PROVIDING HIGH-QUALITY WI-FI to a small office can be tricky. While residences can usually get by with a single router placed in a central location, the larger spaces in small to midsize companies tend to fall between the cracks: too big for single routers but too hard for their cash-strapped occupants to equip with extra devices and cabling. Both the ALLY Plus Smart Business Wi-Fi System and the TRENDnet AC2600 router with the AC1900 USB adapter claim to be the answer to that conundrum, and they each get there by different roads.
Let’s look at the latter option first. TRENDnet makes a wide range of routers, access points, switches, surveillance cameras, servers, and other technologies. Like most of today’s routers, the AC2600 has multiple antennas (which tend to be longer than some) to help stream more than 2,600 Mbps across all frequencies and protocols, including the latest, 802.11ac. The system supports Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MIMO) streaming as well, with four 1 Gbps Ethernet ports for direct connections. The USB client adapter also has four long, dissimilar antennas, and a custom USB cable to link to other devices.
The other option, ALLY, has multiple routers similar to the TRENDnet device, but with an Apple-like appearance that swaps the conventional black, upside-down spider look of the AC2600 for smooth, shiny white plastic and internal antennas. Side by side, the ALLY device has that consumer-friendly look, while the TRENDnet device has a more industrial air.
Installation of TRENDnet AC2600
The TRENDnet AC2600 installed faster and easier than any Wi-Fi router we’ve tested in recent years. In the old days, router installation seemed to require magic curses and eye of newt. This model installed more like a well-oiled infomercial demonstration. We plugged it in, connected it to a laptop with an Ethernet patch cable, turned it on, and went about resetting the admin password and configuring the 2.4 and 6 GHz radios. Nothing happened, though, until we hit the “Apply/Discard Changes” button much like the old days. The AC2600 uses blue LEDs to indicate LAN connections and show when wireless radios are in use.
Even the device’s basic admin interface looks industrial, and the advanced version shows the deep-dive details about Wi-Fi routers and firewalls that have become commonplace in management consoles over the last decade. It’s not overwhelming to a power user, though, and will be a snap for any tech to install, configure, and monitor.
The TrendNet AC1900 USB client adapter looks industrial too. Its drive installation was automatic on one Windows 10-equipped machine but required a driver disc for a laptop with the same operating system, and a desktop with Windows 7 installed. One concern we have involves the USB 3.0 Micro-B to USB Type-A cable, which could be easy to lose and hard to replace. The short length of the 3-foot cable also makes placement adjustments difficult and aggravating.