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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
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Netgear RT311

This is the first router that has a MSRP of well over $100.  The MSRP is quite a bit higher than the Linksys and D-Link, but you should be able to find it on IBuyer for just around $110-120.  That is only about $15 or so more than the others... Does it offer more value?

This is also the most 'professional' looking router of the bunch.  It looks more like a hardcore router than a "SoHo Special".  Is that a factor for you? Why not?

1. Ease of Installation

Physical installation was like the others; connect the cable modem to the WAN port using a straight-through cable, connect the router to the hub uplink (or single PC) with a crossover cable, plug it in, and turn on your PC.  There was one (rather large) difference with the software setup though...

The current full firmware version of the router does not support browser setup.  If you want to use the RT311 right away, you'll need to install the setup software, and use that (which works simple enough).  There is a beta firmware available here, that will enable browser setup (and effectively DISable the included setup software).  It is recommended that you upgrade the firmware first, before browsing to the router's IP and finding this:

This is the first page of the "Setup Wizard".  Like any other router, you enter your userid and domain name.  Tell it to obtain a dynamic IP, and you're done.  The browser setup had the exact same features as the software version (which is to say, not very much); it's just a bit easier (and runs a lot faster).

2. Value

For an extra (approximately) $15 over the D-Link and Linksys, it looks like you get a bit more for your money.  Included are both a crossover AND straight-through cable, a serial adapter, an adapter for your serial adapter, a large manual, and a quick-setup guide.  Nice!

I should also mention that out of all routers reviewed here, this one feels the 'most expensive'.  By that I mean it is very heavy, and well built (and like I said, it looks cool).  This doesn't mean much in short-term testing, but who knows if this one can outlast the others because of its metal case and high durability?

Want to see the full picture? Click for higher resolution.

3. Virtual Server Setup

Out of all the routers we looked at, the Netgear RT311 had by far the most archaic way of opening ports...

In effect, this is the exact same as the others... Rather than use an html browser, or included software though, you'll need to Telnet to it, and set it up there.  You won't be able to use a mouse, or cut and paste.  There are no common ports listed either.  It still works, and I think browser setup will be available with a future firmware upgrade.

4. Flash Upgrading

The RT311 is the only router than uses FTP to upgrade firmware.  That's right, you unzip two firmware files to your hard drive (you'll also need to rename them), FTP to the router's IP, and upload and overwrite the files.  This is a little more involving than other methods, since you'll need an FTP client installed (that is, unless you want to use the VERY archaic DOS FTP client).  As an alternative, you can upload the firmware via the serial cable, but I would rather install an FTP program.

5. Taste Test

  • Ease of Installation: B You'll need to either install the setup software, or upgrade the firmware and use a browser.  This means more steps than needed are required.
  • Value: A All cables you need are included (provided you are installing on one PC only).  At only $14 more than the Linksys or D-Link on IBuyer, this is a great deal.  Also, it looks and feels like a 'true' rugged router.  It makes the D-Link look like a toy.
  • Virtual Server Setup: C Having to Telnet to set up virtual servers is so late-90's...
  • Flash Upgrading: C- Again, more steps than necessary are needed here.  You'll need either an FTP program, or fool around in DOS, or use a serial connection.

Overall: C+ / 70%

All these images can be clicked on for a high- res version!


Next: Umax Ugate 3000

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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