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Written by Carl 'lowlight' Nelson [07.14.00]
Manufactured by: ZyXEL, Umax, Netgear, Linksys, and D-Link
Suggested Retail Price Price: Varies - $100-200
Visit IBuyer's Routers page for low prices
Everything you need to know about Network/Internet Security


My, How Times Change...

It's becoming more and more common for households to have more than one PC... Some families provide each member with their own PC, in their own room (talk about anti-social!).  Even more common these days is broadband internet access; whether it be from cable or xDSL.

You bought your wife and kids their own computers because they just wouldn't leave yours alone, right? You just simply can't share! Well with internet access, you'll have to learn to share! Most internet companies only provide one ip address for each installation, with the possibility of purchasing more for a monthly payment.  These policies range though.  For instance, when I had ADSL here in Vancouver BC, my 'personal' account gave me 2 dynamic IP addresses.  This meant that all I had to do is connect the ADSL modem to a hub, and connect my PCs from there.  A simple non-stackable 10mb Ethernet hub would suffice (they can be found for around $40-50 on IBuyer's Ethernet Hub Page).  Note that with a single hub, each PC is still 'open' to the public.  Your ip can be seen by anyone (very handy for 1337 h4x0rZ), and if you are sharing files on your network, you are leaving ports open to everyone.

My cable company, however, only supplies me with one ip address.  This means I have to share.  Now, this can be done with proxy software, but there are a few disadvantages to that.  First of all, one computer has to be on at all times as a server.  Second, with routers, your internal IP's are never shown publicly on the internet.  No client software are needed with routers, and they are completely compatible with ALL OS's.  I also like the idea of 'true' firewalls, and easy to setup virtual servers.

So you have a few choices if you want to share your net access, and only have 1 ip address:

  1. Buy another IP address, usually for around $15-20 a month, and a hub for $40, and remain insecure (especially if you are sharing files on your network).
  2. Use Proxy server or NAT software to provide access to the other PC's, leaving one server PC on at all times so the others can gain access, and remain insecure (again, be careful if you're sharing files).
  3. Read this review, find out which router is best for you and buy it for around $100 (and a hub for around $40).  You will also have protection of a natural firewall, and masked IP addresses.

Obviously, the first choice is an utter waste of money.  In 3 months you'll have spent enough to buy a router and a hub, yet you won't gain from the advantages.  If you are an absolute Cheap Bastards of America club member (CBoA), you could always pirate a copy of Winproxy and go about your own business.  Of course, you'll miss out on the security these routers provide...

These 1 port routers can also come in handy for a single PC, because they offer great security.

So You've Decided...

Now you're convinced that you NEED one of these handy little toys, great! Now you just need to decide on which one to get.  That's what we're here for.  There are actually quite a few cable/dsl routers out there, in both 1 port versions, and those with built-in 4 port switches.  You've probably already heard of the more popular (or should I say, heavily marketed) ones like the Linksys BEFSR11 and D-Link's DI-701.

We'll be taking a look at five different routers from five different manufacturers.  They are all 1 port versions, except one, which is only available in 4 port.  I'll list them here, with their MSRP, and the lowest price available on IBuyer.  Click on the lowest price to see IBuyer's product page (they are an awesome search engine, let me tell you).

Manufacturer Model MSRP Lowest Price on IBuyer
D-Link DI-701 $115.00 $94.19
Linksys BEFSR11 $129.00 $94.99
Netgear RT-311 $180.00 $113.97
Umax* UGate 3000 $249.95* $203.11*
ZyXEL Prestige 310 $299.00 $159.00**

* - The Umax unit contains a built-in 4 port switching hub, which affects the price.  A $40-50 hub is not required, and you can maintain a 100 mb network.

** - ZyXEL is selling their Prestige 310 units for almost half price! This is a limited time offer though, so hurry! Here's the link.

For each unit, I will be looking at these things:

  1. Ease of Installation and setup.  Did it work right out of the box? How easy was it to install? Was the manual well written?

  2. Value.  As you can see, the price varies quite a bit between units.  Do you get more for the $200+ units? Do the cheaper units include everything required for instant access?

  3. Virtual Server Setup.  If you want to run a Quake 3 server (or even a web server) you're going to want to find out how easy that is to do.

  4. Flash Upgrading.  You will inevitably need to upgrade the firmware on these babies; some are easier to do than others.

  5. Taste tests.  Geoff is a bit of an aficionado when it comes to computer parts.  He'll let you know which one gave him gas if you ask him (please don't).

Each category will receive one of 6 letter grades.  Starting with D (I hope I don't have to do that), C-, C, C+, B, and A.  A is worth 5 points, B is worth 4, and so on.  D is worth no points.  The points are then tallied up, and an average is given as a percentage score and a final grade.  Please note that these percentage grades are not scaled to our normal grading system.

Also note that we DO know that Linksys offers a 4 port version of their router.  We will be looking at this separately, and a full review should be up later this week.

PART II OF THE CABLE/XDSL ROUTER SHOOTOUT IS HERE!!!

Still with me? On with the show! Let's look at D-Link! 

Page 1: Introduction
Page 2: D-Link DI-701
Page 3: Linksys BEFSR11
Page 4: Netgear RT-311
Page 5: Umax Ugate 3000
Page 6: ZyXEL Prestige 310
Page 7: Conclusions

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