The word valet is defined as a personal attendant for customers, which makes Cisco’s Valet Plus an appropriately named wireless router. There’s no user configuration to get this router up and running; In fact, it’s tailor-made for those that can’t distinguish an SSID from an SSN, as the Valet Plus handles all of the under-the-hood tinkering for you, just like a good manservant. The Valet Plus auto-configures, connects to your computer, and then copies that configuration onto a provided USB Easy Setup key so it can set up other devices on your home network when you pop the stick into them. It’s truly no-brainer router configuration. And the Valet Plus is no slouch when it comes to speed, either.
Cisco Valet Plus Design
The design doesn’t look radically different from other Cisco/Linksys routers, but the unit feels significantly lighter for some reason. The sleek Valet Plus is a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi router with three internal antennas that perform 2×3 transmit/receive, effectively doubling the throughput of the wireless signal. There are four Gigabit Ethernet ports housed in the sleek silver-and-white body. The bundled Easy Setup Key is emblazoned with Cisco’s logo.
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Cisco ValetPlus : Router
Cisco ValetPlus : Easy Setup Key
Cisco ValetPlus : Cisco Connect
Cisco ValetPlus : Easy setup key in interface
The unit looks good, but a big pet peeve of mine with Cisco/Linksys routers returns with the Valet Plus: Confusing LED icons. The Valet Plus has the same annoying icons as on most of the current Cisco/Linksys home routers, such as the connectivity status icon that looks like the planet Saturn. I don’t want to interpret hieroglyphics when I’m troubleshooting my home network; I just want to know if my LAN and Internet connections are good. How about more intelligible LEDs, Cisco?
Networking Options 802.11n (2.4 GHz only)
Device Type Router
Not only is the Valet Plus easy to set up, the set up is fast. After installing the Cisco Connect software onto my Windows 7 laptop, the notebook connected to the router in four minutes (including a mandatory system reboot), which was a minute less than the Linksys Wireless-G Router for Mobile Broadband (WRT54G3GV2-ST)’s ($127.99 direct, ) setup time. I’ve never seen a router ready to go so quickly. In addition, the Cisco Valet Plus automatically set the WPA-2 security parameters, and it connected without intervention on my part to the least-crowded wireless signal. That’s what I call true no-fuss set-up. What a seamless experience when compared to the convoluted setup we experienced with the SMC Barricade N Wireless Broadband Router ($62 direct, ), which to say the least, did not have a user-friendly setup and was as far as a device could get from being plug-and-play.
Although it was the easiest router I’d ever set up, the process was a bit disconcerting to me, as a network specialist, as I wasn’t in control of my home network. After all, I didn’t know the WPA-2 encryption key or SSID password. The worry, it turns out, was for naught, because the Cisco Connect software displays that information on your computer and allows you to change them. Real propellerheads may be ill at ease with this system, but it’s great for the average home user.
I found it just as simple to get a second laptop connected. From the Cisco Connect software, I selected “Connect another computer or device to your Valet.” I plugged the USB Easy Setup key into the second laptop, clicked on “Connect” and that laptop was rapidly connected with the security settings configured. The Cisco Connect software also serves as a management console that lets you can set parental controls, and enable advanced features such as giving guests secondary SSID and login credentials so that they can jump onto the Web without having access to other devices on your network.—Next: Wireless Testing