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 ZyXEL Prestige 310 Broadband Sharing Gateway

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 12/10/2000


Model: Prestige 310
Originally reviewed on 11/15/99
Pros: - Full-featured
- Reliable PPPoE connections
- Fast
 
Cons: - Configuration still harder than it should be
- No port range mapping
 

 


Updates

12/10/00 New speed results and other updates

8/3/00 Info added about MacOS syslog shareware client.

12/27/99 Review updated with notes on throughput spec.

12/5/99 Review has been updated, reflecting comments from helpful visitor Christian Altenbach.


 

The Basics

Indicators
  • Power

  • Sys

  • WAN Link/Activity

  • LAN 10 and 100 Link/Activity

Connectors
  • One RJ45 10BaseT WAN

  • One RJ45 10/100BaseT LAN

  • Power

  • DB9F Serial console 

Comes with
  • CDRom with installation software

  • printed Read Me First

  • printed User Guide

  • one normal UTP cable

  • one crossover UTP cable

  • one DB9M to DB9F/DB25F serial console cable

  • 120V Power supply

Other 
  • NO Hardware Reset switch

  • NO Uplink or Normal / Crossover switch for LAN Ports (see this page if this concerns you!)

   

A second look

When we first looked at the P310 about a year ago, we found that it had a difficult user interface and that it was surprisingly slower than competing routers.  Many users wrote to dispute our speed findings, but we were unable to retest the box, since we had returned it to ZyXEL.  ZyXEL recently asked us for a retest and sent us a current box for evaluation.  We reran our speed tests and poked at the improvements that have been made in the admin interface.  The following review is mostly the same as the original, but has been updated in the relevant areas.

   

Setting up is (still) hard to do...

Update: ZyXEL continues to evolve the administration interface of the P310, and it now consists of a Telnet interface, a Windows application (the Prestige Network Commander (PNC)), and a web interface.  The new eval unit suprisingly came with V2.51 firmware installed, instead of a newer 3.2x version, so we had to download the new firmware from ZyXEL's FTP server.

The good news is that the PNC definitely makes setting up the P310 easier.  The bad news is that PNC version 2.30 doesn't seem to like the 3.23 firmware, since the PNC threw an error every time we tried to run it after the upgrade.  We also had trouble logging into the web interface, too, but finally managed to get in via IE5.0 instead of Netscape 4.75. 
 Verdict: the Telnet interface is still the most reliable and full-featured way to set up the router.

ZyXEL wisely ships the P310 with a WAN Telnet filter enabled and an administration password.  This ensures that, if nothing else, novice users won't be able to connect the unit to their cable modem and then have the P310 cracked into before they even know what's happening.   They also supply a handy utility for Windows users that allows you to set the most common parameters required for internet access (Static or dynamic WAN IP (DHCP), subnet mask, gateway, and any ISP specific authentication, if required). However, more advanced configuration issues must be performed with your favorite Telnet program from the LAN side (default IP of the P310 is 192.168.1.1). If you are not a Windows user, you must do all configuration by telnet. This will be no big deal for Linux and Unix users, but it may be the first time a MacOS user has had to deal with a terminal emulator and Telnet.  

If your cable company uses DHCP and does not require a special authentication program or MAC address, the P310 will work with zero configuration, acting as DHCP client on the WAN and DHCP server on the LAN.

However, if the default LAN IP of 192.168.1.1 is not compatible with your local numbering scheme, you must perform all initial configuration via the serial connection and a VT100 capable terminal program. This provides access to the same interface like Telnet above, but does not require a functional TCP/IP connection. The included serial cable and adapter is compatible with most PCs but Macintosh users must supply their own serial cable.

Given this setup method, ZyXEL tries to make things as easy as possible for users to set up the unit.  The documentation is clear and they even include normal, and "crossover" UTP cables, as well as a serial cable.  However, since virtually all comparable routers have simpler to use and understand web-based setup, this older style interface may cause networking novices (particularly MacOS users) to look for other, easier-to-use solutions.   

You can manually set the P310's WAN port information or have it act as a DHCP client and obtain everything automatically.  The P310 can handle "host name" authentication (like @Home uses) , the RoadRunner TAS Authentication methods, and allow you to set the MAC address on the WAN port.  This last method will help MediaOne/RR users whose service is tied to a specific NIC.

On the LAN side, you can set the starting IP and range of addresses that the DHCP server will hand out, or disable it and assign your IP info manually. 

The P310 manual can be found here (in PDF format).  Good printed documentation comes with the unit, including a helpful Read Me First sheet, a summary of required settings for common applications, and a sheet for xDSL users. The ZyXEL Web site is also very helpful and includes FAQ for both the router OS (ZyNOS) and the router itself, as well as a download area for firmware updates.  You can even sign up for a Prestige Users mailing list.

 

Advanced Features

The P310 has a number of features that network-savvy users will appreciate.  It supports the RIP-1, RIP-2M, and RIP-2B routing protocols and you can set the unit to send only, receive only or do both with its routing information.  You can set up to 8 static routes in the P310 itself.  These features make it easy to incorporate the P310 into larger networks with multiple routers.

You can open holes in the P310's firewall (called SUA servers) so that servers on your LAN can be accessed from the Internet, but you are limited to 10 single-port-number-to-LAN IP mappings (increased from 8) and you can't specify TCP or UDP protocol.  Port range mappings are still also not supported.

You actually get a total of 12 SUA servers, but one is dedicated to the Default Server, and another to the RoadRunner login protocol.

One IP address can be designated as the Default Server. (This is similar to the DMZ Host, or Exposed Computer feature on other routers.)  Any inbound service request that doesn't have a defined IP address to handle it will be sent to the Default Server.

NOTE: Opening holes in your firewall can compromise your LAN's security if done incorrectly.

Filtering is very flexible, but the hardest to use feature of the P310.  Filters allow you to block data from entering or leaving your LAN.  ZyXEL has provided powerful filtering capability, but, unfortunately, you need to configure it at a level that requires more understanding of networking protocols than most users will have.  The P310 comes by default with filters enabled that block telnet from the WAN side and limit NetBIOS traffic to the LAN.

Network Administrators will find a complete set of "Maintenance" features, all accessible via Telnet.  System status can be monitored, the unit can be reset, and error logs can be examined, among other features.  If you have a system that supports the UNIX syslog feature, the P310 will even log activity to it.  Finally, for the very adventurous, you can enter the P310's OS mode and do packet traces and other fun stuff!

The P310 handles PPPoE pretty reliably (more so than the more popular Linksys Etherfast router series).  VPN capabilities include PPTP client passthru, LAN-side PPTP server (requires one mapped port.. see the Help page) passthru, and one IPsec client passthru.  Logging requires use of a syslog client.  Linux and Unix users can use the clients that come with their OS. See this page for how to use syslog with a Windows or MacOS system.

 

Limitations

Even with all the things you can do with the P310, there are still a few things you can't, such as:

  • port range mapping or triggered maps

  • set content filtering.

  • control user access by time period, password, or any other method.

  • act as a VPN endpoint.

  • IPsec LAN-side server passthru

 

Speed retest

Our original review clocked the P310's throughput at a very pokey 1.20Mbps. No matter how we retested, we couldn't get a higher number.

We're happy to report that the retest using netIQ's Qcheck utility fared much better.  Here are the results:

(Tests run with 3.23 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

5.2

< 5

491

0.1%

LAN-WAN

5.2

< 5

423

13.9%

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

We also ran tests with the 2.51 firmware and saw slight improvement in WAN-LAN routing speed (v2.51 was about 4.7Mbps) and much better UDP streaming performance (v2.51 had a 209Kbps throughput with 39% packet loss).  We opened up the new unit and confirmed that ZyXEL hadn't changed processors or clock speed.  These new numbers are much better news, but probably nothing that existing 310 (or NETGEAR RT311) users don't already know.

 

Summary

I still have mixed feelings about the P310, but they now are mainly due to the user interface and lack of port range mapping.  Even after a year's worth of work, the Telnet interface still remains the best way to set up the box.  The Windows-only PNC utility is helpful, especially for filter configuration, but it's Windows-only and seems to not work properly with the new 3.23 firmware.  Finally, the web interface is still the worst of the three and may never be developed to the point where it's equal to what is offered on most other popular routers.

My bottom line is that the P310 is an aggressively priced, fast, full featured router that is still hampered by an unfriendly user interface. Its sister router, the NETGEAR RT311, has sold more units, mainly due to NETGEAR's aggressive pricing and better retail distribution.  But, now that ZyXEL is also competing in the pricing wars, is widely available through on-line retailers, and introduces new firmware first, the P310 is definitely worth a look if you're considering the RT311.


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 Opinion Summary:     75.0%   |   25.0%  |   out of 12 reviews  
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