The NB9W is an all-in-one unit, with four Ethernet ports on the back side in addition to ports for your ADSL connection and two phone lines. On the back there is also an antenna for wireless access and a port to plug in the supplied 15 volt power supply. Like most routers, the front of the unit has a number of LED lights indicating connection status, network traffic, etc.
The unit does not include any brackets in the back for mounting and looks like it was designed to sit flat on a desk or shelf. Of course, the obvious advantage is that the unit is a modem, router and VoIP gateway all in one, so you will actually save space by not having three different boxes sitting around.
To start, the NB9W is an ADSL2+ modem/router that features 4 LAN ports, with an 11g wireless access point built-in. The NB9W features switching between VoIP (Voice over IP) and your normal telephone service, meaning that you can select between either calling over the internet or using your home phone line.
And the best part is that your PC doesn't need to be turned on -- you don't even need to buy a special headset or phone to use for VoIP calls, as it has a port on the back of the unit where you can plug in a normal telephone handset. The unit also supports caller ID, call on-hold, call forwarding, call waiting and transfer as long as they are supported by your VOIP provider.
Setup is provided through a web-based interface, which is pretty standard these days and the initial configuration for the ADSL modem and router only takes a few minutes. The unit features preconfigured port forwarding rules for some of the most popular applications and games and is no slouch when it comes to network support, supporting a variety of configurations including VPN pass-through, making it flexible enough to be used in the home or office.
The VoIP setup can be a bit tricky the first time, but as long as you have your SIP server details handy it should only take you a few minutes to configure before you can start making calls.
On the security side of things, there is protection for denial of service attacks and 64 and 128-bit WEP for securing your wireless network. The unit comes with 64-bit encryption turned on, with the SSID name set and a security key already configured. To connect to your wireless network you will need to use the key shown in the user's guide or reset the key to something you can remember.
There is also a parental control feature that allows parents to restrict access during different times of the day based on a computer's MAC address. For example, if the rule is that your children can only play on the Internet for an hour after school on weekdays, you can lock down access using the web-based administration tool, based on the hours and days of the week. (Just make sure you change the default password to the console, otherwise they may change it when you're not looking!)
And a special mention has to go to the NB9W user manual as it is one of the better examples of technical documentation written for non-technical users. There are a number of glossaries throughout the guide and clear screen shots and diagrams, paired with step-by-step instructions that are well written and easy to understand.
In our tests, the unit performed well when making VoIP calls, even when other Internet-intensive applications were running at the same time. The NB9W features a "quality of service" algorithm to ensure that your voice calls get a priority over other applications and the unit performed well, even when making VoIP calls while streaming video and music.
On the wireless front, the NB9W provided a consistent, strong signal across a large area with no drop-outs or reconnections. The unit provided good performance for both an older laptop with an 802.11b wireless network card, as well as a new laptop equipped internally with 802.11g.
Over a three day testing period, the NB9W performed consistently under a variety of conditions and network loads, including heavy wired and wireless Internet usage, VoIP calls and a large amount of traffic between computers on the network. The unit's all-in-one design, VoIP features and solid performance should put it at the top of the list the next time you are in the market for a modem or router.