PCX5000 Cable Modem/Wireless Router review: PCX5000 Cable Modem/Wireless Router

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MSRP: $249.00
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Combines three devices in one; inexpensive; DOCSIS compatible; three-year warranty.

The Bad Awkward setup; no wall-mounting hardware; top-notch security features require upgrade.

The Bottom Line This all-in-one device delivers and distributes data to all corners of the home, making it a good choice for networking newbies.

7.1 Overall
  • Design and ease of use 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Service and support 8.0

With the growing popularity of digital music and streaming video, broadband Internet connections have become a necessity rather than a luxury. But what if your tech-savvy family wants to share your cable service among multiple PCs to broadcast the latest J. Lo video clip to every nook and cranny of your home? Several network companies have created all-in-one devices designed to handle this and just about every other imaginable home-networking task. The Toshiba PCX5000 wireless cable modem gateway is just one of these routers, combining a cable modem, a four-port Ethernet router, and an 802.11b wireless access point in a single unit. And for the most part, the PCX5000 succeeds. This reasonably priced device delivered solid performance in CNET Labs' tests, although setup and configuration proved tiring at times. If you need a complete and total solution, we recommend the Netgear CG814 wireless cable modem gateway. Toshiba includes everything you need to get your home network up and running. In addition to the wireless cable modem gateway, the box includes a power supply; a six-foot, CAT-5 networking cable; a five-foot USB cable; a quick-start guide, and a CD-ROM. The disc contains the JumpMaster home-networking wizard; a 53-page user manual; and USB drivers for Windows 98 SE, 2000, Me, and XP.



Stick what into where? The wizard guides you through the installation.


To install the PCX5000, simply run the JumpMaster home-networking wizard from any networked computer running Microsoft Windows 98 SE, 2000, Me, or XP. The wizard walks you through the setup process step by step and offers useful and detailed illustrations along the way, as well as instructions on how to physically connect the PCX5000 to your cable network. After the software checks your computer hardware for compatibility, the wizard asks you if you want to connect via Ethernet, 802.11b, or USB. Next, it automatically configures your computer's network settings and walks you through choosing the SSID and the security level for wireless connections.



Pick your poison; you can connect via Ethernet, 802.11b, or USB.


This process worked fairly well in our tests, although experienced users may find the wizard overly simplistic. For example, it uses the term wireless net name to refer to the SSID. Plus, we found running the wizard on each computer to be a bit onerous, especially when we simply wanted to connect a new system to the network quickly. And on two occasions, the software locked, and we had to restart our computer before we could continue. All told, it took us a long 15 minutes to hook up each computer to the network.



External antenna connector.
Based on version 1.0 of the CableLabs' Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS), the Toshiba PCX5000 should connect to any of the nation's cable networks that offer data service. You can also upgrade the PCX5000 to the DOCSIS 1.1 specification, which will streamline Internet radio and video by providing the equivalent of a direct data connection for these purposes. (For more information on DOCSIS, including a list of certified products, check out the CableLabs Web site.)

In addition to four Ethernet ports, the back of the unit features a recessed Reset switch and screw holes for mounting the device on a wall. And though the PCX5000 keeps its built-in wireless antenna hidden, it does feature an external antenna connector in the front. We noticed during testing that the unit got rather warm during three weeks of extensive use, so make sure you keep the vent holes on top free from obstructions.

The PCX5000 offers an adequate set of security options, which you can configure using a Web-based tool. The unit can handle 64- or 128-bit WEP encryption but not the more secure 256-bit protection found the on the D-Link AirPlus DWL-900AP+. You can turn off and on the integrated SofaWare stateful inspection firewall, but the company masks the complexity of its operation from the user.



The Reports screen lets you monitor your network.


Unfortunately, to access the more-advanced security features, you must purchase an upgrade. (Toshiba is currently negotiating the upgrade process and cost with cable companies.) The upgrade adds improvements to the existing security options and gives users more control. For example, instead of a simple on/off switch, the upgraded software adds three firewall settings. The lowest allows all outbound traffic but blocks all inbound traffic except for pings. The highest setting allows only outbound Web, e-mail, and FTP, while blocking all inbound traffic. The upgrade also lets you block communications to specified port numbers, as well as designate any computer on the network as a virtual server for Web, e-mail, FTP, and other popular online applications. In addition, you get more detailed reports on recent break-in attempts, as well as a list of active computers on the network. However, even with the upgrade, you can't view wireless and wired traffic statistics or adjust key parameters, such as beacon interval, RTS threshold, fragmentation length, and DTIM interval.

In CNET Labs' tests, the Toshiba PCX5000 wireless cable modem gateway hustled past its current sole competitor, the Netgear CG814M. With the ability to move data wirelessly at 4.8Mbps, the Toshiba worked 23 percent faster than the Netgear. However, it still trailed the Siemens SpeedStream 2624 wireless DSL/cable router by 4 percent. The PCX5000 worked perfectly with 802.11b radios from five different vendors, although we had trouble connecting with our Toshiba Pocket PC e740.

With a range of 75 feet, the Toshiba fell about 15 feet short of the mark set by the Netgear. However, both devices showed significantly less range than the Siemens SpeedStream 2624 and the Netgear MR814 802.11b cable/DSL wireless router.

Throughput tests
Measured in Mbps (longer bars indicate better performance)
Chariot Ethernet   
Chariot 802.11b   
Siemens SpeedStream 2624 wireless DSL/cable router
88.7 
5.0 
HP wireless gateway hn200w
88.2 
4.9 
Toshiba PCX5000 wireless gateway cable modem
84.4 
4.8 
Microsoft wireless base station
84.4 
4.6 
Netgear CG814M wireless cable modem gateway
84.3 
3.9 
Belkin wireless cable/DSL gateway router
79.5 
4.9 
 
Response time
Measured in milliseconds (shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP wireless gateway hn200w
3.0 
Siemens SpeedStream 2624 wireless DSL/cable router
3.0 
Toshiba PCX5000 wireless gateway cable modem
3.0 
Netgear CG814M wireless cable modem gateway
4.0 
Belkin wireless cable/DSL gateway router
4.0 
Microsoft wireless base station
4.0 
 
Range test
Relative performance in typical office setting (measured in feet; longer bars indicate better performance)
SmartBridges AirPointPro
131 
3Com OfficeConnect wireless cable/DSL gateway
96 
Netgear CG814M wireless cable modem gateway
89 
Toshiba PCX5000 wireless gateway cable modem
75 
 
For practical throughput tests, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot 4.3 software as its benchmark. For wireless testing, the clients and routers are set up to transmit at short ranges and at maximum signal strength. CNET Labs' response-time tests are also run with Chariot software using the TCP protocol. Response time measures how long it takes to send a request and receive a response over a network connection. Throughput and response time are probably the two most important indicators of user experience over a network. For more details on how we test networking devices, see the CNET Labs site.

Toshiba backs the PCX5000 with a three-year warranty, which matches the policies offered by competing vendors such as Netgear and D-Link. The company also provides 24/7 phone support, but it's a toll call. When we tried the support line, it placed us on hold for 12 minutes, then transferred us to the company's voicemail system.



Toshiba's troubleshooting wizard.


When it comes to online resources, however, Toshiba goes the extra mile. In addition to the usual downloads, FAQs, and e-mail support, you'll find an excellent troubleshooting wizard with helpful graphics and detailed instructions. Unfortunately, the site lacks the setup videos found on Netgear's Web site and the network configurator provided by Linksys.

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