Priced at an affordable $40, the iBoss Home Parental Control Wireless-N is, however, not an affordable choice, thanks to its $59 annual cost that accrues after the first month of use. Over time, this fee could make it one of the most expensive Wireless-N routers on the market; and the fact that it lacks Gigabit Ethernet or support for USB printers makes it sting that much more. One saving grace is that it's the only residential wireless router that comes with a comprehensive parental control feature, allowing you to manage the Internet connection of each computer in the network.
Other than that, it's a low-end Wireless-N router that lacks networking features commonly found in other routers. If complete control over the network's Internet activities is a must, you should consider the iBoss. Otherwise, most other Wireless-N routers will likely offer better performance and features, and at better prices.
Design and ease of use
The iBoss router is designed simply. The device is housed in a box measuring 6.2 inches tall by 1 inch wide by 4.1 inches deep, which is about the size of a typical wireless router with two antennas.
The antennas are located on the back of the router, close to the ports--four LAN ports and one WAN port. None of these is a Gigabit port; they are all regular 10/100Mbps ports, which is a disappointment, as this is a Wireless-N router, meaning its wireless speed is up to 300Mbps. Normally, for most network configuration and usage, we prefer routers to have faster wired speed than wireless speed.
Also on the back are the Wi-Fi Protected Setup button and the reset button. All ports and buttons on the router are clearly labeled, which is helpful. On the front, the router has indicator lights for power, wireless connection, Internet, and LAN connection.
The router comes in a Spartan package that includes the router itself, a network cable, and a manual booklet. There's no CD software; however, it was easy to set it up using the step-by-step instructions printed in its tiny manual.
Once the router is hooked up to a computer, you need to log into its Web interface to take advantage of the comprehensive parental control feature. By default, you can do this by pointing your browser to the address "192.168.1.1" (without the quotes). Here you can also further customize the router's other limited amount of features.
While most other Wireless-N routers generally come with a parental control feature, also known as a "Web filter," the iBoss' version is by far the most comprehensive we've seen.
According to Phantom, the maker of the iBoss, the router has the same filtering engine found in corporate Web filters. This includes real-time URL filtering, deep packet inspection, layer 7 filtering, proxy detection, and Web 2.0 security, with complete control over instant messaging, file sharing, gaming, etc.
Using the Web interface we were able to either manage computers individually or put them in one of three groups. The router then filtered different content based on a long list of criteria. The nicest thing about the iBoss' content filtering is that it also supports user accounts. For example, if Jon's computer is blocked from google.com, when his computer accesses google.com the router will display a message that the site is blocked and will offer a way to temporarily log in as a different user. If this second user is not barred from google.com, the computer will have access to the site normally. This flexibility eliminates the need to readjust the filtering when you switch computers. User accounts can be created from within the iBoss' Web interface, and it supports the maximum of 15 different user accounts.
The router can record detailed logs of Internet activity. Also, there's a tamper log that stores any event such as when the unit is powered down, to ports being unplugged, or passwords failed. It features real-time URL updates, so when an uncategorized site is accessed through any iBoss router, the router pushes it to human categorizers. They review it, categorize it, and then push it back to all iBoss routers currently in use. We think this is what the $59 subscription pays for, but Phantom doesn't make this clear.
While the filtering worked well, we found that setting it up could be a daunting task, because there is such a huge number of options. For example, it has nine different ways to control Internet access, one of which is blocking specific Web site categories. If you pick this option, it has 31 categories to pick from and a few of them, such as "Dating and Personals" and "Friendship" or "Entertainment" and "Audi and Video," overlap. Most of all it's unclear what really constitutes a particular category; there's no description as to what's blocked in each category.