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Written by Carl 'lowlight' Nelson [07.25.00]
***Please read Part 1 if you haven't yet.***
Manufactured by: ZyXEL, Umax, Netgear, Linksys, D-Link, Nexland, and MacSense
Suggested Retail Price Price: Varies - $100-200
Visit IBuyer's Routers page for low prices
Everything you need to know about Network/Internet Security


Update - 1.24.00:

We are auctioning off some of the routers seen in this review! If you want one of these great routers at a reduced cost, check out these auctions on eBay:

-ZyXEL Prestige 312  
-ZyXEL Prestige 310  
-Netgear RT311  
-Umax Ugate 3000

From Good to Better

Last week's Cable/xDSL Router Shootout was a big step for us.  First of all, it was our biggest article, with 7 pages packed full of information and useful thumbnails (And no, we did not waste an entire page of your downloading time listing the specs copied from a product info brochure!).

We also stepped into something big: Networking.  Many hardware sites tend to stick to what they're good at; usually video cards and motherboards, etc.  Those things are relatively easy to review.  There are many products that can be compared the the review unit, and a basic way to review them has been widely adopted by most tech sites such as ours.  Networking is much deeper though.  When you give advice on a product that could possibly compromise the security of a network, you are taking a big step.  Network Junkies are much more liable to share their thoughts with you as well (most of the time in a good way, but I got some quite repulsive feedback as well).

Last week we looked at 5 separate Cable/xDSL routers varying in price from just under $100 to just over $200.  This review garnered the most feedback from any article I've written.  Each day I was getting 10-20 emails telling me, "Hey good review! I was also wondering if..." or "Hey I liked the review, but did you know that..." or "What a shitty-ass review! You totally forgot to mention...".  Basically these people used various ways of saying, "WE WANT MORE!".  At seven full pages, our review was not long enough!

I had originally intended to give readers a *basic* idea of what different companies provide in a Cable/xDSL router.  I wanted you guys to know which products were easy to set up and maintain, and which ones were a total waste of your time and money.  But no, you wanted more! For fear of being chastised by Kyle and Gang for making ultra-long articles, I decided to come back and make a separate part 2 article.  This one should be roughly as long as the last, but I certainly hope it's worth your time!

If you haven't yet, I HIGHLY suggest you read Part One of our router shootout, and come back to finish part 2!

What's New?

So what exactly will I be writing about this time? Well first of all, we received THREE more units to look at, bringing the grand total to EIGHT! Here is a complete list of the products we're looking at (the last three are the ones I'll cover here.. For the first five, read Part One).

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***
Linksys BEFSR41 $199.00 $153.89*
MacSense XRouter PRO MIH 130 $249.99 $168.95*
Nexland ISB2LAN-H4 $349.00 $349.99*/**

* - These units contain built-in 10/100 4 port hubs, which affects the price.  A $40-50 hub is not required, and you can maintain a 100 mb network.  The Linksys and MacSense are the only ones with a built in SWITCH; this will decrease network bandwidth lag and collisions.

** - I could not find this product using conventional search engines.  You CAN buy it from the company's online store, but you will have to pay the MSRP, which is considerably higher than the rest of the units.

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

This is what we looked at in Part One of the shootout.  We will also be using this format for the first part of this review, while we look at the 3 new units.

  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.

Finally, we look at the most requested product: Linksys' BEFSR41! This is the 4 port version of the unit we looked at last week.  We originally wanted to make two separate articles; one for 1 port products, and one for 4 port and up.  Many manufacturers offer (or are offering in the future) both though, so I don't see why we can't mix it all up this time.

Security! Get in here!!!

One thing we really neglected to cover last time was security.  Each unit does provide basic NAT (Network Address Translation) security! This is a very effective way to protect your system from intruders! I'll go into it more on page 5.  What we will really look at is the security of the units themselves.  We took our time (and yes, it takes a lot of time) to do a FULL port scan on EACH product, to see what ports they leave open to the public.  You will be surprised with the results, I assure you.

We will do an EXTENSIVE TCP AND UDP PORT SCAN ON EACH ROUTER.  I have not seen any other reviewers do this before; most do a simple 10 TCP port scan on their router, only to find that the router is not indeed leaving the FTP port open to the public.  We'll give you the full details on the ports left open, as well as the security risks that may be present.  We scanned over 2000 TCP ports, and 2000 UDP ports.

Twin Brothers? ZyXEL and Netgear

We also found out an interesting bit of info about two of the products we reviewed: They are exactly the same!!! Why did they have such different scores then (in fact, one of them received our highest recommendations)? Does this new info change the score of the reviews? Nope.  Find out why on Page 6.

Features

On the last page, you'll find one of the most detailed and up-to-date competitive matrices on the web for household Cable/xDSL routers! We will compare a TON of features for each product, you don't want to miss that page! (but you also don't want to skip the rest!). We hope to add to it if more companies send their products for testing.

Remember, if you haven't yet, go catch up with us by reading Part One of our Cable/xDSL Router Shootout!

Cable/xDSL Router Shootout Part 2 Table of Contents:

Page 1: Introduction
Page 2: Nexland ISB2LAN-H4
Page 3: MacSense XRouter PRO MIH-130
Page 4: Linksys BEFSR41
Page 5: Security!
Page 6: ZyXEL and Netgear: Twin Brothers?
Page 7: Features/Comparative Matrix/Conclusion

>> And now, on with the show: Let's look at Nexland's Router! 

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