AVM Fritz!Box Fon WLAN 7390 review
Packed with useful features and it’s a dream to set up and manage. Only performance lets it down
We don’t often get excited by a wireless router, but when German firm AVM brought its Fritz!Box 7390 ADSL2+ router into the office for a demo, we left the room itching to try it for ourselves. This is no ordinary router; it can do everything bar get itself out of the box, plug itself in and make the tea while you relax on the sofa.
A quick perusal of the rear panel and edges hints at what’s to come. There are the usual solitary DSL and four Gigabit Ethernet sockets, but also two USB sockets, two analogue phone ports and an ISDN phone socket.
This router not only connects your wireless and wired devices to the internet, but also sports VoIP features and can act as a base station for up to six DECT phones. AVM sells its own DECT handset – the Fritz!Fon MT-F – for £65 inc VAT, which adds the ability to listen to internet radio streams as well as directly manage the answer machine and telephony features on the Fritz!Box itself.
It’s a clever box of tricks, but the list doesn’t end there. The wireless radio is concurrent dual-band 802.11n, so you can have 2.4GHz and 5GHz devices connected simultaneously. There’s channel bonding – pushing the theoretical maximum speed of the connection to 300Mbits/sec – 512MB of built-in storage, and even fax send and receive facilities. It may be primarily intended for an ADSL line, with support for up to 100Mbits/sec ADSL2+ speeds, but you can also use it for cable connections.
That list of features is pretty remarkable, and it’s by no means an exhaustive description, but what’s most impressive is the ease with which all these features can be accessed, tweaked and set up. The Fritz!Box’s web-based management system is the most straightforward, well-organised and easily understandable we’ve come across in any router. We had it plumbed into our internet connection, landline and Sipgate account, with two handsets registered to the DECT base station, in less than an hour.
If you switch it into Advanced mode, a huge array of powerful features is unveiled. We particularly like the overview page, which provides quick links to all the router’s core features and information about your internet connection, wireless network, analogue phone and functions at a glance.
There are live bandwidth graphs on the internet connection page and, on the page where you select which wireless channel to use, the 7390 displays not only neighbouring networks and their signal strength, but also other sources of potential interference.
If there’s one weakness, it’s raw wireless performance. In our file-transfer tests we found the Fritz!Box 7390 underwhelming, to put it mildly. At close range (2.5m) we achieved average speeds of 65Mbits/sec downstream of the router and 58Mbits/sec upstream over 2.4GHz, while over 5GHz we achieved 73Mbits/sec and 76Mbits/sec respectively. That’s a long way short of the fastest routers we’ve tested, which have hit speeds of up to 122Mbits/sec downstream over 2.4GHz and 135Mbits/sec downstream over 5GHz.
In our long-range tests (40m distant with two walls in the way) it was a similar story, with average speeds of 34Mbits/sec downstream and 30Mbits/sec upstream – well short of the best we’ve seen – and it failed to connect at all over 5GHz. We also tested NAS speeds over the USB socket but it wasn’t much better, achieving an average speed in the same tests (this time over a wired connection) of 29Mbits/sec.
That’s disappointing, but not disastrous, and the sheer quality of the rest of the offering more than compensates. In particular, the channel selection tool will be of far more use than raw speed in achieving a stable, fast wireless network. The Fritz!Box Fon WLAN 7390 is expensive, but for a router that does this much it’s actually pretty good value.
|Price ex VAT||£175|
|Price inc VAT||£210|
|Features & Design||6|
|Value for Money||5|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Gigabit LAN ports||4|
|10/100 LAN ports||0|
|Wireless bridge (WDS)||yes|
|WPS (wireless protected setup)||yes|
|MAC address filtering||yes|
|Port forwarding/virtual server||yes|
|Web content filtering||no|
|Dimensions||226 x 160 x 48mm (WDH)|