ZIFFPAGE TITLENetGear RP
NetGear currently offers five routers in its lineup of home-focused networking products. The RP-614 represents the baseline offering, but even so, it packs a lot of features into a very small package, similar to the D-Link DI-604.
Wall Wart Woes: One annoyance encountered, and this is a particular pet peeve of ours, is that the RP-614 arrived with a dreaded wall-wart power supply. In an industry so focused on pinching pennies, looking for every opportunity to cut bill of materials is understandable. But its time to just say no to wall-wart power supplies. They eat too much power strip/AC outlet real estate, and represent some of the oldest, dumbest technology known to the electronics world. At the very least, its time for all hardware makers to adopt "line-lump" power supplies that put the step-down transformer in-line and give you a normal-sized plug. End of sermon. In terms of advanced features, the RP-614 is pretty well appointed, though not quite as completely as the D-Link offerings. It offers port-forwarding, DMZ, dynamic DNS, and static routing. Missing from the mix, however, is port-triggering, a useful way to open specific ports only when theyre needed, and keep them closed the rest of the time. But, as a consolation prize, the dynamic DNS feature is useful, particularly if you have a domain name that you want to have associated with dynamically changing IP addresses (i.e. your ISP assigns you IP addresses dynamically, but you want to keep the same domain name for your game server). Sites like DynDNS provide this type of service. Still, if made to choose between the Dynamic DNS and port triggering, wed rather have port-triggering.
No Port Triggering: The RP614 lacks a key feature found in the D-Link routers called Port Triggering, which allows a port to be punched open dynamically when an application requests it. When the app is finished doing whatever it does, the port is shut down.
As a kind of consolation prize, the RP614 does allow you to block off specific domain names or IP addresses from being accessed-- a useful feature for parents trying to steer their kids clear of questionable material (porn, hate sites, Tupperware, etc.). Theres even a "back door" feature that allows one trusted IP address to override this filter and access the verboten content. A nice feature, but having port triggering as well would be useful.
Like the D-Link offerings, we wound up having to use port forwarding to make the RP-614 visible on the UT Master List of available deathmatch servers. We also tried the DMZ option, but as well discuss in a bit, this should be an absolute LAST resort to getting a multiplayer server up and running, since it makes the server machine very vulnerable to attack. Once we enabled port-forwarding for the needed port addresses, we were able to get UT up and running.
Nmap port scans found the port address ranges used by UT to be filtered on the TCP side, and Nmap reported them as open on the UDP side. As previously noted, we have some concern about Nmaps reporting technique for UDP ports as being opened.
We ran into a stability issue as well. We left a dedicated UT server running over the weekend, and came back Monday to find the router had locked up hard, which required a special tool (a paper-clip) to reset it.
This was the only crash we saw from the RP-614, but it was also the only crash we saw in the entire roundup. This crash occurred while the unit was sitting relatively idle, so were left wondering whether it will crop again when under a fairly heavy load.
Next, we tried to see a shared folder on a Windows machine that was behind the routers firewall. Windows file sharing uses ports 139 and 445, and TCP port scans of both of these ports showed them to be filtered. We were unable to see either the machine itself, or the shared folder on the target machine.
The RP-614 brings together most of the features one would want to have in a broadband router, but given the choice between it and D-Links DI-604, well take the D-Link.
Like just about all broadband routers, the RP-614 has a Web-based admin interface, and this makes it easy to configure. It has an initial setup wizard that gets you up and running within about five minutes. A helpful addition to the Web-based interface: a right-hand column on each page explains what the settings do. This is very helpful.