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3Com Home Wireless Gateway

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 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 2/21/2001

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Model: 3CRWE50194

The 3Com HomeConnect line is finally making its way to market after a few false starts. The first two products are the Home Ethernet Gateway and the Home Wireless Gateway (HWG), which we'll take a look at in this review.

The HWG is a 3 port 10/100 switched router that you can think of as having a fourth port that's an 802.11b wireless Access Point. This means the HWG will route both Wireless and Ethernet clients simultaneously to share an Internet connection and share files and printers. The wireless portion is WiFi certified and supports 40bit WEP encryption.

I found the HWG to be an attractive, well-made unit, but lacking many features offered by competitive products. A detailed look follows.

The Basics

Indicators
  • Power

  • Wireless LAN Link/Activity

  • WAN Ethernet Link

  • 3 LAN Ethernet Link/Activity

Comes with
  • printed User Guide

  • printed "Installation Map"

  • UTP normal cable

  • 100-120VAC Power supply

Other
  • Fixed position, Integrated (non-removable) Antenna in Access Point

  • Has Hardware Reset switch

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

Setup


The HWG is OS neutral with all setup and administration functions done via web browser, including firmware upgrading. (See the screen shots below to get a feel for the Admin interface. Click to see a full-sized view). 3Com did a nice job with this interface, using a question and answer format for the basic setup, and hiding or exposing settings depending on your answers. This is intended to reduce networking novices' confusion, and I think it must might work!

Like most browser-based router admin interfaces, the HWG's admin features rely heavily on Java. It's possible that Linux users might have problems administrating the HWG.

3COM Home Wireless Gateway - Home Screen

3COM Home Wireless Gateway - Status Screen

It comes with set up as a DHCP client on the WAN side and with its LAN DHCP server enabled, so all you need to do is connect a client set to obtain its IP address info automatically and you should be able to access the Admin screens without problem.

Getting connected to your BSP (Broadband Service Provider), should be straightforward. PPPoE is supported for DSL users and @Home users can set the Host Name. You can't enter a Domain Name, however, so you'll have to enter that info manually into your LAN clients, rather than getting it automatically from the LAN DHCP server. (3Com plans to fix this in an upcoming firmware release.) ATT Broadband customers who are MAC address authenticated will have to call in their MAC address, since the HWG doesn't allow the WAN MAC to be changed. (3Com has no plans to fix this in an upcoming firmware release right now.)

Tip: You'll find the WAN MAC address in the System Test report output. (Scroll down since it's near the end.)

The default IP address of the HWG is 192.168.2.1, but this can't be changed! So if you're adding the HWG into an existing LAN, you may have problems if the other LAN devices aren't flexible in their IP address setup. (3Com plans to fix this in an upcoming firmware release.)

Features


The HWG has an interesting mix of routing features. The Router Comparison Chart has the full story, but I'll point out some important features here. Let's start with the pluses:

  • PPTP, IPsec, and L2TP client passthru for multiple clients is supported

NOTE: You can have only one VPN client per VPN "terminator" or server. (See this page for more info.)

  • access to Web, Mail, News, FTP, and Telnet can be set for each client IP, including Time of Day controls

3COM Home Wireless Gateway - Client Privleges Screen

  • a "hacker pattern inspection and blocking" firewall that 3Com says protects against IP spoofing, Land attack, Ping of Death, Smurf, and other nasty exploits

The HWG has a Security Log page, but I couldn't get it to show any evidence of the multiple port scans that I ran against it!

My port scan of commonly used ports got a response from Port 80 (HTTP) (a bad thing), but I couldn't access the Web server on my test machine behind the HWG (a good thing).

On the minus side, however, you'll be missing many features that users of inexpensive routers have come to expect:

  • you can't change the HWG IP address or anything on the LAN DHCP server, except enable/disable it

  • there is no user controllable port mapping, and no "DMZ" function either. 3Com says that they've built in handlers for common applications such as Quake, Netmeeting and other applications that will allow them to work behind the HWG's firewall. Adding user controllable port mapping is on 3Com's "to do" list, however.

  • Access control ("Client Privileges") is limited to the five common applications listed above, and you can't block all Internet access for a client. 3Com plans to add user defined ports in upcoming firmware.

  • There's no traffic logging and the Security Log feature can't be saved or sent to a syslog or SNMP daemon. There's also no ability to send email alerts of a "hacking" attack.

That about does it for the routing features. Let's take a look at the Wireless side next.

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