Author: Tim Higgins
Review Date: 5/23/2000
– Inexpensive and widely available.
– Relatively Fast
– Ongoing firmware quality problems
– Tech support difficult to reach
– Difficult firmware upgrading w/MacOS.
The EtherFast 1 (affectionately known as “L’il Linky”) is the same as its 4 port sibling, except that it has one autosensing 10/100 Ethernet port on the LAN side, instead of a built-in 4 port 10/100 switch.
Unfortunately, this means you’ll have the same problems as the 4 port model. I haven’t verified any data corruption problems, but I have encountered the same NIC connection problem (inability to connect) with a Linksys PCM100H1 10/100 + PhoneLine PCMCIA card as I had with the 4 port model. I was hoping this wouldn’t be the case since the Etherfast 1 doesn’t include the switch. Apparently, however, the Ethernet interface chip that is used in the Etherfast 1 has a similar problem.
NOTE that you may not encounter this problem!
The box works fine with my UMAX 10BaseT PCMCIA NIC and with many other NICs.
The good news is that this NIC connection problem doesn’t matter as much for L’il Linky. You’ll be plugging a hub or switch into its LAN port anyway in order to connect multiple computers, and the hub will isolate your NIC from the router’s LAN port and everything should be fine!
With that out of the way, the rest of the review will just focus on the differences between the Etherfast 1 and its 4 port sibling. You may want to jump over to the 4 port Etherfast review and read that first.
The Etherfast 1 is packaged in the same box as the 4 port model. The Front Panel has the Power indicator and Link/Activity, Full/Collision, and 10/100 LEDs for the LAN port and Link, Activity, and Diag LEDs for the WAN port.
L’il Linky’s backside has the reset button (moved from the more convenient front location on the 4 port), WAN and LAN RJ45 jacks, power jack and a Normal / Crossover switch for the LAN connector. This switch is a nice touch, letting you successfully connect the router to any hub or switch, regardless of whether you have a crossover cable handy or whether the hub or switch has Uplink capability. Also note that the Ethernet 1 uses a different power adapter.
The router comes with a new printed User Guide (now for both the BEFSR41 and 11) and a PPPoE support info sheet that tells you how to configure the PPPoE features of the router. The new User Guide is a big improvement over the old one and has the following improvements:
Information on the Advanced Features. Although it’s not a lot more than a reprint of what you get from the on-line help built into the router, at least it’s something! By the way, Linksys told me that they now do support the Advanced Features.
The Frequently Asked Questions section has been expanded with a lot of the information that’s available on the support Web site page.
Expanded Appendix (sounds painful!) with info added on how to ping your ISP’s email and web servers, and UTP cabling wiring info (including diagrams!).
You can download the new EtherFast manual from here (~ 1.6MB in PDF format).
The router shipped with V1.23 firmware, dated April 28, 2000. This is a different date than the V1.23 file on the Linksys FTP site, which is dated 10 May 2000 and has been pulled back by Linksys (go here for more info).
If you run into any of the problems described on the firmware upgrade help page linked above, you might want to call Linksys to see if they have a Beta version of a newer V1.23. Or you can download and install V1.22 as I did (see the “Clocking It“ section below).
L’il Linky doesn’t come with the Setup Wizard floppy that the 4 port came with. This isn’t a big loss, since many users reported that it wasn’t any help in setting up the router anyway!
The manual has an error in its setup procedure. If you read through the manual in order, you don’t receive instructions on how to set up your Client computer so that it can access the router’s built-in administration server, before they tell you to bring up the admin page! If your client computer isn’t set to automatically obtain its IP address or set with an IP address in the 192.168.1.X range, you won’t get the admin page. You can find the proper procedure in the manual’s Troubleshooting section, Item 1.
That’s about it for the setup differences.
Aside from no built-in switch, there are no differences in features between the 1 port and 4 port products.
Go here for a list of applications that the Linksys supports.
I did a more thorough check of L’il Linky than I did for the 4 port version. (I’ve learned a few things about these little beasties since then!)
This time, I didn’t experience any timeouts or hangs. I tested with both the factory-installed V1.23 and V1.22 firmware downloaded from the FTP site. Here are the results. All numbers are in Mbits per second (Mbps).
(Details of how we tested can be found here.)
A few items of note:
- V1.22 is slightly faster than V1.23 (confirming one of the reasons V1.23 was pulled back)
- For the “Simultaneous” test, port 80 is forwarded to a LAN-side webserver. File download via web-browser is started on both machines simultaneously. The number is calculated as follows:
Transfer speed (Mbits/sec)= ((Filesize in MBytes/sec x 2) / Total Xfer time) x 8
In the “Simultaneous” test, the LAN-WAN transfer finished significantly faster (53 seconds vs. 83 seconds for the WAN-LAN transfer to finish).
The LAN “Collision” LED was lit almost constantly during the WAN-LAN transfer.
Conclusion: Pretty speedy, but not near the 7Mbps speed claimed by Linksys.
Same as for the 4 Port model.
I’d hate to be one of Linksys’ competitors with low margins on my products because this new so-close-to-$100 price point is going to squeeze the competition even harder! It has the same great features as the 4 port model, and if you have a hub or switch already lying around, you can use it instead of putting it on the shelf.
The main “fly in the ointment” is the fact that both the 1 and 4 port routers quietly corrupt data for some users (you don’t know it’s happened until you try to use the transferred file!). Although Linksys has helped some users work around this, others have returned the routers in frustration. I don’t think Linksys has found the root cause of the problem yet, so it’s possible that this little guy could cost you some hair follicles, too!
Still, at just about a hundred bucks for a fast shared connection, full-time NAT firewall, and without the hassle of having one of your computers on all the time, it’s worth a shot. Just check the returns policy of wherever you buy it!