Author: Tim Higgins
Review Date: 3/12/2001
|– Fast, stateful inspection firewall, with full browser|
– Detailed logging and alerts via email
– Built-in four port 10/100 switch
|– Base model supports only 8 clients|
– No remote administration
– Can’t control access or filtering by user
|Review Updates2/6/02 – New Firmware 188.8.131.52 zip file.|
Those of you who follow the inexpensive router market know that NETGEAR tapped SonicWall last Fall (instead of ZyXEL) as their development partner for their new router line. The FR314 is the first fruit of their joint labors and although it’s not a SOHO2 for $250, it does have many of the features that have made SonicWall one of the most highly regarded routers available.
Most users will find all they need in the 314’s setup capabilities, but there are some things you should know about, as detailed below:
The FR314 has an impressive list of features. But before we dig into what you get, let’s take a look at what you’ll be missing:
The 314 also doesn’t have any of the SOHO’s “Advanced Features” that are detailed on this page.
With that out of the way, let’s look at what the 314 does give you!
Filtering (or Content Controls):
Note that these content filters apply to all users. Unlike the SOHO, you can’t establish lists of users with different privileges.
Access Controls: The 314’s Access page presents you with a list of common services that you can allow or block, just by checking or unchecking a box. You can also quickly set up a “Public LAN Server” just by entering the server’s IP address.
If you don’t see the service you need, you can add a service, specifying TCP, UDP, or ICMP protocol and the port or range of ports the service uses. NETGEAR even gives you a list of predefined popular services you can choose from.
We’re not done yet!
Logging and Reports
As described on our “How Firewalls Work” page, all NAT based routers perform some sort of “stateful Inspection”. The difference in NAT firewalls is how much inspection they do, and the FR314 brings SonicWall’s expertise in this area to bear on the problem.
The FR314 duplicates most of the SOHO’s extensive logging capabilities, which are detailed in the SOHO review. The 314 supports the emailing of logs and alerts and selection of what to filter. I especially like the fact that the log alert messages are clear and even identify the type of attack instead of just giving you a port number to puzzle out. Some messages are hyperlinked to the 314’s built-in log file, which contains an explanation of the attack that’s logged! You can also view the log via the admin pages (see screen shot below), sort it by date/time, clear it, or force it to be mailed to you.
The main omission in the 314’s logging is that logging to a syslog daemon isn’t supported.
Reports are running summaries of certain types of activities. The 314 does not keep a detailed “traffic” log, but instead, performs three rolling analyses, which can be viewed, but not emailed:
These reports will give you a quick idea of where your bandwidth is going. You can enable and disable data collection and clear the accumulated data, but can’t save it.
The 314 supports IPsec and PPTP pass-thru from LAN clients. Only one IPsec session is supported, but multiple PPTP sessions can be supported. No details were available on whether you can connect multiple clients per VPN termination (server). NETGEAR also says that you can access either a PPTP or IPsec server on the LAN side of the router, too (provided you open the required ports). (See our VPN help section for more info.)
What else is there?
The FR314 has a number of features that don’t fit neatly into one of the previous categories of this review, so I’ll once again use my favorite review shortcut: The List:
I ran the Qcheck test suite on the FR314 and got the results below:
[Tests run with Ver 184.108.40.206b15 firmware]
(Details of how we tested can be found here.)
In my mind, NETGEAR has established a new price-performance point for consumer routers. SonicWall has always had the richest feature set and most friendly user Interface of this class of routers, but they’ve always commanded a price that made many prospective buyers seek less expensive solutions. With the FR314, NETGEAR brings you most of the key features of a SonicWall SOHO2, throws in a four port 10/100 switch, and prices it to move with a street price about half the SOHO2’s price!
My main gripes are the inability to control the Content Filter and Access Control features on a user-by-user (or group of users) basis (which NETGEAR says they’re planning for a future firmware release), and the omission of the Network Anti-Virus feature that’s available on the SonicWalls. Even though Network Anti-Virus is a pay-for option, I think that automatically ensuring that up-to-date anti-Virus protection is installed and working on all subscribed LAN machines is more useful to the average user than a stateful inspection firewall!
So if you’re looking for a $100 router, then keep looking! But if you’re looking for a fast, full-featured router with a robust stateful inspection firewall at an attractive price, then look no further!