The Farallon NetLine Wireless Broadband Gateway does the work of two products for the price of one. First, it routes your high-speed broadband connection to a single PC or Ethernet network. Second, it also routes the same connection to a wireless network using the 802.11b protocol. Unfortunately, the NetLine features only a single Ethernet port and doesn't include a print server. Also, its one-year warranty is shorter than we'd like. The Farallon NetLine Wireless Broadband Gateway does the work of two products for the price of one. First, it routes your high-speed broadband connection to a single PC or Ethernet network. Second, it also routes the same connection to a wireless network using the 802.11b protocol. Unfortunately, the NetLine features only a single Ethernet port and doesn't include a print server. Also, its one-year warranty is shorter than we'd like.
Two routers in one
The $299 NetLine is ready to go straight out of the box. It works with almost any cable or DSL modem, and because it supports the industry-standard 802.11b protocol for wireless networking, you can use both Macs and PCs. The router communicates with desktops and notebooks over radio waves within a 150-foot range at speeds up to 11Mbps. In addition to the NetLine, you'll need to purchase a wireless adapter card for each computer you plan to network.
Do it on the Web
The NetLine is easy to set up and use. It includes a plug-in PC Card to provide the wireless networking capability, a standard Ethernet connection cable, and an eight-page illustrated setup booklet. A more comprehensive electronic manual comes on the supplied CD. To set up the NetLine, firmly insert the wireless PC Card into the slot on the back of the router, then connect your cable/DSL modem to the NetLine and turn it on.
A simple Web-based configuration feature lets you get up and running in minutes. In fact, if your broadband ISP uses dynamic IP numbers (rather than requiring a fixed number), the setup is virtually automatic. When we hooked up the NetLine to a pair of Power Macs running Mac OS X, the router was recognized immediately. We launched a browser, and we were online without a hitch. Although the NetLine works with most major ISPs, you can't share an AOL or CompuServe account because they allow only a single login per account.
The good and the bad
In addition to wireless connections, you can set up a wired network. However, you're limited to one direct connection to your PC or to a separate Ethernet hub or switch. In contrast, the $379 Asanté FriendlyNet FR3002AL Wireless Cable/DSL Router comes equipped with two Ethernet ports, which may be all you need for a small network.
In other respects, however, NetLine is a first-rate product, in some ways superior to the Apple AirPort (except for the lack of a built-in modem), which carries the same retail price. According to Farallon, up to 40 users are supported, vs. 10 for the AirPort. In fairness, AirPort also lets you roam, allowing the signal to be transferred from Base Station to Base Station. Both products let users on your wired and wireless networks share files and networked printers.
To serve and protect
To check both its wireless connection speed and its range, CNET Labs ran the NetLine through its benchmark tests. In actual file-transfer tests, the NetLine measured 4.3Mbps using NetIQ's Chariot benchmarking software. This result is largely due to the fact that the router is also transferring all of the network chatter associated with data transmission (which is substantial) within its 11Mbps data-transfer capability; no router can use its full bandwidth just for the data. Bottom line: If you need to transfer large amounts of data, stick to a wired connection. The range tests were conducted at fixed 11Mbps transfer speeds within a typical office environment. At this speed, we were able to maintain a connection at up to 135 feet. Your mileage may, of course, vary. You can extend the range of the NetLine by configuring it to transmit at slower speeds.
We were also impressed with the strength of NetLine's firewall protection. The NAT (network access translation) feature creates robust firewall protection, because the IP numbers of your PCs are hidden from outside intruders. To put the NetLine through its paces, we used the Web-based tools at Gibson Research's Web site, which test the ability of Net vandals to access a PC. The NetLine passed with flying colors.
Ordinary support policies
The NetLine Wireless Broadband Gateway has a standard one-year parts and labor warranty, which is shorter than we'd like. Support is available from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PT, but it requires a toll call. We were delighted, though, to see Farallon's Web site well populated with copious help information and driver updates.
In virtually all respects, the Farallon NetLine Wireless Broadband Gateway is a superior performer. Its easy-as-pie, Web-based configuration may, in fact, make it a better choice than Apple's AirPort in a cross-platform setup. However, its single Ethernet port, short warranty, and lack of a print server prevent us from giving this product a hearty thumbs-up.
Distance in feet (longer bars indicate better performance)
Practical throughput measured in Mbps (longer bars indicate better performance)
How we tested
We performed our range tests at the CNET offices in San Francisco. The tests are designed to provide a general source of comparison, but because range is determined by environment, your experience will most likely differ. Our range tests were conducted at fixed 11Mbps transfer speeds. For practical throughput rate tests, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot software as our benchmark. The clients and access points were set up to transmit at short ranges and maximum signal strength.