Having a high-speed Internet connection is great--until someone else in your house or office wants to use it. So what do you do? Well, you could order additional connections from your Internet Service Provider for an extra fee, or you could get a DSL/cable router, such as the Asanté FriendlyNet, which distributes your broadband connection across a network, so that everyone gets access. Having a high-speed Internet connection is great--until someone else in your house or office wants to use it. So what do you do? Well, you could order additional connections from your Internet Service Provider for an extra fee, or you could get a DSL/cable router, such as the Asanté FriendlyNet, which distributes your broadband connection across a network, so that everyone gets access.
Four products in one
The Asanté FriendlyNet 10/100 Cable/DSL Router (we tested the FR3400LC model) combines Net sharing with a built-in NAT (network address translation) firewall and a four-port 10/100 Fast Ethernet switch, all in a single $189 product. Our test unit also included a COM port for a backup v.90 56k analog modem and a parallel port for printer sharing.
The FriendlyNet router works with Mac-, Windows-, and Unix-based PCs or even mixed networks. Hookup and configuration of the router takes just a few minutes, using your computer's Web browser. First, however, you must configure your PC to automatically receive an IP address from the FriendlyNet router. To do this, you'll want to consult the quick-start guide or the detailed 68-page user manual, unless you're experienced in administering a network.
The actual wiring method depends on your ISP's hardware. The cable or the DSL modem's Ethernet cable plugs into the router's WAN port, which then funnels the connection to the networked PCs. To distribute your ISP's connection, the unit incorporates a DHCP (dynamic host control protocol) server that sends up to 253 IP addresses to the networked PCs. Unfortunately, Asanté doesn't provide any extra connection cables, and the instructions don't make it terribly clear what type of cable you need. In CNET's tests, we used a standard Ethernet cable to share a Cox@home cable modem hookup. The FriendlyNet router also works with most of the big ISPs, including EarthLink, Verizon, AT&T, and others. Unfortunately, due to the special connection schemes at AOL and CompuServe, you cannot share a single connection to either service.
Once you get the proper cable connection, the next step is to configure the router. Use an Ethernet cable to connect your PC to one of the router's four ports. Next, open your Web browser, type in the provided URL and password, enter the setup screen, and follow the onscreen instructions. The FriendlyNet router should now be ready for operation.
It really performs
Once the router was running on our mixed-platform network, we didn't see any performance degradation compared to a direct hookup, unless several PCs were trying to surf at the same time. We also ran the FriendlyNet router on a network that included the Apple AirPort wireless device (using the 802.11b standard), and our Net connections were just as good.
Proven firewall protection
In addition to its network-sharing capabilities, the FriendlyNet includes an integrated firewall designed to shield a PC's network address, so that Internet intruders can't see it. Just how good is the FR3400LC's firewall? To find out, we accessed the Gibson Research Corporation Web site. The site offers two Internet-based tools, Shields Up and Probe My Ports, both of which try to gain entry to your PC. In both cases, the NAT firewall was successful in keeping the Internet-based probes from accessing any of the computers on our network.
Asanté's FriendlyNet products come with a one-year parts and labor warranty. Toll-free phone support is available free of charge during the length of the warranty, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. MT. Also, Asanté's Web site is filled with support information, including FAQs, online documentation, and driver and firmware updates.
The ability to share an Internet connection is enough to recommend the affordable Asanté FriendlyNet router. But having an effective firewall plus modem and printer ports in the same package is the icing on the cake.