ports e.g. 27000 to 27100 if you are running multiple servers on very close ports, or perhaps a game that needs lots of ports opened. If you run out of single port rules, you can also use these 15 rules, by specifying the same start and end port.

Port Triggering appears to be fairly common inclusion in various ranges at present. It allows you to have port forwarding rules already configured, but they are only activated when a computer makes an outgoing connection on a specific port (or range of them). The router will then direct the incoming data back to the computer that triggered the rule. There is one final option in the arsenal for running services that do not like being behind a NAT router, and that is the DMZ option. As with other routers the DMZ option simply allows you to enter the IP address for a machine that will then receive all the unsolicited incoming ports. This of course makes the machine totally visible, which is good for getting an application to work, but bad for security.

Using the firewall functions

The WAG-54G has a number of firewall type pages that are configurable, covering simple check box filters, VPN configuration and access restrictions.

The main firewall page is pretty sparse, with just a few check boxes you can set. The 'Block WAN requests' option is simply whether to respond to pings or not from machines on the Internet. The other five filters, allow you to block things like Java Applets or cookies from being sent across the router. The logs that the router generates are actually quite informative and tell you what computers have attempted to access the router, and whether the packet was dropped. In all, the WAG-54G actually keeps four different log files: System, Access, Firewall and VPN.

The VPN page allows you to disable the built in support for PPTP and IPSec VPN connections that originate from a computer on your local network, and additionally to actually use the WAG-54G to create tunnels between two sites. This tunneling is covered extensively in the manual of the CD-ROM.

The Access Restrictions pages in the router represent the main method for controlling outbound Internet access from the local network. There is support for up to ten different policies, allowing you to define different sets of rules according to what you want a computer to be able to do. When defining what computers are on which list, you do have the option to restrict it based on the MAC address of the network card, rather than just an IP address which people can change easily. Also it is possible to define a time period during which each policy will be active.

In practice, it appears that the access restrictions perhaps need some more work. The website blocking, does work, but no matter whether you have Deny or Allow access set the entered sites are always blocked, this means it is impossible to build a list of approved sites a machine can visit. In fact once the deny button is set, it seems that ALL Internet access for machines that policy covers is locked down, rather than what seemed more obvious, i.e. to just deny the services defined at the foot of the page. Again, the router likes to drop the wireless connection and reboot when saving changes to the Access Restrictions pages. It takes around a minute for the connection to totally restart.

The way the Access Restrictions seem to work is that you are best defining a period of time when each policy will allow access, and then defining what service are actually blocked. With just four services configurable, it is not very flexible. Adding the option to make the blocking for both services and websites actually an allowed list would make a lot more sense when trying to control Internet access.

Wireless Network Configuration

The wireless network on the WAG-54G is pretty easy to use, and being enabled by default allows people to use the router straight out of the box. Of course, if people are lazy this also means that anyone in the street could piggyback off of the connection, something most people would rather not happen. Therefore we will cover the various wireless options and show how you can secure the network via one option.

The basic wireless settings page, allows you to disable the wireless network, and if it is turned off the WLAN led on the router will go out. If you only have 802.11g wireless network cards then switching the network mode to 802.11g will give around a 20% performance boost, since running a mixed network is slower. Also, if you find you are having problems with wireless network stability, as with any wireless router, changing the channel used can improve the situation, especially as wireless network use grows the chances for interference are increasing.

Not running with any security enabled on a wireless network is asking for someone to break into your LAN and cause untold trouble. So we recommend at the very least running in WEP security mode, or preferably the newer WPA mode. WPA Pre-Shared Key mode is supported in Windows XP. The set up to match the settings we have selected on the Linksys router are shown below.

The network key on the computer and WPA shared key need to be the same. If they are not, the computer will see the wireless network, but not have any actual Internet access or IP address supplied. MS Windows does not report that wireless security authentication did not work. When setting up the wireless security, it is best to set the router up from a computer connected via Ethernet, so that if you do not match the settings, you can easily reconfigure the router.

Checking that WPA-PSK security worked proved to be a little troublesome, though it is hard to say where the problem lay, for the 802.11g router reviews we are currently using a Netgear WAG511 PC card. This worked perfectly with the Belkin ADSL gateway, but to get the card to connect to the Linksys we had eject the card and plug it back in. After this it picked up the encrypted network.


To provide some idea of how fast the various 802.11g and 802.11b based routers are we have done comparisons of the maximum wireless speed by copying a 229 Megabyte file across the wireless network from a PC connected via Ethernet. For all these tests a single network card was used - the Netgear WAG511 PC Card, as mentioned above.

Wireless Performance Measurements

Wireless device

Time for 229MB file copy (seconds)

Average transfer rate (Mega bits per second)

Belkin F5D7630UK4A



BT Voyager 2000



Buffalo WLI-CD-G54



Linksys WAG-54G



Linksys WRT54G



Netgear DG834G



U.S.Robotics 9106



Wireless router percentage of detectable signal


1st Wall

2nd Wall

4th Wall

Belkin F5D7630UK4A




BT 1250 (2Wire)




Linksys WAG-54G




Linksys WRT54G




Netgear DG834G




U.S Robotics 9106




Wall 1 comprises double brick construction with bathroom tiles

Wall 2 comprises of double brick construction with kitchen tiles

Wall 4 is the next measurable point, due to an old coal bunker between walls 3 and 4.

The Linksys WAG-54G performs very well in the speed stakes, and in use appears to run smoothly. Gamers should be happy enough with the response from the wireless side, which only added around 1ms to the ping times, compared to using the average Ethernet router.

The biggest performance gripe is the speed of the web interface, and at least on the review unit the slowness that many of the graphics for the web configuration download at. Users who may be constantly changing their port forwarding rules may want to stay clear as the router likes to reboot after many configuration changes.


With the link between Cisco and Linksys, one would expect great things from their wireless range, and while the speed is in one of the better figures for kit we have recently tested, other features of the router do not show the same level of attention.

The router is not bad at all, it is just that it promises so much, but fails to deliver the full goods. The vast majority of people will be happy with the unit though. The sorts of things missing are the ability to make inbound ports only visible to certain Internet IP addresses, a whitelist for URLs in the Access Restrictions, and a greater range of pre-defined port forwarding rules like the Westell 6000.

Even with all these small moans, at high street prices that are lower than the USR 9106 and Belkin F4D7630-4A then the WAG-54G represents excellent value for money, and it does a lot more than the USR 9106.

Prices: £69 - Linksys WAG-54G (£81 including VAT)
Where to Buy: See our DSL Hardware FAQ

Andrew Ferguson

The contents of this review should not be relied upon in making a purchasing decision - You should always discuss your requirements with your service provider and hardware supplier.