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SMC ADSL Barricade 7404WBRA Review

Introduction

On initial inspection the ADSL Barricade is a nice little package. An ADSL router with an inbuilt 4 port 10/100Mbit hub, and 802.11b wireless LAN. Additional features include firewall capabilities, the standard NAT and IP routing capabilities, the ever useful inbuilt DHCP server, and a handy addition of an inbuilt print server.

On opening the package, you find the standard kit, the router, complete with aerials, a power supply unit, one RJ-45 network cable and one RJ-11 ADSL cable. Everything you need to set up, apart from an ADSL micro-filter, which could be a useful addition to the package, considering the SOHO target market that the ADSL Barricade appears to have. The other important item in the package is the manual, which is both intelligible and navigable, providing easy access to the quick set up process, or to one of the more advanced options available.


Front Panel LED's from left to right - PWR (power), ADSL SYN (synchronisation) and DATA (activity), WLAN (wireless LAN active), and 4 hub port status indicators.

Setup

Setting up the ADSL Barricade is simple enough. A quick glance in the manual at the Express Setup section tells you the default IP address to use to access the Router via the easy to use web interface. The express setup provides quick and easy access to the internet, with the more complex options carefully kept separate under Advanced settings, either not to scare the uninitiated or merely to prevent accidental meddling.

Having quickly gone through the express setup and begun happily surfing, and found nothing awry so far, we thought it time to check out the other features of the router. Venturing into the advanced section of the web interface, we found once again the same easy to use, fairly fast loading, navigable web interface. Having adjusted a few of the settings, we reached the Status page at the bottom of the navigation menu. Strangely enough, the router considered the year to be 1970. We hunted around the web interface, convinced a setting had been missed to specify the time and date. After much hunting, and a thorough reading of the manual, we were still none the wiser, and still at the beginning of the 1970s.


Web Interface - Status Page

After further research, it became apparent that the router was attempting to get the time and date via NTP and, finding no NTP server to update it with, it decided to take the easy route of travelling back in time to 1970. The non-ubiquity of NTP would seem to require, especially for a piece of equipment aimed at the SOHO market, a manual option for setting the date and time. Without a correct time setting, the log file time indices, while not useless, are somewhat more frustrating to use effectively.

However, a quibble about the time is a simple aside. Purely from a routing standpoint the ADSL Barricade works like a dream, it is quick to connect, maintains the connection well and deals with line timeouts effectively; thus providing a perfectly uninterrupted ADSL service for longer than the duration of the review. Essentially, this router performs the basic every day tasks equally well in comparison to similar products in its class.

Wireless

Of course, the ADSL Barricade is more than just a router, it is also a wireless (WiFi) access point, another capability which does much to impress. The signal strength and coverage was promising, providing good roaming capability throughout a well-sized home or office. The MAC address filtering and WEP security features are easily configured (in spite of some initial confusion caused by the default setting of MAC address filtering being set to prohibition rather than permission).


Web Interface - Wireless SSID, Speed and Channel Selection

Once again the web interface is up to the task of configuring both the MAC address filtering and the WEP encryption, with 64-bit and 128-bit options supported. For 64-bit encryption, four different keys can be issued, and one for the 128-bit encryption. In all, the wireless capabilities are perfectly suited for any SOHO application with connection speeds at 11Mbps being the norm. Actual transfer speeds of 5-6Mbps are readily achieved, which is typical for 802.11b wireless technologies. Over the height of a three storey house, signal strength remained good, and only on venturing beyond the exterior walls (i.e. once screened) did the signal strength begin to wane.


Web Interface - Encryption Settings

The ADSL Barricade lives up to its name with a wide range of tools available to ensure only authorised traffic may pass in or out. Standard features including Network Address Translation, which allows for up to 10 global IP address mappings, capability to map a single public IP address onto multiple private IP addresses, 20 virtual server mappings for a particular TCP or UDP ports, and in addition a special application set up for internet applications that will attempt to open multiple ports; are complemented by a powerful Firewall, which provides protection against a variety of Denial of Service attacks. The Firewall further provides Stateful Packet Inspection, which ensures that all incoming packets from the WAN port are a result of a connection initiated on the local side of the router. Additionally, for those machines that require uninhibited access to the internet, up to 8 host IPs can be set up in order to allow uninterrupted access to the internet, evidently at the expense of decreased security on each publicly accessible machine.


Web Interface - Intrusion Detection Features

The Firewall features are well implemented, with support for MAC address filtering of up to 32 MAC addresses, or alternatively service filtering, where a band of IP addresses can be specified and services ranging from HTTP to UDP and all in between can be prohibited. Additionally for more advanced users, TCP and UDP port ranges can be specified, with 5 ranges being configurable for each originating IP address range. Also, for specific sites, URL blocking is available, with up to 30 particular URLs or URL keywords to block access to sites We found the URL blocking features worked particularly well - ideal for parents wishing to prevent their children from access to certain websites.

The access control rules can also be scheduled to be active at particular times to allow even greater customisation of the overall implementation. These features all work well, with the exception of the access control schedules which run into a snag mentioned earlier on, with the impossibility of manually setting the system time (an NTP server is required), this obviously makes the rules problematic at best, and impossible at worst. This said, if the timing is set according to the unit’s wayward clock it does work just as expected.

Additional features include: SNMP, giving access for a Network management station on the network to manage the router; Print server, allowing the Barricade to act as a print server for the printer connected to it through its integral Parallel port.

Verdict

The ADSL Barricade is a good little unit, it performs well at what it does, and despite one little niggle in the form of the total reliance upon NTP, it provides very good ADSL routing and admirable WiFi performance. The configuration via the web interface is easy and intuitive. Additionally, the extra features of the firewall and print server add some very useful functionality which make it a very handy little unit for a home network or small office.


Prices: £159 - SMC ADSL Barricade 7404WBRA
Prices listed above are excluding postage and VAT.
 
Links: SMC European Website
List of UK retailers
 
Where to Buy: See our DSL Hardware FAQ

The contents of this review should not be relied upon in making a purchasing decision - You should always discuss your requirements with your service provider and hardware supplier.