Setup and Features
The manual, which is included on the Setup cd in PDF form, is certainly thorough in describing what the router can do, but it isn’t terribly user-friendly in terms of explaining what those things are. If you’re already an old pro at setting up home networking equipment, you’ll feel right at home. If you’re not, be prepared to do some Google searching if you want to do anything besides go with the defaults.
The layout of the web admin page is straightforward enough: categories on the left, detail tabs for each category on top. The decision to enclose the whole thing in a fixed-width frame is unfortunate, as it means you’ll be scrolling regardless of how large your screen is.
The Wizard runs you through the most basic of basics: wireless AP mode or gateway mode, WAN settings (if gateway) and wireless configuration. If you’re not doing anything fancy, it may be enough to get you going. If you don’t want to mess with copy-pasting WPA keys, you can use the WPS button the router to automate key exchange with compatible devices. If one or two of your devices don’t support WPS, the web interface allows for copy-pasting the key the traditional way.
This router covers all the basic features you’d expect from a gateway router, including local DHCP and DNS, client filtering by IP or MAC address, Port forwarding and triggering, UPnP, and firewall. Above that, it provides QoS controls for traffic shaping, which can operate on a per port or per client basis. This can be helpful for habitual BitTorrent users who still want web surfing and email to be responsive.
The wireless features on this router are quite sophisticated for a sub-$100 device. In addition to channel auto-scanning and other interference mitigation features, the ESR-9850 can maintain up to four separate wireless networks, with independent security settings for each. If you’ve ever wanted to provide open WiFi access to friends and neighbors without compromising the data on your private network, this router will let you do it with a minimum of fuss.