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Netopia R6120 & 45413 Review

Netopia manufacture a variety of connection devices for various platforms, ranging from a standard dialup router (allowing you to share several analogue phone lines to multiple users) to a modular frame relay device for connecting to leased lines. In the middle of all this come the DSL routers, with ADSL, SDSL and SHDSL compatible models.

Netopia sent me a couple of models to look at, and this review is first going to look at the R6120. There are several models available in the R61xx range- the basic R6100 router, the R6120 ADSL router with integrated V.90 backup, and the R6131-S with integrated ISDN backup. They are all based on the same feature set that is probably one of the most complete that I have seen of the DSL devices currently available to the UK.

The R6120 comes with an 8port 10BaseT hub inclusive of uplink switch, V.90 integrated modem, auxiliary port (for external analogue or ISDN modem), a console port, line port, and power connectors as can be seen from left to right above.

Installation was first, and I immediately encountered a problem- power. This router had been shipped to me from the USA, and as such came with a US power adapter. Luckily, all that was required was to swap the US style kettle lead for a UK one to connect to the external power supply, and I had it booting up.

The router does not come ready to roll straight out of the box, so you initially need to set it up with an IP address. There are two ways to do this. For those who want to get straight into the CLI, you can hook up to the console port and bring up the router menu straight off. Alternatively you can put the handy CD that comes with the router in to a Windows PC and connect the router up directly to it. Also useful if you misconfigure the router, the CD contains a tool to force an IP/subnet mask into the router so you can get yourself back up and running, if you don't have access to the console.

The manual for the router is also included in PDF form on the CD rather than being shipped in paper; but for non-windows users, a quick download from the Netopia website will get you what you need.

Setting it up the R6120 to connect was identical to setting up the 45413, which is not the easiest of tasks (with some configuration options that are less than descriptive) but hopefully the step by step guide with the 45413 should get you going.

After some playing/tweaking I managed to get the router online. One thing I did find was that it refused to find the remote peer address, which I had to enter manually. Luckily, it is easy enough to see what is going on in the logs, and as such you should be able to diagnose what is wrong-

Setting up the backup modem connection looked to be easy at a first glance, but I found various problems such as actually getting it to connect. It detected a simulated dropped connection on the ADSL port fine and said it was switching to the backup, but did not actually dial the backup connection on the internal modem. Selecting the "force backup" would force it to dial, but I found that I could only get as far as the dial up rack at the other end, as a ping test from the router actually proved. This is most likely due to the way I configured it, but I did not get round to finding out what caused this. On reconnection of the WAN port, the router automatically switched back to the DSL instead of not trying to use the internal V.90 modem that wouldn't try and connect. When the router did actually go down legitimately (the router not actually being able to connect to the ISP) it for some reason didn't automatically recover to the DSL when it came back up.

The internal modem can also be configured to listen for connections so you can dial up to it, if the router goes down to check out the status of the connection:

A debatable feature of the Netopia is the connection scheduler. There may be limited uses for this (such as initiating VPN connections), but I'm certain that the majority of people will keep the router connected 24/7, and therefore make this obsolete.

The router comes with advanced firewall options (pre-configured to block NetBIOS trying to pass through it). The filter options allow for up to 255 different rules in 8 different filter sets so you can easily organise various filters to different groups.

NAT (Network Address Translation) comes in several forms on the R6120. Standard one to many translation is available mapping one public IP address to multiple private IP addresses hidden behind the router. This is the most common configuration if not using routed IP. Server lists are also support to allow you to host servers behind this one IP address on specific ports such as a web server on port 80. The R6120 also takes NAT a stage further allowing you to map multiple public IPs to multiple private IPs behind the router such that you could run several SMTP servers on different private IP addresses, but both accessible from the Internet via public addresses. Not stopping there, dynamic mappings can be configured to allow clients to connect specific programs (such as Netmeeting) out and allow the return connections to be mapped back in. Standard NAT would break this as it drops all connections not initiated from the inside network. This works by allocating a pool of public IP addresses that can be grabbed when required, and are released when unused. To leave it at that would not be good enough, so Netopia have allowed for a multitude of the various configurations to be used simultaneously. This allows you to set up a group of computers behind a single NAT address performing standard network address translation for normal connections such as web browsing or e-mail. You can also assign a pool of IP addresses for use with dynamic mappings so that a group of clients would be able to grab one of these IPs and use it to initiate Netmeeting connections. Static mappings can then be added into this to allow some ports on private servers to map onto public IPs making multiple web or mail servers accessible from the Internet. A step further on this, and you can also assign a specific public IP address to map fully onto to a private IP address effectively creating a routed IP connection across the NAT.

Moving onto VPNs, various connection types are supported including AMTP, IPsec, and PPTP allowing connections to NT servers running RAS, or other Netopia routers, making remote working a possibility.

IPX is support as well as Appletalk (not a standard option). There are multiple ways of connection to the router for configuration- either via the CLI on the console port, telnet, or by dialling into the router, but also via a simple web interface (although this only really shows the status of the router) and SNMP, which can all be password protected as required. You even authenticate console access by enabling the router as a RADIUS client with requests forwarded off to a RADIUS server of your choice (with a backup server configurable).

The thought and design that has gone into this Netopia make it a seriously configurable piece of kit, which is mainly aimed at small to medium sized businesses. Backup connections using the same routable IP addresses can make a seamless transfer over to ISDN or dialup so that essential servers can stay online even if the ADSL connection drops. It is not the easiest device to configure, but the manual is well written, and should be a big aid in setting it up. One noticeable feature lacking off the R6210 is the ability to act as a DNS relay, forwarding any DNS requests onto specified servers. An NTP client is also missing to keep the date / time correct which IS available on the 45413.

Netopia 45413

Again with the R6100 series, there are a number of models in the 454x range. The single Ethernet port, 4541 Asymmetric DSL router supporting G.lite and G.dmt standards, over a POTS phone line, the 4542 over ISDN, and the 45413 over POTS with a built in 4port hub.

The feature set of the 4541 is similar to the R6100, supporting the same NAT functions, and VPN abilities as above (less dial-in). One other variation is also a more usable web interface, which allows you to run through the easy configuration setup and also to check out stats of the router. The differences being few, this review is going to look at setting up Netopia routers (using the 45413) for use on a DSL line in the UK.

First step is getting into the router. The best way to do this initially is via the console port on the router. Connect up the provided console cable to a free COM port on your computer and to the console port on the router. Next open up HyperTerminal (comes with Windows), or other equivalent terminal program.

Create a name for your connection, and follow throw the dialogues selecting the correct COM port, and using the following settings:

Click OK, and you should connect to the default menu screen of the router as seen here:

By default the router comes configured to be used for PPPoE, so we need to change these settings for use as PPPoA. <I>Changing Data Link Encapsulation</I> to PPP will do this. The VCI/VPI values and other settings that you need are as follows:

The following screen allows you to configure the router to the correct IP address settings. I have a block of public IP addresses from my ISP; a /29 or 8 IPs. As such, I'll show you how to set the router up in this way. Be sure you don't get confused that 8 IP addresses really means 6 IP addresses, as the first one is the network address (in my example 123.123.123.1), and the last the broadcast address (123.123.123.8). This leaves 6IP addresses free for usage. The router will use one IP address, and therefore you are down to 5 devices that you can connect up via IP without using NAT.

NAT is easily enabled in its default mode by selecting 'Yes' on the above screen. If you are assigned an IP address dynamically, you can select 'unnumbered' instead of numbered above, and an IP address will be obtained on authentication. Be sure to select CHAP as the authentication method as PAP is currently not supported for authentication on the BT wholesale products.

You will notice that I have put in a Remote IP address, and you may be wondering what this IP is. Well, this is the IP address of my ISPs home gateway (ask your ISP if you don't know what this is), the first hop into the ISP. This should automatically get detected as the remote peer address by the router, but for some reason wouldn't on either of my Netopia's, so I set it manually here, and also on the next page as the Default IP gateway.

The next screen takes you to the Ethernet setup of the router for connecting to your LAN. Here I used the next available IP address in my range 123.123.123.2.

After this screen, you may be presented with the option to setup a username / password for accessing the router on telnet or console which is HIGHLY ADVISED. Once you have setup your IP settings on your computer to work in routed IP mode, and restarted the router, you should be able to get right online.

Verdict

Using both routers online for extended periods of time, I found no reliability issues and latency was lower in comparison to the Alcatel SpeedTouch USB. Both the R6100 and 4541 series support upto 8Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream on G.DMT, so you should be supported if / when higher bandwidths are available. All in all, I was impressed by the superior feature set of the R6120, but it does come at a price.


Prices: R6100 Series:

R6120-UK
£772.00
ADSL router with modular architecture + 8 port 10BaseT Ethernet hub + integrated V.90 backup.

R6131-UK
£772.00
ADSL router with modular architecture + 8 port 10BaseT Ethernet hub + integrated ISDN backup.

R6100
£570.00
ADSL router with modular architecture + 8 port 10BaseT Ethernet hub, backup available by expansion module.

Expansion Modules for R6100 series:

£202.00 - TER/20 analog card add-on.
£202.00 - TER/31 ISDN card add-on.

45413/4541:

45413-UK
£379.00
ADSL router with 4 port 10BaseT Ethernet hub

4541-UK
£379.00
ADSL router with one 10/100BaseT Ethernet port

All prices are suggested retail, excluding delivery and VAT.
 

Links: http://www.netopia.com/equipment/intl/emea/uk/products.html

 

Specs: http://www.netopia.com/equipment/pdf/spec/r6100_uk.pdf (R6100 series)
http://www.netopia.com/equipment/intl/emea/uk/products/45413.html (43413)
http://www.netopia.com/equipment/intl/emea/uk/products/4541.html (4541)

John Hunt
john@thinkbroadband.com

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.