- Hardware is well designed and well built
- combines switch, router and firewall functionality in one compact box.
- Complicated to set up, especially for networking novices
- terse documentation.
The simplest way to hook up several computers to a broadband Internet connection is via a combined gateway and hub. One box, some cables, job done. For best performance, a switch is prescribed, which stops connections between different nodes on the network from slowing each other up. And while you're at it, throw in a firewall and some network utilities. The Vigor2200E from DrayTek is just such a melange of desirable home networking goodies, being a four-port switched hub with most of the trimmings necessary to run a fully connected and protected system.
There are many more lights on the front panel than are strictly necessary, a legacy of the design's history as an ISDN router. Four LEDs are dedicated to a throughput bar meter for the WAN link - our test 512Kbit/s cable channel peaked at three. Other lights show which ports are in use on the hub -- green for 100Mbit/s, orange for 10Mbit/s -- and when there's activity on the WAN. There's also a green LED on the back that glimmers when there's WAN activity. Run a couple of file transfers across the network, and this router could do a Christmas tree proud.
Inside, the design is simple and well constructed. The circuit is based around a Samsung chip with an embedded ARM processor, a five-port 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet transceiver running the four hub ports and a separate 10Mbit/s transceiver dedicated to the WAN port. The component count is very low, which will help reliability. After extended running nothing gets more than mildly warm, which should also contribute to a long useful life.
Six Ethernet sockets grace the back of the unit; four for the hub, one for the WAN and one spare to uplink to further hubs if desired. A barrel connector for power and a reset switch complete the picture.
Setting the Vigor2200E up is complicated. It has a DHCP host, which means it can allocate Network Address Translation (NAT) IP addresses to the PCs connected to it, and it can in turn pick up its own IP address from the broadband system. You can also set up its MAC hardware network address, which many cable systems require for security purposes. In other words, if you've registered a network card with your cable provider, the Vigor2200E can pretend to be that card and save you the hassle of reregistering.
The firewall and NAT routing will do most of the common tasks: you can route external ports to particular PCs on the network, filter out incoming or outgoing packets by TCP or UDP, port number and address, set up a PC as a demilitarised zone (DMZ) getting unfiltered incoming packets, and so on. It doesn't do much by way of logging, but will forward suspect packets to an internal network address so you can set up a capture program on a PC to watch out for nasties. Configuration is either by telnet or an internal HTTP server -- both are password protected and both can be set up to respond to explicit IP addresses from outside as well as inside the LAN.
The documentation is quite terse and often fails to make clear what a particular feature is there for, and how it interacts with others -- you won't be able to set up this product properly unless you have some knowledge of IP security. Once you have got it going, however, it works well: it's been in use on a three-station network for a couple of months and has behaved impeccably throughout.