A metal box with all the plugs in the back and status lights on the front, the TRENDnet Dual WAN Advanced VPN Router covers the same price range as Netgear. Four 10/100 Fast Ethernet ports, along with separate WAN1 and WAN2 ports fill the back of the unit. The nine-pin serial port for a console connection looks positively nostalgic in today's world of RJ-45 and USB ports.
The BRV324 advertises support for 70 IPSec and 10 PPTP VPN connections, or 100 pass-through sessions with IPSec, PPTP and L2TP. There's no firewall throughput number published, but the speeds for the BRV324 across two broadband connections are in the same range as all the other units. A colour illustrated Quick Installation Guide is included, along with a CD manual and an Ethernet patch cable.
Installation and configuration
Using an IP address range of 192.168.0.1 is just different enough to avoid conflicting with existing addresses. Plugging in our network switch and the first WAN link, then turning on the computer, passed a client DHCP address properly to our configuration computer.
Using the browser to log in to the admin screens, we went to Setup and set the WAN connection type, choosing between Static IP, Dynamic IP (DHCP), PPPoE and PPTP. The WAN connected as it should.
Changing the LAN IP address range was a simple matter of clicking Setup > LAN Port to find the LAN IP address field. Right below that is the enable DHCP server checkbox and the IP address range. A quick save and reboot, and our network was up and running.
Adding the second WAN link was only a matter of plugging into the WAN port, choosing the WAN connection type on the same screen as earlier, and both WANs were up and running.
Load Balance, a menu option under Setup on the left hand menu, offers a choice between Connection and Bandwidth for the load balancing metric. Unfortunately for a product with Dual WAN in the name, the BVR324 includes no helpful information about how the WAN balancing should be chosen. A field named Primary Port Proportion, with a default setting of 50, is the only place to define if one WAN link should be given priority over the other.
Interestingly for a product at this level, the BRF324 offers an easy table to direct traffic to one WAN link or the other with a pick list of 42 protocols to direct to the second WAN connection. We doubt many small businesses will go to this trouble, but it's an interesting option on a low-priced router.
The opening screen of the admin utility is the General Status page. Details, addresses and connection status for WAN1, WAN2, LAN, the firewall, the system kernel, and the system details such as firmware version and system uptime are all available by scrolling down the page.
Surprisingly, the least expensive router in the group has the only colored display screen. Under Status > Port Status, a coloured pie chart sized with heaviest users sits beside a network throughput graph tracking levels over time. This is the only report that tracks throughput, but it only shows connections and speed rather than totals of bytes or packets. But at least there's a pie chart.
Although the CD-based manual has good tutorial information on setting up a VPN, the material needs a refresh. Windows XP is no longer the new client on the block, and Windows 2000 no longer powers the majority of user computers.
Accessibility and a clear menu structure in the admin utility makes the BVR324 a good choice for small businesses without expert help on staff. However, perhaps to keep from confusing users, the BVR324 tells them almost nothing about the central dual-WAN support at the core of the product.
Outside of those quibbles, the price and performance of the BVR324 makes it an excellent option for small businesses looking for an affordable dual-WAN connection router.