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Sweex Broadband router + 4 ports switch

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1 Review

Affordable broadband router and switch designed to share a broadband connection over up to four devices that need to access the internet.

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      13.10.2003 23:47
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      Introduction On some of my recent reviews some fellow dooyoo members commented that I was being too technical. But since most of my reviews focus on computer hardware and therefore technical products I find it quite hard to point out and compare their weak and strong points without touching upon the technical side of things. Still I try to do this the best way I possibly can so normally somebody with basic knowledge on the topic should understand what I am talking about. So here we go again, and the product under the spotlights today is a broadband router, which although physically quite small is, in a way, quite a sophisticated device to the novice. What is a router? Well let me vulgarize it in saying that a router is a network traffic nerve center and dispatcher in the form of a litle boxy device. It connects devices (mostly MACs or PCs that are linked to it through network cables, but it could also be an X-box or Playstation2 that is networked) and it connects them to either another router/hub/switch, a cable modem or an ADSL-modem. Al these connections are made with UTP-networkcables that plug into the router with plugs of the RJ45-type. Unlike a simple hub a router is an intelligent device. It really manages traffic by giving all devices connected to it their own local networkaddress, allowing them to communicate amongst them and the outside world. What does this Sweex router have ? This broadband router has four ports for four devices on your home network and two ports for connection to either a cable-or ADSL modem (or any other network). Is has a built-in NAT-firewall and a DHCP-server that gives your devices their home network IP-address. It also acts as a switch, which means that not all traffic is sent to all machines all the time but only to the device really concerned. This also means that maximum speed - 10mbits or 100mbits depending on your network cards and cables - is always guaranteed and not split up over every connection like it would be when you are using a simple hub. What do you need it for then ? Those of you that have broadband internet must know that your internet service provider allows you to communicate with the world by giving you an internet protocol (IP)-networkaddress. In a way this IP-address is like a phonenumber by which your computer is identified. On a standard broadband subscription you'll normally have just the one IP-address allowing for only one device to connect to the outside world. Now people that still want to use more than one PC or other networked devices over this broadband connection can either connect to the main PC that has the broadband connection by using the internet connection sharing software present in many operating systems. This does mean however that for connecting to the internet both or more PCs have to be up and running and that the PC that has the broadband connection must have at least two network cards in it. Now people that like me still would like to use several computers or gameconsoles on this single IP-address can make use of a router because the router will translate all in-and outgoing traffic between the PCs and the broadband modem, and it will only be the router that will need to be switched on an no other PC besides the one you are using. The outside world will only see the router and as said the router acts as a dispatcher for all incoming andoutgoing traffic. Sweet Sweex ? The Sweex router has a nice silvery look with two Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) for each port, showing if there is something connected to it and at what speed (10mbits or 100mbits) and if there is traffic on the port, this wealth of LEDS give you a quick hint at what's going on on your home network. It is physically quite small and has two orifices which allow it to be hung up on a wall if you would like to do so. As the LEDS are on the top and not on the side hanging it up would allow you to quickly check the LEDs even better. The device draws its power from its own AC adaptor plugged into a wall socket. Setting up the Sweex router is quite easy, once you've made the cable connection between the router and your PC you get to the router's configuration settings by opening up a webpage for it in your browser. The address for this webpage is given in you manual and it is of the - http://192.166.2.1 - form. From this webpage you are led to all kinds of settings to configure, e.g. it allows you to indicate by which means you connect to the internet (cable or ADSL), firewall settings, if needed it can clone the MAC-address of your PC's network card unto the router, etc. All these settings and thus access to the configuration webpages themselves can be protected by an administrator password. If ever you mess your settings up or you are not sure that you selected the right options you can start from scratch as on the router there is a reset button you can push through a pencil tip or a paper clip. There are other router brands (D-link, Linksys, DMC-Barricade) on the market but I went for this Sweex because of its very low price. The retail price even went down with some 50 % (!!) since I purchased it, and is now as low as 25,5 pounds coming from some 40 pounds. I must admit to having had some trouble with it initially with webpages loading slowly or timing out. As a matter of precaution I downloaded the latest firmware of the Sweexsite and installed it. At the time I had also sent Sweex through email an inquiry to what might be wrong to which I never received a reply, so the support isn't too brilliant. Also on the Sweex-site the FAQ for the device remained quite empty which surprised me. In fact on the whole the information throughout the site is quite skimpy. However, looking back, I think that in fact it was my broad bandconnection and my ISP acting up at the time. But now all those problems have been ironed out and for months now the device has been giving me a flawless service. Benefits Before I had this router I used a gateway PC running the Linux operating system to allow up to four (also vistor's) computers to co nnect to the internet. The gateway PC had two network cards, one that was connected to the cable modem and the other to my home network through a hub. The gateway PC gave my other PCs their home network address and translated all incoming- and outgoing traffic. Of course the gateway PC always had to be on to allow my other computers to connect which was not very energy saving. Also as the gateway PC was located in another room that most of my other PCs if I didn't want to leave it running continuously some legwork was required. This Sweex router, which I now leave on 24/24hours and 7/7days uses only a fraction of the energy my gateway PC used and at a fraction of the cost of a PC, also unlike a PC the sweex broadband router does its work in complete silence since there are no ventilators installed in it. Also through its built-in firewall it gives me to a certain degree shelter for the malicious hackers out there trying to break into my machines and stealing my documents or wrecking my PCs. Conclusion I only gave this broadband router four stars because, although it works as intended, the support from Sweex is rather awful, their website http://www.sweexeurope.com/ is quite misty and even the manual doesn't say much about all the possible settings so the user is mostly left to figure things out for himself, just like I did, eventually. Cheers, Vik

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