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 2Wire HomePortal 100

Page 2 

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 4/5/2001


I'm connected. Now what?

attentionsml.gif (1034 bytes)NOTE: Opening holes in your firewall can compromise your LAN's security if done incorrectly.

Once your shared connection to the Internet is up, you may need to get things other than web browsing and email working, such as web phones, games or servers.  For you, the HP100 has its "Hosted Applications" feature.  This is port mapping, but with a very nicely designed interface and much of the nasty work handled automatically.  As you can see from the screen shots below (click on them to see a larger view), you set the Hosted Applications by choosing a network client by name and choosing from an extensive pick-list of applications.  If your application isn't in the list, you can set the mapping yourself, but only one port at a time.  You should also tell 2Wire, because they've made the list updatable by clicking on a link in the Hosted App window, and they'll be expanding the Hosted App list for popular applications.

Hosted Application - Add application screen

Hosted Application - Manual Add application screen  Hosted Application - Application detail screen

I was curious about what 2Wire did for the tough apps like NetMeeting and Direct X games, which require many ports to be opened.  I was surprised when I saw only one port listed for each of these apps!  2Wire said that they actually write "Application Layer Gateways" for complex maps, which do the heavy lifting.  The simple single port Hosted Apps I tried all worked, but I didn't try any of the more complicated stuff.   So I can't comment on how well 2Wire does at achieving their goal of making one of the toughest parts of Internet sharing easy.

 

How secure?

I ran a few TCP port scans for common server and Trojan ports on the HP100 and didn't come up with anything open.  On the other hand, none of my scans were picked up in the MDC's Security log, either.  The log can be cleared, but not saved, emailed, or sent to a syslog server.

What's not to like?

Although 2Wire's management interface is better than many others, it has its share of quirks and missing features...

  • Browser Bugs: I used both Netscape 4.75 and IE 4.72.3110 (the one that comes with Win98SE for my testing and found differences between them.  You won't see the "Access shared files" hyperlink on the "Networked Devices" display in Netscape, but will in IE.  I also got Javascript errors  and "File not Found" errors for all frames of the window when I tried to access the MDC with IE, but Netscape was ok.  The Help screen index displays in IE, but not in Netscape, too.

  • Sticky Network: I did some moving around of Network clients during my testing, but try as I might, I couldn't get rid of the icons for the no-longer functioning devices.  They at least were "greyed out" and the 2Wire console didn't nag me about them.

  • No Status: Other than the big steadily glowing LEDs on the front of the 2Wire box, you have no idea of whether traffic is really moving, or whether devices are even linked.  The Ethernet connectors on the rear of the box have Link and Activity LEDs, but the HomePNA and USB jacks have none.  Nothing to help you in the Home Portal Monitor display either.  This needs work, folks.

  • No Admin password: Seems like a glaring omission to me!  Anyone on the LAN side of the router can bring up the HomePortal web screen by typing http://172.16.0.1/ into their browser

  • No Remote Administration: If you're not on the LAN side of the HP100, you won't be able to access either the HPMonitor or even the MDC.

  • No Real Time : You can't set the time of day in the HP100, so all logged events are timed relative to the last boot-up.

Missing in action

If you've used other routers, you may be looking for some features that you're used to.  Here's what you won't find:

  • Access Controls: No way to keep users from accessing network services.

  • Content Controls: You'll have to find another way to keep objectionable material from being accessed from the net.

  • Static Routing: You can't set static routes to communicate with other routers' subnets if you have them.

  • DHCP Disable: You can't shut off DHCP and you can only control the private IP range (but not the number of clients) that's handed out via the MDC

  • VPN Server support: You won't be able to host either PPTP or IPsec servers on your LAN.  2Wire says that PPTP client passthru presently works and the IPsec client passthru will be supported in a firmware update that is due out in a few weeks.

You should also know that the two USB "A" (rectangular) connectors (described as being for "peripheral support") currently can't be used for anything. The one "B" connector isn't supported for the MacOS, too.

Smmmmokin'...

The HP100 blew right though my manual file transfer test, which maxes out at about 5.0Mbps.   So I had to rely on my trusty netIQ Qcheck utility to give me the real story, which was blow-my-socks-off impressive!

(Tests run with 1.1.2.2 firmware)

Test Description

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

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

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@1000Kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

WAN-LAN

7.5

< 3

999

0%

LAN-WAN

7.9

< 3

988

0%

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

This puppy SCREAMS in either direction,  whether it's TCP, UDP streams, or whatevah. 'Nuff said!

Summary

Update 1/10/01: The HomePortal 100 price has been cut to $199, so it's an even better deal now!

2Wire packs a lot into its stylish box for $200, but is it worth it?  I tried to assemble an equivalent box from separate products, just to do a sanity check on pricing, and came up with the following (pricing data was from Pricegrabber on 10 Jan 2001):

Updated 1/10/01

NETGEAR RT314 router 
(for its speed and ports)

$130

NETGEAR PE102 HomePNA2.0 to Ethernet bridge (less $ than Linksys HPB200)

$145

NETGEAR EA101 USB to Ethernet adapter

$ 28

====
$303

This tells me that 2Wire has done their pricing homework.  They've certainly done their bandwidth homework, since the HP100 is now the fastest router tested to date!  If the firmware that handles their Hosted Applications is solid, that would be another advantage over many competing boxes who either can't get it right or who forward a smaller number of ports.

Since 2Wire pumped up the hype volume as high as they did, I really felt they had a lot to live up to, and for the most part, they did.  But they'll need to improve the feature set and keep an eye on the competition who are starting to roll out their multi-flavored port products, too!

Bottom Line: If you're looking for a blazing fast router that can handle Ethernet, USB or HomePNA2.0 connections out of the box at a competitive price, the HP100 is definitely worth a look!

 

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