A firewall is not a standard item that is defined. YOU have to provide the specifications.
This annoys people who are new to firewalls since they soon discover that there is no "standard" to adher to and they may run into an expert or pundit that will describe in deep detail STATEFUL PACKET INSPECTION or other deeper discussions.
Most will be fine with "a router" and "a software firewall." Then again those that run Windows need antivirus, antispyware and to practice safe computing such as not using Internet Explorer, Outlook or P2P apps.
In closing there will be someone that is looking for "best" which you can read about in our Virus/Security Forum. There is no product that can substitute for your safe computing practices.
I have an 18 month old Compaq XP SR1614NX desktop and use dsl to access the internet. I am interested in internet security issues and am under the impression that it is advantageous to use a hardware firewall. My question is: does using a hardware firewall have a downside that would offset the advantages? Would the difficulty of setting up the firewall make me regret trying to use one? I am on the internet 3 or 4 hours per week, and I do not have a lot of time to devote to babysitting a temperamental piece of hardware. In other words I would like to be as secure as is practical, but do not want to devote my weekly computer time budget to just keeping the system functional and then have no time for using it for anything else. A related question: if I do get a hardware firewall, should I get a dsl router with firewall capability (i.e. NetGear RP614), or should I buy a strictly firewall appliance (i.e. NetGear FR114PNA). Is there any real difference between these 2 appliances, or is it basically the same thing marketed under 2 different model numbers? Footnote: I am not wireless, nor am I on any network. Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.