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Product Reviews
 August 2001


Instant Broadband EtherFast Cable/DSL & Voice Router

17401 Armstrong Ave.
Irvine, CA 92614
Phone: 949-261-1288
Fax: 949-261-8868
Price: $199

Editor's Choice Award

Installation: 5
Documentation: 4.75
Features: 4.75
GUI: 4.75
Overall: A

There are many broadband Internet sharing devices on the market today. What is unique about the Linksys Instant Broadband EtherFast Cable/DSL & Voice Router is that not only does it act as an Internet/data sharing device, but it also
features Voice over IP capabilities as well. A nice feature of the Voice Router is that there is no need to boot up a PC to make a VoIP call. Using just an ordinary analog telephone connected to the RJ-11 port on the back of the router, calls are routed across the Internet through Net2Phone's network to a phone located anywhere in the world.

Installing the Voice Router was an absolute snap. We connected an RJ-45 network wire from a cable modem to the Voice Router, another RJ-45 from the Voice Router to a PC, and then connected the power cord. We booted up the PC and it automatically acquired an IP address from the DHCP functionality built into the Voice Router. We were immediately able to browse the Web. That was it. It was pretty much as "plug and play" as it gets! Though, we did log on to the Web administrator to customize various settings as well as enter our Net2Phone account number and PIN. Also, once we were ready to test the Net2Phone feature, we had to connect an analog phone to the analog port.

The documentation was very good. It contained step-by-step installation instructions and included screenshots on how to perform various configurations. In addition, tips were included on how to get multi-player online games to work through the LinkSys firewall. Instructions and detailed screenshots on how to configure your Windows TCP/IP settings were also included. Unfortunately, if you are running Linux, UNIX, Macintosh, or some other operating system, you're out of luck in finding detailed instructions for them.

The Linksys router supports several standards including PAP, CHAP, PPP, and PPPoE. Other significant features include four switched 10/100 Ethernet ports, IPSec and PPTP Pass through, remote administration and upgrades over the Internet, as well as DHCP server functionality to assign IP addresses. Like most Internet sharing devices, the Linksys product also has a Web-based administration GUI that is very easy to navigate. Although only four ports are available, the Router supports up to 253 PCs on the network by daisy chaining other network switches and/or hubs. Of course this router also acts as a firewall with configurable policies to protect your internal LAN. Administrators can even block specific internal users' Internet access with filtering. LinkSys offers free technical support 24 hours a day, seven days a week (North America Only), as well as a one year warranty.

After testing the Internet access, which performed flawlessly, we tinkered with the DMZ (demilitarized zone), which allows you to publish a single IP address that is in front of the firewall. This is a useful feature for applications that cannot reside behind a firewall. We should point out that the Voice Router has a "keep alive option" that keeps PPPoE-enabled Internet access connected indefinitely, even when it sits idle, simply by sending out a few data packets periodically.

The Voice Router has other features and capabilities, such as filters and IPSec, but we decided to focus on the VoIP functionality. After all, our main purpose in getting the Voice Router for review was to test the integrated VoIP functionality, which is quite unique for an Internet sharing gateway device. We were not disappointed. After entering the account number and PIN (included with the Voice Router), we simply picked up the analog phone connected to the Voice Router and entered a phone number followed by "#."

Also, since the Voice Router works with any analog device, we actually hooked up one of our cordless phones just so we could have a "pseudo-wireless VoIP phone call." In any event, the call went through and we were able to have a conversation with minimal latency and very good sound quality. The VoIP functionality worked without a hitch and we thought it a bit strange that we were using a regular phone (cordless even) as opposed to having to wear a headset or use an external microphone.

We would like to see support for SIP as well as other ITSPs besides Net2Phone. We would also like to see the unit allow a service provider to provision a regular PSTN phone number which routes the call to the LinkSys voice router, perhaps using standards such as SIP or ENUM. Instructions for configuring the TCP/IP settings on other operating systems besides Windows would be beneficial. Finally, we recommend that the Voice Router store call information (accessible via the Web administrator) that would allow a user to view all calls made and estimate billing charges.

There are many competing Internet sharing devices on the market today, and certainly LinkSys is one of the best-known companies in this space. TMC Labs was most impressed by LinkSys' integration of VoIP functionality, which just may be the key differentiator when choosing a product in this genre. As such, we applaud Linksys for combining data and voice onto a single platform, which helped it earn an Editors' Choice award.

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