Actiontec Wireless-Ready Multimedia Home Gateway

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  • Editors' rating
    6.7 Good
  • $129.99

Pros

  • Inexpensive and easy to use
  • four wired Ethernet ports are more than most gateways offer.

Cons

  • Rudimentary firewall protection.

Actiontec has put together a broadband Internet gateway product that supports wired and wireless users, could be expanded to include future wireless technologies, and is easy to install. However, relatively poor performance and a relatively steep price count against it.

The 'Wireless-Ready' part of this product's name means that, on its own, the Gateway has no wireless functionality. However, add one of Actiontec's PC Card adapters and it becomes an access point in addition to all its other functions. There are two PC Card slots in the gateway. Although at present there's little you can do with the second slot, firmware upgrades could allow such things as Bluetooth connectivity to be added in future.

There are four Ethernet ports for wired PCs, all allowing up to 100Mbit/s full duplex operation. A further Ethernet port allows connection to a cable or DSL modem should you have one. If you don't, the gateway doesn't offer a direct way of using a dial-up connection to access the Internet. You could, in theory, connect a PC with dial-up router software installed and a modem or TA to the broadband port, but you then wouldn't be able to use that PC for anything else.

Installation should be fairly simple. Configure all your PCs -- wired or wireless -- to use DHCP to get their IP address and connect them to the Gateway. The PC Card wireless adapter will work without any configuration, so you don't need to have a wired PC to set the gateway up.

You use your Web browser to configure the gateway, which is why it's important to use the built-in DHCP server -- you can't change the Gateway's IP address if you can't connect to it. You have a choice of basic or advanced setup, depending on which network applications you'll be using. If you're an online gamer or use IP telephony, for example, you'll need the advanced option.

The Gateway includes firewall functionality, but the extent to which you can configure it is limited. You can prevent certain PCs from accessing Internet services, such as the Web or newsgroups, using their IP addresses. This facility is limited, since if you're using the gateway's built-in DHCP server the IP address of a particular system on your network can change. Similarly, the service-blocking system uses the standard port numbers for these services, a measure which could be circumvented by a reasonably knowledgeable Internet user. You can also block access to specific Web sites by DNS name for all PCs on the network.

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Note that this blocking is to prevent PCs on your network accessing the outside world. By default, all incoming traffic is blocked by the gateway's firewall. If you only want to use standard Internet services -- the web, email and FTP, for example -- you shouldn't have to do any further configuration. If you do want to play games online, use instant messaging applications or host a Web site on your network, you may well have to set the gateway up to allow this traffic through. Port forwarding facilities are provided, so that any requests coming in are forwarded to a particular PC on your network. There's also a 'DMZ' host facility which allows you to remove all firewall protection from one PC on your network. This latter option is the most useful for gamers.

Actiontec's product is a disappointing performer -- using either the USB or PC Card adapters produced the lowest throughput figures among the six solutions tested. At around 3Mbit/s, the Actiontec equipment only achieved roughly 75 per cent of the performance of most of the other products. This figure is still well above the bandwidth available from domestic broadband connections, and is plenty for applications such as streaming audio. You need to decide whether the lower performance of this unit is more or less important to you than its good feature set.

Specifications

General
Form Factor external
Networking
Type Gateway
Connectivity Technology wired
Data Link Protocol Ethernet, Fast Ethernet
Network / Transport Protocol L2TP, PPTP, TCP/IP, UDP/IP
Features NAT support, firewall protection, full duplex capability, manageable, switching
Compliant Standards IEEE 802.3, IEEE 802.3u
Ports Qty 4
Switching Protocol Ethernet
Remote Management Protocol HTTP, SNMP, Telnet
Communication Mode full-duplex, half-duplex
Data Transfer Rate 100 Mbps
Status Indicators Collision status, port duplex mode, power, active, link/activity
Modem
Type none
Power Device
Voltage Required AC 110/220 V
Voltage Required Margin ± 10%
Frequency Required 50/60 Hz
Type external power adapter
Voltage Provided 5 V
Miscellaneous
Rack Mounting Kit not available
Mounting Kit included
Package Type retail
Processor / Memory / Storage
Type none
Interface Provided
Gender female
Connector Qty 1, 4
Qty 1, 4
Chassis
Built-in Devices none
Video Input
Digital Video Format none
System Requirements
OS Required Apple MacOS 7.1 or later, Microsoft Windows 2000, Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Windows 98, Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition, Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition, Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, Microsoft Windows XP
Environmental Parameters
Min Operating Temperature 32 °F
Max Operating Temperature 104 °F
Humidity Range Operating 10 - 80%
Header
Brand Actiontec
Product Line Actiontec Multimedia Home Gateway
Model Wireless-Ready
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility Mac, PC
Cable Details
Type network cable
Included Qty 1
Length 5 ft
Form Factor external
Expansion Bays
Type none
Software
Type Drivers & Utilities
Expansion Slots
Total Qty 2
Free Qty 2
Capacity
Type connection / user qty
Value 35
Slot Required
Type none
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty
Service Included parts and labor
Location carry-in
Full Contract Period 1 year

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