The 2Wire HomePortal 1800HW has everything you need to connect to the Internet via your broadband service. This all-in-one Internet firewall, router, 802.11b access point, and broadband modem comes preconfigured for your cable or DSL connection, making it easy to hook up to the Internet, as well as a good solution for those who would prefer to have their ISP take responsibility for their network. The HomePortal lacks the speed of 802.11g solutions and does not support WPA encryption, however, so if you want a more powerful, feature-rich router for your home network, we recommend that you also consider the or the in combination with a separate broadband modem.
It takes a mere 15 minutes to set up the 2Wire HomePortal 1800HW and get on the Internet via a connected computer. The process is easy, and the instructions are clear. You'll spend much of that time performing the steps of the setup program, included on the accompanying CD-ROM. The program displays a series of graphics depicting typical home-networking setups, and it walks you through the hardware installation process. You'll also find a set of written instructions in the box; these help you hook up your DSL phone line and line filters and connect the USB or the Ethernet cabling to your computer. (We tested a DSL-capable version of the HomePortal, but you can also get it with a cable modem.) After the hardware setup is complete, you restart your PC, and the HomePortal proceeds to automatically detect and configure your particular broadband service.
You can connect to the HomePortal in any of three ways. The gateway's USB port functions as a network adapter, which lets you connect a computer without an Ethernet or wireless adapter. You can also connect to the HomePortal via its built-in 802.11b access point, which comes with a 64-bit WEP encryption key unique to each unit. Once you're connected, a browser-based configuration tool lets you change the HomePortal's settings and access the gateway's.
The 2Wire HomePortal 1800HW's feature set is similar to that of many routers currently on the market. It does what it does well, but it doesn't offer many extras, such as a print server or a repeater mode.
The HomePortal's browser-based configuration screens let you tweak a variety of networking variables, including firewall and Web remote access features. The gateway automatically configures your network addressing, but you can also change the settings to match your existing LAN. The HomePortal's firewall blocks intruder traffic and provides a Stealth mode to conceal the gateway's presence on the Internet, and it can allow specific gaming, video, and voice-conferencing applications to pass through the firewall while the rest of your network remains secure. The HomePortal's DMZ feature lets you fully expose a computer outside your firewall, while leaving the rest of your network protected, which is useful if you have a gaming machine that requires unrestricted access to and from the Internet. The configuration menus for the 802.11b access point allow you to set up 64- or 128-bit WEP encryption keys and disable &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ewebopedia%2Ecom%2FTERM%2FS%2FSSID%2Ehtml" target="_blank">SSID broadcasting for better wireless security. In a few weeks, 2Wire plans to offer a firmware upgrade that will include stronger WPA encryption.