Netgear 802.11a Cable/DSL High-Speed Wireless Router

By Brien M. Posey

December 18, 2002

Although there are a few newer features from other products it lacks, the Netgear 802.11a router is one of the best wireless gateways of any kind on the market today.

Model Number: HR314 ($553 MSRP)

The Netgear HR314 is a relatively standard broadband Internet connection sharing router with a built in 802.11a access point. Like other devices in its class, this device has all of the basics -- a built in DHCP server and support for VPNs and for a supporting a DMZ system. What it lacks in more advanced features it makes up for with lots of speed.

Pros:

  • Blazingly fast speed
  • E-mail alert support
  • Up to 152 bit WEP encryption

Cons:

  • Glitch in login prompt
  • Limited VPN support
  • Supports only 802.11a and wired clients
  • No dial up support

BASIC FEATURES

The Netgear HR314 is a wireless broadband gateway with a built in four port Ethernet switch. The unit's wireless access point is designed to use 802.11a in the 5GHz band (specifically 5.15-5.25 lower band and 5.25-5.35 GHz middle band), and supports speeds of up to 54 Mbps in normal mode and up to 72 Mbps in turbo mode when used with product from Netgear.

Like so many other broadband gateways, the HR314 includes a built in DHCP Server, and offers things like VPN pass-thru support and can place a system in the DMZ (a computer open to the outside Internet, unprotected by the firewall). The unit does offer virtual server and port mapping support, which worked flawlessly. At this higher price, however, it would be nice if Netgear had added an automatic dial-up connection should the broadband connection fail.

Every product has ways in which it can be improved, obviously, but the HR314 is a far better unit than most of the wireless routers out there. After a month of testing, the unit was rock solid, never needing so much as a reboot.

Obviously, the best feature is its high speed. When wirelessly connected to the Internet or my private network, I almost feel like I am connected with via Ethernet due to the high throughput. Downloading large files from one of my servers to my laptop has always been painfully slow when using 802.11b, but I found the process to be much quicker using 802.11a.

Of course, speed is not the most important thing. After all, there are a lot of different 802.11a access points out there. What I really admire is Netgear's attention to detail for SOHO users. The product allows content filtering, and you can configure it to send an E-mail alert when someone on your network attempts to access a Web site that you've blocked. Furthermore, you can control access based on IP address, MAC address, time of day, or by the day of the week.

SETUP/INSTALLATION

The SETUP process was pretty standard. I attached the unit to my DSL modem and to my main hub. There's no specific uplink port -- any of the four switched Ethernet ports can be used for uplinking. Once connected, the unit functions as a DHCP server, assigning IP addresses in the 192.168.x.x range for up to 253 users. Once your client has been assigned an IP address, you may configure the unit by opening a Web browser and entering a designated IP address.

I did have some logging into the HR314 due to a glitch in the login prompt. If you don't get the username and password correct on the first try, you can't login. There were times when I could swear I did get them correct on the first try, and still had trouble logging in. Even so, I was always eventually able to login, and this is the only major problem that I found.

Configuring the broadband connection is relatively easy. The unit has a wizard that automatically configures the Internet connection for you. In my case, it was simply a matter of entering my DSL line's PPPoE information and I was connected.

Configuring the wireless LAN connection was a little trickier. Initially, I used the default wireless settings except for the SSID, and was instantly connected. However, I later tried enabling Turbo mode while working from a wireless client. I locked myself out in the process, and had to reconfigure the router from a wired client. If you enable Turbo bode on the router, you must also enable it on all of the clients first.

PERFORMANCE

After completing the initial setup, it was time to test the unit's performance. I tested the broadband performance by running the speed tests at http://www.dslreports.com/stest. My speed tests were somewhat limited by my own DSL connection. In the area where I live, the fastest DSL connection available is a mere 384 KBPS. I was receiving download speeds of 321 KBPS and upload speeds of 252 KBPS.

For my wireless tests, I configured the unit to work in turbo mode with the extended 152-bit WEP enabled. I used a Sony laptop with a Netgear dual band PCMCIA NIC that can operate as either an 802.11A or 802.11B card. During these tests I measured the throughput 3 different times and took the average.

Initially, I tested the connection in the same room as the HR314, from about ten feet away. According to NetIQ's Qcheck, the throughput was amazing at 29.6Mbps -- and it got higher on the floor directly above the unit. Even at 75 feet away, the average speed was about 28.5Mbps. The major drop came in a room about the same distance but filled with metal duct work and lots of other things that tend to mess up a signal. From here the speed was determined to be roughly 6.5Mbps-- still as good as or better than an 802.11b network.

Outdoors, 100 feet away from the router, the transfer rate fell to a more than adequate 13Mbps.

ACCESS CONTROL

Access control is where this unit really shines. As I mentioned earlier, you can control access based on IP address, MAC address, date, time, and Web site. The unit can also produce an E-mail alert if someone tries to violate the access control settings that you've specified. Additionally, the unit compiles a log of all of the Web sites visited. You can tell who went to what site and when. You can even request that the logs be E-mailed to you when they fill up. Again, all of these features worked perfectly.

SECURITY

To test the unit's firewall, I went to http://grc.com and ran the ShieldsUp test. Upon running this test, all scanned ports appeared to be running in Stealth mode and no vulnerabilities were revealed.

SUMMARY

In conclusion, this is one must-have product. The $553 asking price is a little steep, but if you look around on the Internet, you can find some places selling the unit for under $300. Even without the discount though, this unit is worth every penny of the asking price.



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