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The $178 Barricade offers an impressive array of ports. It includes three 10/100Mbps Ethernet ports and a 10Mbps WAN port for connecting your cable/DSL modem. The Barricade also has an RS-232 serial port for connecting to an ISDN terminal adapter or a POTS analog modem; the latter is a handy backup if your broadband service becomes temporarily unavailable. The Barricade also has a parallel port, but because new printers typically connect via USB, most home users will have difficulty finding a use for it.
The Barricade offers some other conveniences as well. Two omnidirectional antennas extend from either side on the back to provide better range, and a Reset button next to the printer port sends the router back to its factory default settings. While the Barricade does not include brackets for wall or ceiling mounting, it does come with a CAT-5 Ethernet cable.
Setting up the Barricade is simple. The Quick Installation Guide contains detailed and illustrated configuration instructions for PCs and Macs, and a more comprehensive user guide in PDF format can be found on the included CD-ROM. To configure the router, open your Web browser, type in the provided IP address, and click the Setup button from the main screen. The automated setup wizard leads you step by step through the rest of the process. To connect wireless computers, you'll need to purchase an adapter (such as the $60.95 SMC EZ Connect 11Mbps wireless USB adapter) for each machine.
You can also make more sophisticated networking settings from the Advanced menu tab. For example, you can configure the Barricade to function as a virtual server for services you would like to set up behind the router's NAT-based firewall. A simple check box tells the router to discard pings from the WAN side, which helps conceal your router on the Internet. You can also run multiuser applications behind the firewall by opening public ports or assigning a particular machine to run without firewall protection within a DMZ. Other tabs let you update the firmware, reset defaults, or check the security log, where you can view any illegal attempts to access your network. The Barricade's firewall can also block common hacker attacks, including IP spoofing, land attack, ping of death, smurf attack, and snork attack.
The Barricade performed admirably in CNET Labs' tests. With 4.9Mbps of wireless throughput and 88.3Mbps of Ethernet throughput, it matched the NetGear MR314 cable/DSL wireless router. In informal range tests, the Barricade delivered better and more consistent signal strength than the MR314 when connecting through walls but by only a few feet.
Lasts a lifetime?
SMC's complex warranty and support policies make the user work a bit to get the best deal. The Barricade comes with a standard 90-day warranty, but you can upgrade to a limited lifetime warranty if you register your product within 30 days. Limited lifetime means SMC will support the product for up to one year past the date the company decides to discontinue the product. After that, warranty repair or replacement is considered on a case-by-case basis. Toll-free phone support, however, is available 24/7 for as long as you own the product. The SMC Web site also offers drivers, FAQs, and e-mail support.
If you need a wireless router for your home or small office, SMC delivers an attractive package at a reasonable price. The Barricade offers excellent performance, a plethora of ports, and good security to boot. But we do find the carrot-and-stick support policies rather harsh.
Measured in Mbps (longer bars indicate better performance)
Measured in milliseconds (shorter bars indicate better performance)
|How we tested|
For practical throughput tests, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot software as our benchmark. For our wireless testing, the clients and routers are set up to transmit at short ranges and maximum signal strength. CNET Labs also runs Chariot software using the TCP protocol in response-time tests. Response time measures how long it takes to send a request and receive a response over a network connection. Throughput and response times are probably the two most important indicators of user experience over a network.