The line between home and small/medium-sized business (SMB) Wi-Fi routers is blurred these days. Case in point: the TRENDnet TEW-829DRU AC3000 Tri-Band Wireless Gigabit Dual-WAN VPN SMB Router.
From the look of it, this is a business router with a rack-mountable heavy-duty design. But on the inside, the new router is not more business-oriented than many home routers.
But that can be a good thing. The TEW-829DRU sure looks like a bad-ass piece of hardware to show off in your home. And the fact it has a robust built-in Parental Controls doesn’t hurt, either.
At $280, though, this is in no way a crazy deal that you need to rush out to get. But if you’re looking for a rack-mountable router with reliable performance, the TRENDnet TW-829 sure is a decent buy for a medium home or a mid-size office.
TRENDnet TEW-829DRU VPN SMB Router
- Solid heavy-duty rack-mountable design
- Two dedicated WAN ports, lots of LAN ports
- Useful Router Limits Parental Controls feature
- Good and reliable Wi-Fi performance
- Odd Wi-Fi settings and specs
- Sluggish web interface, standard feature set
- Slow NAS performance when hosting an external drive
- No access point mode
TRENDnet TEW-829DRU: SMB design
The TEW-829DRU’s design is either totally awesome or super dull depending on who you are. I’m in the awesome camp.
The router is an all-metal black cuboid box that measures 11 x 6.7 x 1.75 in (280 x 170 x 44.45 mm), about the same size as a compact 1U rack-mount 24-port switch. It looks bold and feels solid. And there’s a rack mount kit included, so you know it means business.
The router has six detachable antennas, three on the front and two on the back. These are large antennas, about a foot tall each. You have to screw them in so getting the router ready can be a bit of work.
Ideally, you want to place the TEW-829DRU on a rack. In this case, make sure you mount it on top. Otherwise, the antennas can get in the way of other rack-mounted devices. Alternatively, you can wall-mount the router or place it on a flat surface.
Plenty of ports, Dual-WAN but no Link Aggregation
On the back, the router has a power port and an on/off switch. On the front, there is one USB 3.0 port, one console port, ten network ports, all gigabit. They include 8 LAN ports, two WAN ports.
The use of the two WAN ports is to host two Internet connections at the same time, for either load-balancing or high availability.
Having two dedicated WAN ports is a bit redundant, however. Other Dual-WAN routers I’ve reviewed, such as the Synology RT2600ac or the Asus RT-AC86U, can turn one of their LAN ports into a second WAN port when need be.
In the case of the TRENDnet, the 2nd WAN port can’t work as another LAN port. That said, unless you do have two Internet connections, that port will sit there, taking up space.
As always, the TEW-829DRU’s extra LAN ports are welcome; you can add plenty of wired devices to the network before having to use a switch. Unfortunately, though, the router doesn’t feature Link Aggregation, meaning you can’t combine two of its LAN ports into a single 2Gbps connection.
Easy step process
Setting up the TRENDnet TEW-829DRU is like that of a standard router with a web interface.
Here are the steps to set up the TEW-829DRU:
- Connect the router’s first WAN port to the Internet source, such as a modem.
- Connect a computer to one of its LAN ports, or to its default Wi-Fi network (printed on a label on its underside.)
- On the computer, call up a web browser (such as Chrome) and navigate to the router’s default IP address at 192.168.10.1. You’ll be prompted to log in to use its web interface. The default credentials are admin for user name and a random password printed on the router’s underside.
And that’s it; you’ll now get to a standard web interface. The interface has granular menus on the left that opens up different sections of the router’s settings and features on the right.
The interface has beautiful fade-in fade-out transitions between sections, but it’s a bit sluggish for my taste. It can take as long as a few seconds to move from one page to another. Overall, it’s much slower than you might experience with the emulator.
TRENDnet TEW-829DRU’s detail photos
Standard feature set
For a business router, the TRENDnet TEW-829DRU is rather modest on features. It doesn’t have anything unique that other home routers don’t collectively have.
It comes with all advanced settings you’d expect from a sophisticated router. These include IP reservation, port forwarding, virtual LAN, Firewall and so on. The router also has an advanced VPN server and some useful network tools, such as Wake-on-LAN, where you can use the router to turn on WoL-supported computers or devices. None of these are new or unique, however, since they are all available in high-end home routers, such as the Asus RT-AC86u.
Keep in mind the TEW-829DRU is a router for advanced users. Most of its features and settings require someone at least conformable with networking to configure. Take the QoS, which prioritizes Internet traffic, for example; you’ll need to program it yourself. That said, you need decent networking knowhow to work with this router.
Odd Wi-Fi settings
The way the TRENDnet TEW-829DRU goes about Wi-Fi is quite unorthodox.
For one, it’s the first tri-band routers with three bands of different Wi-Fi specs — one 400Mbps 2.4GHz band, one 800Mbps 2.4GHz band and one 1733Mbps 5GHz band.
The router doesn’t support SmartConnect, which would allow you to create one Wi-Fi network for all three bands via a few clicks. Instead, you will need to make three separate individual Wi-Fi networks.
Even when you want to name them all the same and use the same password, you’ll still need to that manually three times. That plus the sluggish interface makes the task more time-consuming than necessary.
Another thing is while you can make the bands work exclusively on a slow Wi-Fi standard, such as 801.11b or 802.11a, you cannot make them work solely on the fastest standard it supports. In other words, the router favors compatibility over performance, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.
And finally, the router has a captive portal option which allows you to set up a web page that users need to view and interact with before they can get connected to a Wi-Fi network. Captive portals are useful for public Wi-Fi hotspots. For this reason, it’s super odd that the TEW-829DRU’s captive portal option is only available to its mains Wi-Fi networks and not the Guest networks.
Router Limits Parental Controls feature
It’s interesting that as an SMB router, the TEW-829DRU’s unique feature is that for the home environment. Indeed, the router has built-in support for Router Limits, which is a security and Parental Controls service, similar to Circle with Disney found in Netgear routers.
Router Limits allows you to manage your home network via a mobile app. Generally, you’ll need to buy a piece of extra hardware for $75 to use this service. The TEW-829DRU has that piece of hardware built-in, for free. All you have to do is sign up for an account and use it.
TEW-829DRU’s performance: A mixed bag
I tested the TEW-829DRU using all of its Wi-Fi bands, and the router did relatively well.
Keep in mind that for all routers, I always tweak the Wi-Fi settings to favor speed over compatibility. For example, I’d make the 802.11ac band work exclusively for 802.11ac clients. As mentioned above, this is not possible with this router.
Good Wi-Fi speeds
At close range, the router averaged 433 megabits per second. When I increased the distance to 40 feet, now it registered close to 390Mbps.
On the 2.4GHz band, like most routers, the TEW-829DRU proved it was fast enough to deliver a modest Internet connection with the sustained Wi-Fi speed of 67Mbps and 141Mbps for long and close range, respectively.
The TRENDnet TEW-829DRU’s range was similar to that of other high-end home routers. In my testing when placed in the middle, it could cover some 2000 ft² (186 m²) of residential setting with a good Wi-Fi signal. The router also appeared reliable, passing my 48-hour stress test without disconnecting once.
Note: Wi-Fi performance varies a great deal depending on the environment so you might have a different experience.
Disappointing NAS performance
When hosting an external storage device, the TEW-829DRU can work as a network attached storage (NAS) server, allowing multiple clients to access data stored on the storage device.
This feature of the router is dead simple, however. Either you make the storage available to everyone in the network or restrict access to only the router’s admin account. There’s nothing else, such as media streaming or Time Machine backup.
And that’s a good thing. Because in my testing, the router’s NAS performance was so bad that I’d recommend skipping this feature altogether.
Indeed, I tested the router’s NAS feature using a Samsung portable SSD, and via a Gigabit connection, it averaged just around 15 megabytes per second for writing and 30MB/s for reading, among the slowest I’ve seen. If you need into network storage, go with a dedicated NAS server instead.
The TRENDnet TEW-829DRU doesn’t have enough to be a great SMB router, nor does it to be a must-have for any home. But it’s not a dud, either. In all, it’s a decent router that will get the job done, and the rack-mountable design is a bonus for those who need it.
That said, if you’re looking for an excellent SMB router and don’t care about rack mounting, the Synology RT2600ac is an excellent alternative.