By Loyd Case  |  Posted 2003-01-03 Print this article Print

Product: NetGear RP-614
Web Site: www.netgear.com
Pro: Easy setup; well-placed help blurbs in admin interface.
Con: No stateful packet inspection; only four ports on the switch; wall-wart power supply; one crash seen.
Summary:       Cheap, easy to setup, but not as good as the D-Link.
Street Price: $50, check prices
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.
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.
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.

Loyd Case came to computing by way of physical chemistry. He began modestly on a DEC PDP-11 by learning the intricacies of the TROFF text formatter while working on his master's thesis. After a brief, painful stint as an analytical chemist, he took over a laboratory network at Lockheed in the early 80's and never looked back. His first 'real' computer was an HP 1000 RTE-6/VM system.

In 1988, he figured out that building his own PC was vastly more interesting than buying off-the-shelf systems ad he ditched his aging Compaq portable. The Sony 3.5-inch floppy drive from his first homebrew rig is still running today. Since then, he's done some programming, been a systems engineer for Hewlett-Packard, worked in technical marketing in the workstation biz, and even dabbled in 3-D modeling and Web design during the Web's early years.

Loyd was also bitten by the writing bug at a very early age, and even has dim memories of reading his creative efforts to his third grade class. Later, he wrote for various user group magazines, culminating in a near-career ending incident at his employer when a humor-impaired senior manager took exception at one of his more flippant efforts. In 1994, Loyd took on the task of writing the first roundup of PC graphics cards for Computer Gaming World -- the first ever written specifically for computer gamers. A year later, Mike Weksler, then tech editor at Computer Gaming World, twisted his arm and forced him to start writing CGW's tech column. The gaming world -- and Loyd -- has never quite recovered despite repeated efforts to find a normal job. Now he's busy with the whole fatherhood thing, working hard to turn his two daughters into avid gamers. When he doesn't have his head buried inside a PC, he dabbles in downhill skiing, military history and home theater.

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