|2Wire HomePortal 100|
Page 1 Author: Tim Higgins
Review Date: 4/5/2001
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Model: HomePortal 100
- Very very fast!
- Good attempt at simplifying the home network setup experience.
- Supports Ethernet, USB, and HomePNA 2.0 LAN ports
- Big and non stackable
- LAN USB port only for Win98,ME,2000
- Limited features
Corrected LAN port speed to 10BaseT from 10/100.
Now available from Dell,
Corrected WAN port speed to 10BaseT from 10/100.
Now available from CompUsa,
both via web and in-store.
$100 price reduction on all models! Wireless model available
soon for $400.
page for a summary of the Home Portal 100's capabilities.
CDRom with installation software
printed Quick Start Guide poster
printed User Guide
one normal UTP cable
two RJ11 phone cables
one USB A to B cable
modular phone jack Y adapter
100-240V Power supply
2Wire has hyped their Home Portal series since this year's CES
show last January. The product looked sexy and had interesting
specs, but months came and went and nothing shipped. But
now product is finally hitting the streets, so I lined up a review
unit to see if it really lived up to the buzz that 2Wire's PR
folks had been generating. Since we don't have access to
DSL service, we chose the Ethernet WAN port model, the HomePortal
100 (HP100). (2Wire also has the 1500 series with DSL WAN
The quick take is it more than lives up to the hype in routing
speed! But the feature set still needs to evolve.
Let's go see why!
2Wire's focus is to make it easy to setup a secure LAN and share
it via a broadband connection. Their approach is similar
to that taken by Microsoft, NETGEAR, Intel and others: put another
interface on top of that nasty networking setup stuff. However,
2Wire comes the closest that I've seen to pulling it off, and
even does it for MacOS and Windows machines! How do they
First, their documentation is decent. It contains connection
diagrams and explanations of 5 different types of LAN connections,
including wireless and HomePNA. The manual also tells you
how to add additional computers for each type of connection.
It even has a useful "FAQ" section, which can also be
their Web site.
Second, they give you connection options. If your
computer already has a HomePNA adapter built in, you can use HP100's
HomePNA2.0 port. No HomePNA? Then use the USB
port... they even supply the cable! If you're already Ethernet
housebroken, then plug into the 10BaseT Ethernet port.
The only thing that isn't built-in is a wireless connection, but
you can add an access point or even one of the USB wirless client
adapters using any of the LAN ports. You can connect devices
to all three port types and they'll be connected via an internally
switched connection. If you need more Ethernet ports, just
connect up a hub or switch (but make sure it's a 10/100 autosensing
switch since the HP100's LAN port is only 10BaseT!).
No matter whether you use a normal UTP or crossover cable, or
whatever kind of port you connect to, the HP100 will figure
it out and connect you up!
Third (and most importantly) they did a good job with the
software (and firmware)! Let's examine this one a little
There are actually three pieces to 2Wire's management
suite, although they'd really like you to use only the first two.
(Of course, I'll tell you about all three!)
1) The Installer: Comes in Win 95/98/NT/ME/2000 and MacOS
8.5 or better flavors (nope, no Linux). It took awhile and
required one reboot. The Key Code that the installer
asks for is very important and is part of 2Wire's ease-of-setup.
2Wire's products are mainly sold direct via phone (a web form
just brings up a phone contact form) and the sales person will
ask you for information about your ISP network configuration.
This information is keyed in, and out pops a KeyCode that is printed
on your HomePortal box and install CD sleeve. The Key Code
tells the Installer how to configure the WAN side of the box without
your needing to futz with IP addresses, domain names, etc.
(sample Installer screen)
The disadvantage is that if you give them the wrong
info, or 2Wire's ISP database information is wrong, the box may
come up with no WAN connection, as mine did. My 2Wire contact
traced the error to an incorrect assumption that he made about
my ISP (he thought I had a PPPoE connection), when he generated
my Key Code. If this happens, you'll need to access the
secret Management and Diagnostics Console (see below)
to reset the box to factory defaults. You'll then need to
go to the 2Wire Support site and generate a new Key Code, hopefully
this time with the right info. I just answered "Other"
to the Key
Code generator's ISP question, and received a Key Code
that asked me about all my WAN parameters... just like setting
up other routers. Note that Host and Domain names are supported
for @Home users, but RR TAS login and MAC address changing or
"spoofing" is not available.
Things I didn't like about the installer:
a) It reset my browser Home page to the HP's internal
HTTP admin server. It also created a duplicate "Default"
Netscape User profile to do this.
b) It also changed my network logon from Windows to
MS Networking. Given the target audience, I understand
the reasoning for this change, but the browser change could
be very confusing to an inexperienced user. I think installers
should at least tell you when they make changes like
this, a preferably ask permission!
b) It made me give them registration info. At
first I didn't dare bail out of this because I didn't see any
Opt-out option and I was still in the install process.
But the program took a long time between screens and finally
hung, so I had no choice. The setup still took and I didn't
get any nag screens later, though. To be fair, the program
the option of "No thanks!".
2) The Home Portal Monitor: This is a System Tray app in
Windows (I don't even know if it installs in the MacOS version)
which lets you take the actions shown in the screen shot below.
The "Change Mobile Computer" location
feature lets you store two network profiles for a computer.
This will make it easy to move a laptop between your 2Wire and
work networks, for example.
The Monitor also has a web portion, which comes
up if you select most any of the System Tray icon options, or
by typing http://172.16.0.1/ (http://home/
or http://homeportal/ should also work due to the DNS built
into the HP100) into your browser. The screen
shot below shows the "View Home Network" screen.
(I'll explain about the "grayed out" network members
Like everyone else, 2Wire wants you to make their
home page, your home page, and three of the four icons
have nothing to do with the management of the box. I'd have
liked to see more features on the network tab (see below), but
hey, 2Wire's gotta pay the bills whatever way they can!
3) The (secret) Management and Diagnostics Console (MDC):
This little guy (which my 2Wire contact told me about when I couldn't
get my install to work) saved me from sending back the box unreviewed.
You reach it by typing http://172.16.0.1/management (again,
you can substitute "home" or "homeportal"
for the IP address) into your browser. You can mostly
just look at stuff (those text boxes are READ ONLY), but you can
set some important parameters for the WAN port and set up Application
Hosting (port mapping) for Client machines.
I got the feeling from my 2Wire friend (and from
the fact that it's not documented anywhere) that they really don't
want customers to use this interface unless directed by 2Wire
support. But since it accesses information and functions
that you can't get through the HomePortal interface, you should
know about it, and use it if you need to.
few words on Linux and other OSes...
It's possible (although not recommended by 2Wire) to install
the HP100 without installing the HomePortal software by just
using the M&D console. You can even access the Web
part of the HomePortal interface, although if your browser isn't
handy with Java, you may not get a very satisfying experience!
Firmware updating is done via the web browser
Any client whose OS includes a TCP/IP stack should
be useable with the HP100. If you have problems getting
an address from the mandatory DHCP server, you can manually
assign TCP/IP info if you start at the high end of the subnet
range and work down. Note that you don't have to install
the 2Wire HomePortal software when you add MacOS or windows
clients to your network either.
In all, these Management Interface components should
give novice networkers a smooth installation experience.
If not, Tech support is available 24/7 via a toll-free number
or email. The contact info is printed in the User Guide
(ignore the old Mon-Fri limited hours info), and is clearly shown
on the HP Monitor's Troubleshooting screen, something I'd like
to see all manufacturers do!