Once you get your tongue round the name of the FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7140, you find that there's a lot of kit inside this stylish compact box. Combining a four-port ADSL modem/router with a DHCP server, NAT firewall, a two-port VoIP-enabled PBX, a wireless access point (WLAN) and also providing USB 1.1 connectivity for mass storage devices, printers and USB hubs, this little box has a lot to offer.
The four LAN ports provide 10/100 Mbps speeds, while the ADSL modem supports both ADSL and ADSL2+ connections. This is particularly useful for those looking to upgrade beyond the 'up to 8 meg' services in the future without purchasing additional hardware. The wireless router supports 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11g++ (11Mbpss, 54Mbps and 125Mbps speeds). The PBX feature can be used to make phone calls via the Internet using Voice over IP (VoIP), as well as fixed line calls on an analogue phone line.
It is worth pointing out that the 'Fon' within the product name does not actually refer to the FON wireless network system as some may initially think, but is a reference to the telephony features of the FRITZ!Box (fon being short for telefon, the German for telephone). As you may have now guessed, the router is manufactured by a German company AVM, but don't let this put you off--Their website offers lots of support in English and all documentation and interfaces are intuitive.
The router itself has a small footprint (approximately 182mm x 137mm x 28mm excluding aerial (88mm long)), with two long vents on its underside, and hooks for wall mounting. While the majority of the unit is cool to the touch, the centre does get fairly warm. The front of the unit has five LEDs that are clearly marked from left to right:
At the rear of the unit, you will find the usual ports, from left to right:
The first step is connecting the router to the phone line. It comes with a peculiar grey Y-cable that has an RJ45 plug (the bigger single one) at one end splits into two RJ11 plugs; One is black (labelled TEL) for the telephone and a grey RJ11 (labelled DSL) for the ADSL. A black adapter is provided to convert the black RJ11 to a BT style plug. The cable is surprisingly long at 4.25 metres which is particularly good if you want to locate it a fair distance from the telephone socket. To connect it up, attach the black BT adapter to the black RJ11 plug, and connect this to the relevant port on your microfilter or DSL faceplate filter. Connect the grey DSL labelled plug into the DSL (or "computer") port of your microfilter / faceplate filter. The RJ45 end goes into the single grey RJ45 socket labelled DSL/TEL on the router. (If you have no plans to make use of the voice functions of the router, a standard RJ11-RJ11 cable can be used to connect the router to a microfilter although note there are various wiring standards for these so they may not all work.) Connect the power, your computer Ethernet cable and the cabling is done.
To make life easy, the quick guide included insists that you should insert the CD before trying to make any connection to the device. If you do this, it will search for the device and if you are unlucky, get a bit confused about the network interfaces on your computer. In this case (on Windows Vista), it seemed to think the wireless card (an Intel 3945ABG) on the laptop was actually a wired card and listed it next to the wired interfaces and thus proceeded to believe that there were no wireless cards available. An easier option, and making the setup more straightforward was to remove the CD and let Windows handle the initial connection to the router. (AVM have advised that a new CD is being designed and this should hopefully resolve this problem).
The 7140 comes pre-configured with the wireless LAN function on and with WPA PSK encryption enabled. This means that your network (as of the date of this review) should remain secure by default. If you start fresh without the CD, and enable the wireless connection on your computer, a wireless network should show as available called "FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7140 Annex A". Upon connecting, it prompts for a WPA key. This is printed on both the CD sleeve and also on the underside of the router. Enter the 16 digit code and then the computer should promptly connect and retrieve its IP settings automatically from the router via DHCP. If you don't have a wireless network, connecting the router via the provided Ethernet cable (ensuring it is set to automatic IP assignment) should be all you need to do to get to this point.
Next, the Internet connection needs to be configured. There are two ways to do this. Firstly, inserting the CD into the computer and launching the auto-run tool will guide you through the process. It will check the connection to the router is working successfully (which it now will be, avoiding previous confusion) before installing the manual and connecting to the router for configuration. The wizard here on the CD is the same as that available on the web interface of the router, so the steps are identical as detailed below (skipping the next paragraph).
To access the router via the web interface, open a web browser and type the following URL in the address bar: http://fritz.box/. (The router is obscurely configured on the default IP address of 192.168.178.1, a fact not disclosed until you reach page 53 of the manual. If you have set up IP settings for this manually, you will need to access the web interface by using the IP address instead of the hostname fritz.box. However, should you follow the steps above or use the CD you shouldn't need the IP.) A simple click of the Configuration Wizard at the bottom left will start the process of getting online.
The first step to configure is to confirm that the option 'Router PPP' is selected and then continue by hitting next.
The following page in the wizard asks for your username and password. These should have been provided by your broadband service provider. Enter them here. (We'll use bt_test@startup_domain for this example)
The next page may seem a little strange--It asks how your Internet connection is billed. Most DSL broadband connections in the UK have some form of usage limit or fair-usage policy that limits your monthly download allowance to a specific amount of data and then charges for extra use (or slows your connection down). If you have a package like this, you should select 'Usage rate'. If you have a flat rate package, with no download limits, choose the appropriate option here. The reason for the setting is so that you can later use the 'Online Meter' function to keep track of how much data has been transferred / how long you have been online. You can change this option later so don't worry if you aren't too sure what to set it to.
After hitting next, the router should repeat the settings back to you which you should confirm are correct before clicking Next to complete the process. It'll take 30 seconds to a minute or so to connect to your ISP. When this is complete, you should get confirmation of a successful connection and be ready to get online.
As mentioned, the web interface can be used to configure the device and will be needed to set up any further features that you want to use of the router. You can access it via http://fritz.box/ (if you are using the router as your DNS server) or http://192.168.178.1 assuming you have not changed its IP address. By default, no password is needed to access the web interface, although one can be configured under the menu via 'Settings' and then 'System'. We would strongly recommend you configure a password and note it down.
The interface is very user friendly and the menu on the left (shown below) on the overview page gives an indication of some of the functions available via the router.
For technical users, it may be beneficial before going much further to turn on the 'expert' features of the device, to get access to more advanced options. From the default homepage on the router, hit 'Settings' followed by 'System' to reveal a further menu with an option of 'Expert Mode' near the bottom. Ticking the box and clicking 'Apply' will enable these extra options on the web interface.
One of the more interesting features of the router is a USB 1.1 port for a printer, hub or mass storage device. We tested with an old 128MB USB memory stick and used the user interface to view the USB devices. The interface with the USB stick is a simple FTP file transfer window which allows you to drag and drop files in either direction. Transferring a 50MB file onto the drive took 2 mins 25 secs to copy, however in contrast copying the same file to the USB stick via a port on the PC took 1 min 10 secs. Despite the lack of speed, if you want to share files from the memory stick to networked computers in the home or office, it could be a useful way to do this. In effect it's a small network drive. It is worth noting that if you have a faster USB2.0 memory stick and port on your computer, the difference may be even greater.
Additionally, you can set password protection and/or access rights including read-only and read-write permissions for any mass storage devices connected.
Another use for the USB port is for downloading settings to the FRITZ!WLAN USB stick wireless network card using their Stick & Surf feature. This simply works by plugging the USB dongle into the router, at which point the router copies the necessary settings such as wireless configuration to the dongle. Once complete, the user can plug the dongle in to the computer and it should automatically install all the necessary drivers and details to get it working. This certainly makes life easy if you have the Fritz USB wireless network card.
The USB port can also be used for sharing a USB printer with computers connected to the network, however there is no specific detail on which models are supported, only those that "can be addressed with the device class 'Printer'". AVM advised us that this should be compatible with most USB printers, although some multifunction devices may not be supported. We used a Lexmark C530 laser printer that has a USB port and was already installed on the laptop used for the review. The manual has some simple instructions on how to set up the printer on the PC, however this only seems to add a printer port to the computer which doesn't get it working. The user is left with the task of actually get it working without any additional help.
This step isn't too difficult, but if in doubt, check the user guide that came with the manual as the steps could vary from device to device. Ensure the printer is already installed and working on the computer by opening up Control Panel and go the Printers section. Right click your printer and select properties. You should see a new window appear which should have a list of tabs along the top, one of which is 'Ports'. Click on to this and note down the currently ticked device, and then look for the port called "avm:" with a description of "FRITZ!Box USB Printer Port". Tick the box next to this, and click OK, and you should be set to printer away. The beauty of this feature is that you can now print from any computer connected to the router without relying on any other computer being on. (Note: This process may vary depending on your operating system)
The router comes with an 'Online Meter' that records various details about your Internet usage including amount of time online and the amount of data sent and received as well as the number of connections made. The router stores this information for the current and previous day, week and month. This is particularly handy if you have a usage-based package and you are limited to a few gigabytes of downloads per month, as you can keep an eye on this to ensure you are not going over your allowance.
If you configure the router with your usage limit, it can graphically show how close you are to that on the web interface. The INFO LED mentioned previously can also be enabled to flash should you reach the limit and if you are certain that you do not want to exceed it, the router can even be configured to disconnect you from the Internet.
One further feature available in the overview list is called 'Child Protection'. This refers to setting time limits for specific computers that are connected via the router so that they may only access the Internet between times of day that you define. This is useful for ensuring the kids can't use the Internet past their bedtimes. If you share the computer between several users, there is a small application that can be downloaded from the router that identifies each individual user to the router and different restrictions can be applied accordingly. It is worth noting this does not filter the content itself and just limits the time your children are online.
The 7140 acts as PBX and as a VoIP ATA (analogue telephone adapter) allowing you to connect it to both VoIP services and also to a standard PSTN telephone network (such as a BT phone line). The router refers to the connection to the BT line as the 'fixed-line network'.
To use the telephony functions of the router with your BT phone line, you must connect the router to the phone line using the special Y-cable provided. This does still need to be connected via a microfilter or face-plate filter as the DSL and phone signals are carried separately on the cable to the router. The device will also need to be configured to work correctly with the UK Telephone network. To do this, go to 'Telephony' in the menu and then 'Regional Options'. Change the selection to United Kingdom.
Once this is done, you can connect a standard telephone using one of the provided white adapters to FON port 1 (or port 2 if you wish) and you should be able to make and receive outbound calls via the standard telephone network as if the router wasn't there.
Setting up the router to work with SIP is also easy. We set it up to talk to an Asterisk server (a free VoIP based PBX platform, but it could just as well be any other commercially available SIP service), and the only details needed were the SIP user name, password and proxy/registrar server address. If you don't already have an existing VoIP service, a voucher is included for 333 minutes of free calls (for the first month) with sipgate, and specific configuration settings to use with the FRITZ!Box are available via the sipgate website.
Once VoIP settings are entered, the routed defaults to using these as the primary outbound connection, although the settings can be changed back to the fixed-line if preferred. It also directed inbound calls made to both the fixed line number and also that of the VoIP extension to the same phone. You can adjust how this is configured on the web interface along with various other options controlling how and when calls are routed. One additional feature that would be nice would be a different ringing tone depending on whether the call was from VoIP or the standard phone line.
Further telephony functions include conferencing, hold and transfer options whilst in-call and specifying settings for outbound call routing (so specific numbers can be called via either the fixed or VoIP network at your choosing). There are options for a do-not-disturb (DND) mode for each of the FON ports with settings to define whether the phones connected to each port should ring or not ring between specifics times of the day. You can also specify numbers within the 'Telephone Book' to override the DND function so calls can always be received from specific contacts.
Diversion functions allow calls to a specific telephone extension (FON1 or FON2) or to any of the inbound numbers defined (including fixed-line) to be diverted to a different number. You can also set this to work for calls from a specific number and set whether diversions occur immediately or after a delay. Call blocking features allow for inbound or outbound calls to a specific number or range to be blocked. Other useful additions include an Alarm (a 'wake-up call' function) which will ring a telephone to a defined schedule and a 'baby monitor' feature which can be enabled to dial a specified phone number when the volume in a room goes above a defined level. You will be connected to the specific handset on call completion. Many of these functions can even be configured from the telephone handset and the manual gives a break down of all the options available via this.
As shown in the above image, the router will also keep a list of all inbound and outbound calls made through it, with durations, so you can keep an eye on who is using the phone and when. All in all, the telephony functions are quite powerful and there are more advanced options available.
The Fritz 7140 contains all the usual wireless settings, allowing you to configure advanced radio options such as transmitter power and the radio channel that is used. You can also configure different wireless security options such as WEP if you have an older device that doesn't support WPA (although we would caution you against using WEP or no encryption as these are not secure!). One of the features enabled by the expert mode is the ability to be configured as a wireless repeater using standard WDS (secured by WPA2). If you need to extend the wireless signal beyond the standard range, this router can act as either a base station or repeater device, forwarding the wireless signal on as necessary to other devices further away. As a repeater, it will sit in range of an existing wireless router, and forward on anything it receives to other wireless devices that could be outside the range of the first device.
The device also supports 802.11g++, which gives speeds of up to 125Mbps. We weren't able to test the throughput of this as we had no compatible devices available. It is also worth noting that the hardwired ports are only 100Mbps. One other wireless feature is WMM (Wi-Fi Multimedia), an extension to Wi-Fi that provides some Quality of Service controls to optimize how the wireless bandwidth is used. Additionally, if you have a phone handset plugged into the router, you can disable or enable the wireless function by dialling a special code (#96*0* or #96*1* respectively).
The router has a simple interface to manage port forwarding, with various services such as HTTP for a web server pre-defined. It does include options to specify custom ports and you can choose a protocol between TCP, UDP, ESP and GRE which should allow for most VPNs to pass through successfully. A 'default server' or 'exposed host' can be defined which will set the device to forward any data received to the IP address of the router on the DSL side to a specific computer on the network.
One feature that is missing, even in the advanced options, is the ability to turn off NAT completely and use the router in a routed IP mode where many computers on the network can have outside-facing real IP addresses. AVM decided on their customers' behalf that the risks of this, with no firewall enabled, were too high to offer the option, something that may put off more advanced users. This is the only major feature we were disappointed was not available, however it is under review at AVM and there is a possibility it may appear in future firmware revisions.
Remote access is available to the router via HTTPS. It can also update a dynamic DNS service if you have a dynamic IP address so that if your router reconnects, it will automatically update DNS with your current IP address allowing you to access it while away from home.
For the advanced user, the router provides a large range of information on the DSL interface including errors, signal attenuation and other statistics along with a graph of the actual frequency spectrum of the device, showing which BINs are being used by DMT and a detailed signal to noise ratio graph. There is also an 'Energy Monitor' page that shows the CPU usage of the device along with how much power is being used by the different components. A new firmware was made available (39.04.47) whilst the router was under review and the upgrade process was very easy. The firmware update page of the router contains a link to the AVM web site with the latest version of the firmware for this model easily available for download without any searching to confirm it was the correct firmware for the correct device.
Whilst this is an ADSL router, it can also be configured for use with cable modems, or behind existing ADSL routers. In this mode, port 1 of the switch is converted to a WAN port and the ADSL port is disabled.
The DHCP server by default reserves the range of 192.168.178.2 - 192.168.178.19 inclusive for use as static IP addresses, and will not serve these by via DHCP. This is very useful if you want to mix both DHCP and statically assigned devices within your network. If you do change the IP settings on the router and managed to lose the routers IP address, there is a fall back IP address available, 169.254.1.1. The router will always be accessible on this IP address, and if you manually configure your local computer to an IP within the same subnet- 169.254.1.2 for example, with a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0. You can then access the router via the web interface and reconfigure it back to a usable address. This may save you having to reset the router back to defaults (something you can do by plugging a phone into one of the FON ports and entering #991*15901590*).
One other feature available under the 'Account Information' section of the 'Internet' settings is traffic shaping (enabled by default). Although the only options are to turn it on and off, it should help improve voice quality, when enabled, of VoIP when other traffic is also using the Internet connection. The 7140 will give VoIP traffic a higher priority when sending data over other traffic such as HTTP or FTP on the router. The option will also ensure you can use the full available bandwidth. If traffic shaping is not employed and both downloads and full speed uploads are occurring at the same time, it is common for download speeds to be limited to the speed of the upload connection.
An e-mail alert can be enabled via the 'Push Service' option which will send out an e-mail either daily, weekly or monthly with connection and usage information, and a 'Night Service' adds options to disable the wireless network at night between specific times to help keep your network secure, and also save power at night.
For those curious as to what the inside of the router looks like, please see the image below.
All in all, the 7140 is a feature filled router with many advanced features that are not seen elsewhere. The inclusion of a PBX and an ATA enable you to get VoIP working quickly and neatly without having to rely on a separate headset connected to your computer, and the USB port allows make this a powerful file serving or printer sharing device suitable for the home or small business. The thought put into the router is obvious, both on features, the little things such as cable length and the interface which is a pleasure to use. The lack of routed IP support is a shame and the manual could be improved in a couple of places, but is generally well written and easy to understand.
Please click on an image to see it in full resolution.
David Cameron & John Hunt