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 Linksys BEFN2PS4 EtherFast Cable/DSL & Net2Phone Voice Router

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 2/25/2001


Model: BEFN2PS4

Pros:

- Can make Net2Phone calls without using a PC
- Improved speed (vs. BEFSR41)

 
Cons :

- Can't receive calls..yet
- No free calling

 

Review Updates

2/26/01 Clarified some of the Net2Phone features.

 

The Basics

Indicators
  • Power

  • WAN Ethernet Activity

  • WAN Ethernet Link

  • Diag

  • 4 LAN Ethernet Link/Activity, Full/Collision, 100

  • Net2Phone In Use

Connectors
  • One RJ45 10BaseT for the WAN

  • Four RJ45 auto sensing 10/100BaseT LAN

  • one RJ45 Uplink port shared with Port 1

  • Power

Comes with
  • printed User Guide

  • TechHelper CDRom

  • quick installation sheets for Net2Phone and the router

  • Net2Phone Rechargeable Calling Card

  • 120VAC Power supply

Other
  • One RJ11 jack for telephone connection

  • Has Hardware Reset switch

  • Has Uplink port

 

Introduction


Linksys is really on a campaign to populate the world with their little purple and gray boxes!  There are now seven members of the BEF (router) product line and the Cable/DSL Net2Phone router (N2P) may be the most interesting family member yet.  

The N2P takes a 4 port Linky and adds the circuitry to support a Net2Phone Voice-over-IP (VoIP) connection.  Once you install the router, you just plug any normal (even cordless) telephone into the RJ11 jack on the back, go to a special Linksys/Net2Phone Web site to activate your account, and pick up the phone and dial!  Is it really that easy?  Well...yes, but there are a few things that you need to know...

 

Setting up


The N2P has all the features of a normal Linksys router, so I won't go into them here (see this review if you need more info about the router itself).

Once the router was connected to the Internet, I brought up the Setup Admin screen (a portion shown to the right) and entered the Account Number and PIN from the Net2Phone Rechargeable Calling Card.  I then went to the special Net2Phone/Linksys Web site via a link on the Help page, and registered.  I chose to not give them my credit card info to set up an account, so I got only 60 free minutes of calls, instead of 160.


Linksys Voice Router - Setup screen

 

Be patient when using the Linksys/Net2Phone Web site.  I found it sometimes took a minute or so to login.  I also experienced browser lockups with Netscape 4.76, but had no problems with IE5.X.

Once the activation was complete, I plugged a phone into the jack on the back of the N2P, picked up the handset (seemed strange to get a dial tone from Linky!), dialed, and connected!  Quality was similar to a good digital cell phone connection with a small amount of echo reported by the person on the other end of the line.  I later made a cross-country call that was a little noisy, but perfectly intelligible.

Since I don't have access to a broadband connection and do all testing on a private network behind a dialup router, my test calls were actually made via a 56k dialup connection and behind a second NAT router!  (I didn't have to touch any settings on the dialup router.)  My modem Tx/Rx lights were continuously flashing during the call however (it probably never worked so hard...) and the call would drop out temporarily if I web-browsed or send/received mail, but that was to be expected.  I'm impressed!

So what are the downsides to this little wonder?  Well, unlike Net2Phone's PC2Phone service, there are no free calls.  All calls will cost you (at time of this review) at least 3.9 cents a minute, with International calls costing you more.  You also can't receive calls, although Net2Phone is working on a feature called "Direct Inward Dial" for rollout later this year that will allow this.  You'll have to contact Net2Phone for a callable phone number and it's not clear what the charge will be for the service.

Finally if you have an existing Net2Phone account, can't use it with the N2P, since it requires a special Net2Phone account.

 

So what else is new?


The N2P has two new admin screens as shown below.  The Password screen actually isn't new, but the SNMP Community string definitions are.  

Linksys Voice Router - Password screen 

Here's what the Help screen for the feature says:

Community is the name used by an SNMP device to control access to MIB variables. This Router provides four community names for users to manage the SNMP access. Users can set the access option of each community name to ''Read-Only'' or ''Read-Write'', and use the correct community name to read or write the MIB variables through some SNMP management tools. The SNMP community must be less than 32 characters, and it cannot contain any spaces.

Got all that?  Hope so, because there's no other information about the SNMP features of the N2P in the User Manual.

The Speed Dial screen allows you to specify 10 phone numbers that you can set up to dial via a shortened number.

Linksys Voice Router - Speed Dial screen

One other thing to note is that since the N2P is based on the 1.36 firmware, the MAC address change feature can be found as a semi-hidden link on the Setup page, instead of on its own Admin tab.

 

Speed Check!


My inside explorations of the N2P found a few differences in the routing components, so I decided to put it through the Qcheck test suite.  I was pleasantly surprised by the results!

[Tests run with Ver 1.36p3 firmware]

Test Description

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

[1Mbyte data size]

Qcheck Response Time (msec)
[10 iterations 100byte data size]

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@500Kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

WAN-LAN

5.6

3 avg.
12 max.

498

0.1

LAN-WAN

5.5

3 avg.
11 max.

490

0.6

(Details of how we tested can be found here.) 

These results show about an 30% speed improvement over test results for the regular 4 port Linky.  Since both routers use the same RISC-based processor, clocked at the same rate, the speed difference could be due to the different switch chip used in the N2P, and maybe firmware.

 

Summary


This was my first experience with VoIP calling and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the call and the ease of setup and use of the product, especially with my slightly unusual networking configuration described above.  It was nice to not even have any of my computers on (or even better, have to add hardware or software to them) to make the calls.  And do I even need to mention not having to mess with port forwarding or putting any computers in DMZ?!

If you've in the market for a broadband router and been thinking of taking advantage of an inexpensive (but in this case, not free) Internet calling service, or are even just curious about VoIP calling, you might want to give the N2P a try.  You'll pay only $40 more than you would (on-line pricing) for a regular Linky, and even if you end up not using the VoIP feature, you'll get a slightly faster version of the best-selling router around!


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 Opinion Summary:     73.9%   |   26.1%  |   out of 23 reviews  
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