For small businesses (and even busy home networks) that want to share an Internet connection among both wired and wireless clients, the Proxim Skyline 802.11b wireless broadband gateway offers a good solution. Considering what it does, the $299 Skyline is definitely reasonably priced. Within a single rectangular box, you get a four-port switch, a built-in 802.11b (Wi-Fi) wireless gateway, as well as support for VPN and NAT protection. For small businesses (and even busy home networks) that want to share an Internet connection among both wired and wireless clients, the Proxim Skyline 802.11b wireless broadband gateway offers a good solution. Considering what it does, the $299 Skyline is definitely reasonably priced. Within a single rectangular box, you get a four-port switch, a built-in 802.11b (Wi-Fi) wireless gateway, as well as support for VPN and NAT protection.
Almost automatic setup
The Skyline offers many of the features you'd want in a broadband gateway. It measures a compact 9.5 by 5.5 by 1.25 inches, which means it won't take up much space on your desktop. It also has a 7-inch swivel antenna for maximum wireless coverage and a built-in four-port Ethernet switch as part of the setup. This eliminates the need to buy a separate switch for your small wired home or business network. The built-in four-port Ethernet switch offers 10/100BaseT capability, and the large status LEDs make it easy to monitor the condition of your connection.
While most users will be able to set up the Skyline in a few moments via the four-page quick-start guide, we would've appreciated a bit more information. Still, installation proceeded smoothly once we attached our cable modem (using a Cox@Home hookup) to the gateway's broadband port and then plugged in the rest of the wired portion of our network to the Ethernet ports. Next, we fired up the gateway, and within seconds, the green status lights were lit, and all the computers on our cross-platform network were able to get online. (Depending on your ISP, you may need to configure the gateway via the Web-based Direct Connection utility before it will recognize your connection. For example, some cable companies require a Client ID number, which is specific to a user and must be entered to gain access.) Setting up the gateway's more advanced features, such as the ability to customize the gateway to receive streaming audio and video and establish a VPN, will require a trip to the 84-page electronic manual on the supplied CD. There you'll also find specific instructions covering a number of different ISPs, including @Home and Media One; a troubleshooting section; a glossary; and a table of contents.
Setting up a wireless network is just as easy. Because wireless-networking capabilities are fully integrated within the Skyline, all you'll need to purchase is a wireless adapter card for each computer you plan to network. The gateway follows the industry-standard 802.11b protocol and communicates with desktops and notebooks over radio waves within a 150-foot range at speeds up to 11Mbps. Ultimately, however, the range will depend on the acoustics and the layout of your home. Also, the gateway automatically reduces transmission speeds to 5.5Mbps, 2Mbps, and, finally, 1Mbps, depending on the quality of the signal, so the farther you are from the device, the slower the connection speed will be.
Performance is a revelation
Overall, the Skyline performed well in CNET Labs' transfer tests. Using NetIQ's Chariot benchmarking software, the device measured 5Mbps, which is measurably faster than both the Farallon NetLine and the Asanté FriendlyNet FR3002AL. We also conducted some informal tests using CNET's Bandwidth Meter, which measures the time it takes to download a 100KB file. We observed from 10 percent to 20 percent improvements in download speeds. Unfortunately, our test space wasn't big enough to stretch the capabilities of the Skyline's Wi-Fi transmitter to its limits, but tests with an Apple PowerBook showed excellent performance, even when the laptop and the gateway were several rooms apart.
Good security, too
In order to provide high security, the gateway includes NAT (network address translation) firewall protection, which masks the IP numbers of the computers on your network, so that Internet vandals can't find them. Sure enough, when we used the Web-based tools from Gibson Research to crack through our network, the Skyline wouldn't let any unwanted traffic in. There's also VPN support, which allows you to set up a secure, private network.
A decent warranty
The Skyline comes with a one-year parts and labor warranty. The company's Web site is fairly easy to navigate and contains a wealth of general guidance on networking and, when necessary, software updates. If you need help, toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT.
The Skyline 802.11b Wireless Broadband Gateway offers the ideal combination of great performance, easy setup, and low maintenance. If you want to share an Internet connection across wired and wireless networks with maximum security, the Skyline is a strong choice.
Practical throughput measured in Mbps (longer bars indicate better performance)
How we tested
For practical-throughput-rate tests, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot software as its benchmark. The clients and gateways were set up to transmit at short ranges and maximum signal strength.