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It takes a mere 15 minutes to set up the 2Wire HomePortal 1800HW and get on the Internet via a connected computer. The process is easy, and the instructions are clear. You'll spend much of that time performing the steps of the setup program, included on the accompanying CD-ROM. The program displays a series of graphics depicting typical home-networking setups, and it walks you through the hardware installation process. You'll also find a set of written instructions in the box; these help you hook up your DSL phone line and line filters and connect the USB or the Ethernet cabling to your computer. (We tested a DSL-capable version of the HomePortal, but you can also get it with a cable modem.) After the hardware setup is complete, you restart your PC, and the HomePortal proceeds to automatically detect and configure your particular broadband service.
You can connect to the HomePortal in any of three ways. The gateway's USB port functions as a network adapter, which lets you connect a computer without an Ethernet or wireless adapter. You can also connect to the HomePortal via its built-in 802.11b access point, which comes with a 64-bit WEP encryption key unique to each unit. Once you're connected, a browser-based configuration tool lets you change the HomePortal's settings and access the gateway's features and security options.
The 2Wire HomePortal 1800HW's feature set is similar to that of many routers currently on the market. It does what it does well, but it doesn't offer many extras, such as a print server or a repeater mode.
The HomePortal's browser-based configuration screens let you tweak a variety of networking variables, including firewall and Web remote access features. The gateway automatically configures your network addressing, but you can also change the settings to match your existing LAN. The HomePortal's firewall blocks intruder traffic and provides a Stealth mode to conceal the gateway's presence on the Internet, and it can allow specific gaming, video, and voice-conferencing applications to pass through the firewall while the rest of your network remains secure. The HomePortal's DMZ feature lets you fully expose a computer outside your firewall, while leaving the rest of your network protected, which is useful if you have a gaming machine that requires unrestricted access to and from the Internet. The configuration menus for the 802.11b access point allow you to set up 64- or 128-bit WEP encryption keys and disable "--="">&siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ewebopedia%2Ecom%2FTERM%2FS%2FSSID%2Ehtml" target="_blank">SSID broadcasting for better wireless security. In a few weeks, 2Wire plans to offer a firmware upgrade that will include stronger WPA encryption.
Accessing shared files can be a blessing when you're away from your LAN. To this end, the HomePortal 1800HW includes a Web Remote Access feature that allows you to access shared resources on your LAN from anywhere on the Internet via an SSL-encrypted browser connection. Web Remote Access can also allow you to remotely control PCs on your LAN, but for that you will also need to use a remote control application, such as VNC or pcAnywhere.To enable this feature, you simply choose a password and register a unique hostname with 2Wire's free dynamic DNS service.
We tested the HomePortal 1800HW's DSL transfer speeds on a standard SBC 1.2Mbps/128Kbps ADSL service. The results are comparable to those of other DSL modems and routers, but the HomePortal's speed meter yielded inflated rates of 1,510Kbps for downloads and 250Kbps for uploads, which are higher than the DSL service that we used provides. The Megapath test site showed 1,294Kbps-download and 74Kbps-upload rates, while the Speakeasy test site showed 1,294Kbps-download and 136Kbps-upload rates. The Megapath and Speakeasy speed tests are available through "--="">&siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Edslreports%2Ecom%2F" target="_blank">DSL reports.
The HomePortal 1800HW's 802.11b connection maxes out at about 5Mbps--much slower than that of 802.11g gear, which can deliver 25Mbps or better. Some 802.11g routers use proprietary turbo modes that make them even faster, such as the D-Link DI-624. You won't notice the slower wireless performance of the HomePortal when browsing across your even-slower DSL connection wirelessly, but you might notice it when transferring data between systems on your own network.
|CNET Labs maximum throughput tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)|
For more information on how we test, see the CNET Labs site.
The 2Wire HomePortal 1800HW is sold through broadband providers, such as EarthLink, SBC, and Comcast, so your warranty and support services will depend on the contract you have with your ISP. Other routers typically offer warranties that last between one and three years. (As a rule, first-level phone support is provided by your ISP but backed up by 2Wire technicians when necessary.)
Although we liked the CD-ROM-based setup process, the printed installation-and-support guide is barely adequate for setup and troubleshooting. And neither the printed guide nor the CD-ROM offers much information regarding more-advanced networking tasks, such as configuring the firewall. Worse, the HomePortal lacks a comprehensive user guide to discuss more complex configurations, and the support information on the 2Wire Web site is equally sparse.