AVM Fritz!Box Fon WLAN 7140 Review

The marketing people at AVM who came up with the name 'AVM Fritz!Box Fon WLAN 7140' should hang their heads in shame but, fortunately, the Fritz!Box is far more interesting than it sounds.

At first glance, the Fritz!Box looks like a fairly conventional wireless router. It’s got a small fold-out aerial for wireless transmission, as well as four Ethernet ports that also allow for the creation of a wired network. However, it’s also got a couple of extra features that make it stand out from most normal routers.

The main boon is the inclusion of two telephone connectors for low-cost VoIP phone calls. To get you started the company include a voucher for 333 minutes of free call time with the SipGate service (www.sipgate.co.uk). The router will work with other VoIP services such as Vonage, but not, for various technical reasons, with Skype.

It also has a USB port that can be used to connect a printer or USB hard disk, which can then be shared by everyone on your network. These features certainly make for a versatile and useful router. However, the Fritz!Box does have a couple of rough edges.

The first thing we noticed is that the setup software supplied with the router is for PCs only, and doesn’t run on Macs. You can still use the Fritz!Box without this software, but you’ll first have to root around on the CD to locate the PDF file that has separate instructions for Mac users.

These instructions aren’t as clear as they could be either – they skim over details such as configuring the router through your web browser – and people who haven’t set up a router before might get a bit lost here. The other drawback is that the Fritz!Box still uses the 802.11g wireless system (or, to be precise, the slightly faster 802.11g++ variant). Admittedly, this will be perfectly adequate for most people’s needs, although some people might prefer faster 802.11n products such as Apple’s own AirPort routers.

To be fair, the Fritz!Box worked perfectly well in our tests. However, Fritz need to pay a little more attention to the Mac side of things if they want to provide the ease of use that Mac users take for granted.

OUR VERDICT

The use of 802.11g technology might deter a few potential customers, but 802.11g is still good enough for most of us, and the additional VoIP and printer-sharing features are also very useful. The only real drawback with the Fritz!Box is that the software and documentation aren’t very Mac-friendly.

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