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 2Wire HomePortal 100W

Page 2 

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



Still To Do

Although 2Wire's management interface and features are much improved, here's my punch list:

  • Print Server:  You can get it on less expensive boxes and a product that wants to be a one-stop solution should have one.  (Those USB ports are still just taking up space, guys...)

  • Remote Administration: Although there's a checkbox in the Firewall Settings screen for "Remote Management", I couldn't find a way to get at the web admin screens from the WAN side of the 100W.

  • Email Alerts - Logging is already separated for Security events, why not let it be emailed?

  • Access Controls by User: Could be managed similar to the Hosted Apps.

  • 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. (probably not a must-have)

  • 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.

 

Wireless joins the party

Of course the biggest change from the last review is that the 100W adds an 802.11b wireless Access Point to the other networking media options.  This makes it the first product that lets you create a network using Ethernet, USB, HomePNA 2.0 (phoneline), or  802.11b wireless (or any combination) connections.

The 100W's wireless capability comes via a Lucent mini-PCI card radio, which fits into a connector added to the 100W's mother board.  Two dipole antennas are bolted to the internal metal RF shield at the front of the box: one parallel to the floor, the other vertically aligned. There are no external antenna connectors available for connecting "booster" antennas.

2Wire HP100W - Wireless Settings screen

The Wireless Controls are pretty simple as shown in the screen shot above.  You can set the Wireless Network Name (ESSID), and either use the default 40 bit WEP encryption key (WEP is enabled by default), enter a 10 character Hexadecimal key yourself, or disable WEP.  Naming the Access Point and choosing a channel are the only other things you can do.  Note that you can't control which wireless clients can access your AP by limiting access by MAC addresses.

The 100W gives you more monitoring information than most consumer grade APs.  You can use the MDC's Statistics screen to see transmit and receive stats and errors for the wireless (and other) channel types. The main Network screen will show you the clients that are on your network.  Since only active clients are shown, when a wireless client moves out of range, their icon will disappear. You can get client IP and MAC addresses by using the MDC's Home Network Status screen.

I like it! 2Wire doesn't sell 802.11b client cards, but they include a Wireless Card configuration guide that gives detailed configuration instructions (complete with screen shots) for Lucent ORiNOCO Silver/Gold, Cisco Aironet, 3Com Airconnect, and Apple AirPort cards.  They also include a section for other wireless cards, which contains advice that looks pretty good to me.  (If you still need help you can check our Wireless Troubleshooting section.)

 

Wireless Performance

I ran the Qcheck test suite on the 100W, using a Lucent Gold PC card as the wireless client, and a Windows PC as the other LAN client.  Both clients are on the LAN side of the router, so these tests do not include the router. Here are the results:

Test Conditions:

- WEP encryption DISABLED
- Tx Rate: Automatic
- Power Save disabled

Firmware/Driver Versions:

AP f/w:Ver 2.0.27.4

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- %)

AP to Client - Condition 1

4.3 [No WEP]
3.7[w/WEP]

4 (avg)
8 (max)

487

0.1%

AP to Client - Condition 2

4.2

5 (avg)
8 (max)

493

0.0%

AP to Client - Condition 3

4.1

5 (avg)
6 (max)

490

0.0%

AP to Client - Condition 4

3.3

6 (avg)
8 (max)

400

0.2%

 

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

Comment: Performance was average for an 802.11b AP.  Transfer Rate performance at Condition 4 varied from 2.9 to 3.9Mbps, probably due to the Marginal signal condition indicated by the ORiNOCO client utility.  

The 15% throughput decrease with WEP enabled probably wouldn't be noticed while web browsing, but would slow local client-to-client transfers that aren't limited by a broadband connection's bandwidth.

I also tried an SOHOware NetBlaster II (Intersil PRISM II based) client. Although there were no problems connecting with WEP enabled, I experienced the same WEP-enabled throughput hit.

 

Router Performance

I didn't expect any change in router performance, but reran the Qcheck suite just to make sure:

(Tests run with 2.0.27.4 firmware)

Test Description

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

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

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@500Kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

WAN-LAN

7.4

3 (avg)
5 (max)

499

0.1%

LAN-WAN

6.5

4 (avg)
6 (max)

499

0%

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

Comment: LAN-WAN transfer rate performance dropped by almost 20% from my earlier review.  But it's still plenty fast for any broadband connection that a home user's gonna throw at it!

 

Summary

2Wire appears to be making some inroads in the crowded Home Portal/Gateway/Router market.  Since I last reviewed them, they've signed up Dell, CompUSA, CDW, and Earthlink as distribution partners.  Although that's not as large a "footprint" as, say, Linksys or Netgear have, it's a big step from their initial "direct sales only" availability.

So is $400 a good deal?  Let's once again see what it would take to put together the equivalent of the 100W (pricing data is from Pricegrabber on 6 April 2001):

Linksys BEFW11S4 
(4 port wireless router)

$240

Linksys HPB200 (less $ than Netgear PE102)

$143

NETGEAR EA101 USB to Ethernet adapter

$  31

====
$414

Still looks like a good deal, but it's close enough that 2Wire will need to keep an eye on pricing.

Bottom Line: If you're looking for a blazing fast router that can handle Ethernet, USB, HomePNA2.0 and 802.11b wireless connections out of the box at a competitive price, the HP100W is more than ever worth a look!

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