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US Robotics USR8000 Broadband Router

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 7/30/2001

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Model: USR8000
Pros:

- Built-in Windows / LPR print server.
- Supports dialup WAN connection
- Flexible port range mapping with outbound triggers!
- Fast!

 
Cons:

- No traffic logging
- Poor documentation

 


Review Updates

8/20/01  1.23 firmware update available on USR's FTP server [Thnx Peter!]
ftp://ftp.usr.com/usr/router/Usr123.zip. Release notes are here.

 

The Basics

 
Indicators
  • Power

  • Status

  • LAN

  • WAN Link/Activity

  • LAN Link/Activity (4)

  • LAN 10/100 (4)

Connectors
  • One RJ45 10BaseT Ethernet WAN

  • Four RJ45 10/100BaseT switched Ethernet LAN plus Uplink shared with Port 1

  • One DB9M  "COM" port.

  • One DB25F parallel printer port.

  • Power

Comes with
  • printed Quick Installation Guide

  • CD with PDF copies of documentation and print server client installer

  • Two CAT5 UTP cables

  • 100-240VAC Power supply

Other
  • Hardware reset button

  • Uplink port (shared with Port 1)

 

Introduction


U.S. Robotics chose a good product to OEM to get into the Broadband Router market.  But they need to do a little work really get into the game...

 

Details


One look at the first screen is all it took for me to know that the USR chose the same path as SMC, Asante, GVC, and 3Com and chose AMIT as the OEM of their Broadband Router.

USR8000 - System Status screen

The hardware design is essentially the same as the OLD SMC Barricade and Asante FriendlyNET, so if you need the details on what the 8000 can do, check out the Asante and old Barricade reviews.  The 8000's exact feature set is a little different due to its use of an older firmware revision (more on that below).

Of course, given that I've awarded the SMC and Asante routers Practically Recommended status, I think USR made a good choice of vendor.  But I'm not giving the USR8000 a Practically Recommended for the following reasons:

  • Poor documentation - The printed Installation Guide doesn't even include the password you'll need to log into the router admin pages, and doesn't cover setup details that @Home users will need.  Folks whose BSP's use MAC address authentication won't find any help either.  The User Manual included on the CD is in HTML format, so it's not easily printable. But there's not a lot of helpful info in the manual, and the info that's there is incomplete and confusing.

  • Old firmware - The 1.0 firmware that came on the router is fairly old and looks to be equivalent to SMC version 1.88 or 1.89.  It looks like it has the bug where it keeps trying to reconnect, regardless of the state of the "Renew IP Forever" (auto-reconnect) setting.  If you're brave and want to try loading SMC or AMIT firmware, be warned that the USR Web site doesn't have a copy of the 1.0 firmware available for download and it's also not included on the CD.  All that being said, the features of the V1.0 firmware that came loaded on the 8000 should be ok for many users.

  • Support - Phone support is available only 11 hours a day Mon-Fri and the call is on your dime. You have to fill out a web form for email support (which I dislike because I never know if I'll get a copy of what I send) and no response time expectation is given.

  • Track Record - Although the U.S. Robotics name is well respected and has been around for almost 30 years, the present company is still getting established.  It was spun out of 3Com in Sept 2000, and the division that sources the 8000 was formed in March of this year.  So although they're working hard to establish a name in Broadband networking, they've got a way to go.

Given these support related weaknesses, you may find this page helpful.

 

Router performance


I ran the Qcheck suite to test routing performance, with the following results:

Firmware/Driver Version:

V1.0

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

3.7

 3 (avg)
4 (max)

499

 0%

LAN-WAN

4.9

 3 (avg)
4 (max)

497

 0%

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

Comment: Good routing performance, with plenty of speed for most broadband connections. UDP WAN-LAN performance is better than many other routers.

 

Summary


As I said at the top of this review, I think USR made a good choice for their first broadband router.  But now they've got to back it up with the support and product enhancements that competitive versions have, if they want to successfully hold the broadband networking newbies that will be attracted by the USR name.

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