Skip Navigation


ZyXEL P-334WT Broadband Wireless Router Review

Sections

Introduction
What do you get for your money?
Configuring the ZyXEL P-334WT
Configuring Port Forwarding
Parental Controls and Security options
The routers firewall
Installing the ZyXEL G-162 Wireless Cardbus Card
Wireless Security
Bandwidth Management
Performance
Conclusions

Introduction

The ZyXEL P-334WT covered in this review is a broadband router, and as such does not include an ADSL modem in its case. To use the P-334WT on an ADSL line, you require an ADSL modem with an Ethernet port to connect this router to. Ideally the ADSL modem should also provide the full ISP assigned IP address to the router. Therefore the unit is ideally suited to NTL and Telewest cable broadband services where the provider supplies a cable modem that has an Ethernet output. Examples of the type of ADSL modem the ZyXEL P-334WT will work with are:

  • Linksys ADSL2MUE, using its bridging mode
  • ADSLNation X-Modem CE, with its Live IP technology
  • DLink DSL-300T ADSL Ethernet modem
  • An ADSL router, running in NON-NAT mode
  • Most other ADSL modems with an Ethernet port and running in a PPPoE bridge mode.

Now onto what the ZyXEL P-334WT can do. The router has a built in four port Ethernet switch and 802.11g wireless access point which utilises the ZyXEL Wireless g+ SuperSpeed technology which should potentially give a real world throughput of around 34Mbps. The routers main task is to share an IP address given to it by an ADSL or cable modem with a number of computers connected to the router via Ethernet and/or wireless. An important aspect of the P-334WT is the inclusion of extensive parental controls, firewalling and anti-virus features via Trend Micro Security Services. This security is provided by a mix of software built into the router, and tools you install onto your computer.

The router also has bandwidth management built into it, thus allowing you to set priorities for different applications like Voice over IP and streaming media. To make life easier on the wireless side, as well as supporting the usual WEP and WPA encryption standards, the router has OTIST (One-Touch Intelligent Security Technology) which makes it easier to create a secure network between different ZyXEL wireless products that support OTIST. The usual Universal Plug and Play (UPNP) is included too.

What do you get for your money?

The router is housed in a good looking silver case, and has a permanently attached wireless antenna. The observant will notice one item is missing from our photograph, the power supply for the unit - we simply forgot. The power supply is the average power brick size, which runs warm to the touch, as does the router itself.

The other items supplied in the box are:

  • CD holding manual for router
  • Quick start guide for the router, around 19 pages for each language covered.
  • Discount leaflet for subscription to the Trend Micro Home Network Security services, to extend the 60 free days access included with the router
  • Quick start guide for the Home Network Security Services
  • Short RJ45 Ethernet cable for connecting the WAN port on the router to a cable/ADSL modem.

The rear of the router is simple enough, running from left to right:

  • Power socket
  • Recessed reset button
  • Four port Ethernet switch, marked LAN1 through to LAN4
  • Ethernet WAN port, for connecting to a cable/ADSL modem.
  • The hardwired wireless antenna

The front of the router houses the status lights, which are bright and easy to read. These are assigned as follows:

  • PWR - Amber if the power to the router is too low. Green when power is good, will flash if the router is in a testing mode
  • LAN 1 to LAN 4 - Green for a 10Mbps connection, Amber for a 100Mbps link. These flash to indicate activity on the related Ethernet port
  • WAN - Green if connected via a 10Mbps link, Amber for a 100Mbps link. Blinks to indicate traffic flow
  • WLAN - On when the wireless access point is enabled and flashes to indicate wireless network activity

The underside of the router, is not too exciting, but does include two wall mounting points, and a sticker giving the URL for the Trend Micro Security software.

Configuring the ZyXEL P-334WT

Since this router is a broadband router, there is no single set-up for it. We will detail what we suspect will be the most common set-ups. As with all routers the first stage is connecting to its built in web interface. The ZyXEL quick start guide shows how to configure a static IP address on your computer and then access the routers web interface at http://192.168.1.1/. You can of course use the DHCP server built into the router to issue an IP address to your computer automatically if you want.

The router attempts to force you to change the default password used for it, by asking you to change the default password every time you log onto the router. Once you've changed the password this niggle will disapear. The default password is 1234, and it is worth changing this to something that is a stronger password, especially if you are going to be using the built in parental controls.

Configuring the router with a cable modem, or ADSL modem providers the ISP assigned IP address

This configuration is the one where in the case of an ADSL connection the authentication data is stored in the ADSL modem, but once the modem has logged on it passes on the full IP address to the first device connecting to the modem. Examples of this type of hardware are the ADSLNation X-Modem CE and D-Link DSL-300T.

The router features a built-in set-up wizard that will guide most users through the choices they have to make. We will show you the various stages involved, along with the changes we made. On the first screen there is nothing that needs changing.

The router gives you the option of configuring the wireless side very early on in the set-up, we ignored this page for now. The wireless configuration and security will be covered later in the review.

This third step is where the main decisions are made. If connecting to a modem such as a NTL or Telewest cable modem, the ADSLNation X-Modem CE or other ADSL modem that has an IP pass-through mode, then leave the encapsulation at Ethernet and proceed by clicking the next button.

The fourth step is where people often get worried. If you have a single IP address account from your service provider then leave the WAN IP Address Assignment set to automatic. You will only need to manually specify the fixed IP address details if you are behind a device such as the Efficient 5861 and it is running in a NON-NAT mode with a block of static IP addresses, and DHCP disabled. The DNS servers can also be left as obtain from ISP.

After perhaps a minute at the most we are at the end of the wizard, and ready to click the Finish button. If you are accessing the set-up wizard via a wireless connection then do pay heed to the warning, since if you have altered the wireless configuration during set-up you may lose the connection.

The final proof, beyond using the router to see if you can access the Internet, is to view the System Status page, under the Maintenance menu, and this will tell you what IP address the WAN port has obtained. The screen shot below shows a LAN IP address rather than an ISP assigned one - if connecting to a cable or ADSL modem you should see your ISP assigned IP address.

Configuring the router with an ADSL modem that operates in a bridging mode

Bridging mode in this case refers to a way of connecting, whereby the P-334WT holds the ISP username and password and presents this as a PPPoE connection to an ADSL modem. The Linksys ADSL2MUE modem is the ideal partner for this type of set-up, and is fairly future proof with its support for ADSL, ADSL2 and ADSL2+ speeds. We will cover the configuration of the Linksys ADSL2MUE in its own review at a later date.

The screenshot above shows the use of a PPPoE connection with the BT test account. The BT test account only works on BT IPStream based ADSL connections, if using LLU or a Datastream based provider check with them for any appropriate test accounts. Other than the login details, the other change we made was to select 'Nailed-Up Connection', which will ensure that if the connection drops for any reason the router will re-authenticate to maintain the connection. If you are using a time metered broadband service, you may not want to use a permanent connection, but rather disconnect after a period of idle time.

We recommend leaving the settings on this page alone, even if you do have a single static IP address from your service provider. If you want to use a different DNS server than the one automatically assigned by your provider, there is the choice to specify three different DNS servers. The spoofing of the MAC address should not worry ADSL users as you do not need to do it, but cable broadband users may need it if their provider is restricting access to a previously registered MAC address.

As if by magic that is it, the router is all configured. The following screenshot shows the WAN IP address that has been assigned to the router, 217.32.24.45. If the router has not had an IP address assigned it will show an IP of 0.0.0.0.

If the router is having problems with authenticating, it is worth looking at the log file, which is accessed under the Advanced menu, and the Logs option. The log below shows the router from the point it was switched on, through to successfully being given its IP address, taking a total of 1 minute and 11 seconds. The time to authenticate when using this router seems to be a bit longer than most all-in-one routers, but if you are leaving your router connected 24/7 then this is not noticeable.

Configuring Port Forwarding

The router supports port forwarding, which allows you to forward specific ports to a specific machine behind a NAT router. Running your own mail or web server that you want visible to the outside world are common examples, also some games console games when played online may require some ports to be forwarded for a game to be hosted or played.

The main set-up of port forwarding on this router, is carried out on the SUA Server screen shown below. In its default state the page is simply blank. We have filled in three rules to give an example of what you need to do. Rule 1, shows us forwarding port 25 to a computer with the IP address of 192.168.0.5, rules 2 and 3 are similar examples using different ports and computers. The router only allows eleven rules, but you can specify port ranges which is useful. The Default Server option is often called the DMZ host on lots of kit, and allows you to specify a single machine that will receive all unsolicited incoming traffic that is not already destined for another computer on the LAN. Examples of when you may use the Default Server option, are if you have a VoIP handset that requires too many specific rules to be set-up.

The trigger port page, is another way of configuring port forwarding. With triggering, the ports are actually only forwarded when traffic is seen in the outgoing direction on a range of ports. For example you could set up triggering so that the ports for a game are only forwarded once activity is seen on a specific port. Port Triggering is potentially useful, but it is not used that commonly.

Parental Controls and Security options

This ZyXEL P 334WT is bustling with security options, largely due to the built in support for Trend Micro Home Network Security Services (TMSS), which gives you access to parental controls, spyware tools and anti-virus capabilities. We will show how the security side is set-up and detail the options it gives you.

Initially the router will display a pop-up on your computer screen advising you to visit a web address to set-up the TMSS component. An alternate way to visit the TMSS website, is to click on the icon above that is added to your browser toolbar. The initial web page is shown below:

The router comes initially with a 60 day free trial, giving you time to set-up the router, and then visit and activate the services. The three steps are shown below, and are pretty simple to follow.

You will need to register with Trend Micro to create an account, and no credit card details are required, so if you decide not to retain the subscription once the free period expires you should not find any unexpected bills.

Just before the final registration, the site presents a summary of what you have entered so that you can verify everything.

The final page in the registration process confirms that the registration has worked, and asks you to check your email for an email that will be used to verify your account, and then activate the 60 day trial.

Finally, after what seems like a lot of screens, but time wise is fairly short, clicking the verification link in the email, brings you to the page where you can download the Trend Micro Internet Security software. The security software is only needed for the anti-virus and spyware detection. The parental controls are built into the router, so if that is your sole reason for registering there is no need to download the suite.

One gotcha when doing the review was that not until we tried to run the security software on the review computer did it spot a copy of Norton AntiVirus 2003 was running. Any further testing of the security software in this review, beyond the parental controls will therefore be done on a different PC. The online security scan offered by the TMSS website does not require the software suite to be installed though, so can perform a useful double check on the state of a computer.

The router has a TMSS section hidden away under the Advanced menu, this allows you to control aspects of the routers security options. The ability to exclude specific computers from the list is useful, particularly if using for example a work laptop on your home network, and this computer has a full suite of security software already installed on it.

The virus protection page again is all about setting up which computers will run the Trend Micro software, but it also allows you to control how often the router will look for updates. The router picks up all four computers on the review local network as a potential threat, this really means that the Trend software is not installed on them.

The parental controls we suspect is what may draw many people to this router, keeping your children away from the seedier side of the Internet can be a complex task, particularly once they have a computer of their own. The parental controls can be time activated, and also specific computers can be excluded from the list, thus allowing freedom for those older children still living at home, while still controlling what the younger children can see. The categories are a little bit broad, and the actual control of what is in each category is not as good as the 2Wire parental controls we have seen, that said the options given are much better than most kit.

One crucial aspect with parental controls, is knowing what sites your children are actually visiting, and the logging built into the router, will allow you to log both the blocked and permitted sites that are visited. This may well be useful to tell whether the teenagers are actually doing homework research, or simply just browsing around to create their Christmas wish list.

With any form of content filtering some websites will always slip through, the router has a page which allows you to specify specific sites that you can block. The content filtering page has a time range option, which is off the bottom of the picture shown, but a few useful options are the ability to restrict what can happen when webbrowsing, for example you can block Java applets, ActiveX, cookies and web proxies, this will give you some control over what can happen on a computer. Restricting for example Java and ActiveX controls for a computer can help to avoid people installing stuff they do not really want to install by mistake.

The routers firewall

We are covering the routers actual firewall configuration pages in a separate section to the TMSS controls, since the firewall controls are separate from the TMSS tools, and likely to be used by many people even if they do not use the other content controls.

The main settings page allows you to enable/disable the firewall features, and control in which direction traffic is logged. The Max NAT sessions per user (computer) is useful, you can enter a maximum value of 2048 sessions. A NAT session is established when an outbound request for some data (e.g. an image, or file to download) is made, and due to memory limits, routers can only handle so many requests at once. If you run some games which have long lists of servers you can play on, or some peer to peer applications, you can run out of sessions. The P-334WT will allow you to specify more sessions, and thus keep the software running smoothly.

The exciting page in the firewall section is the services section. This allows you to block outbound services, so for example you could block all outgoing HTTP traffic, thus stopping anyone from requesting any webpages. Custom rules can be defined, allowing you to block any port you want to block, and you can set it up so that the blocking only occurs during a specific time window. Unfortunately there seems to be no way to specify either a LAN or WAN IP address when blocking services.

Installing the ZyXEL G-162 Wireless Cardbus Card

The G-162 is an 802.11g wireless network card, that also supports the ZyXEL g+ 125 SuperSpeed Technology which is meant to give actual speeds up to 34Mbps when used in conjunction with kit like the P-334WT that also offer faster speeds. This network card also offers a One-Touch Intelligent Security Technology (OTIST) making wireless security easier to set up.

Inserting the driver CD into the computers CD-ROM drive, auto-starts the application above, and before installing the G-162 card you need to install the utility for it. The install is a fairly standard MS-Windows experience, of clicking Next to follow the default install locations.

Once the software is installed you will need to reboot the computer, and once this is done you can plug in the G-162 PC card and set about setting it up. There are two ways to use the card, in Windows XP you can use the standard XP Wireless Zero Configuration (WZC), or if you want to make use of the OTIST technology you need to use the ZyXEL tools to configure the card . The quick start guide supplied with the card shows what to do to switch between the two configuration methods.

Wireless Security

The ZyXEL P-334WT has the usual compliment of wireless security features, with a MAC filter, WEP and WPA encryption methods. When used with the right ZyXEL wireless network cards you have the OTIST one touch wireless security that should make it easier to secure your wireless network. OTIST is based around the utility installed with the ZyXEL wireless cards, and how you use it was shown when we talked about the G-162 PC Card.

The main wireless configuration page can be seen above, this shows the unit is using WPA-PSK encryption which is the best set-up for home wireless security at present. The key was generated automatically when setting up the OTIST, this means even if use OTIST and you have a computer using another manufacturers wireless network card you can still use it, assuming the card supports WPA encryption.

Often people will use the Hide SSID for the connection, but this can make it difficult for some wireless network cards to connect, it is better to rely on strong encryption like WPA rather than hiding the SSID. Though we would suggest changing from the default SSID. The MAC filter while useful for keeping people off the wireless network who you do not know about, if no encryption is enabled it is fairly simple for someone to clone a MAC address and connect.

The OTIST page displays the default set-up key for the ZyXEL P-334WT, this key is then entered into the wireless network cards set-up utility. It should be emphasized that you do not have to use the OTIST set-up, you can set the WPA or WEP keys up yourself, though for people not familiar with Windows XP and its wireless configuration, sticking to the ZyXEL route may prove simpler.

To use the OTIST you initiate the one touch set-up by clicking the start button in the routers web interface, then in the wireless network cards OTIST tab, you enter the same setup key and the units should then spend up to the next three minutes sorting out their security set-up. It is perhaps not that fast, but may well prove simpler for people to use.

Bandwidth Management

Another feature that is pretty rare in a consumer router, is bandwidth management, or in this case the ability to set the relative priorities for traffic on different ports.

The screenshot above shows the options you have. You can select from two pre-defined traffic types, VoIP (SIP) and FTP traffic, the third type is user defined, and requires you to specify the port number for the traffic. The Bandwidth management is disabled by default, but can be used to control traffic to the local network, out to the Internet or to the wireless network. The BW Budget field is where you enter the speed of your connection in kilo bits per second, and the router then controls the allocations according to the priority level set.

Getting the priority levels right for the mixture of traffic on your router will take a little playing around, for example you may want to make the ports used by your favourite game high priority, web traffic a medium priority and peer to peer traffic low priority

Performance

The P-334WT would seem to be a very stable unit, and with good wireless coverage. We had a good couple of weeks during which we ran the unit constantly, and it did not appear to bat an eyelid for us. There was a couple of times when the unit needed to re-authenticate with the ADSL provider via the Linksys ADSL2MUE, due to the ISP dropping the connection, and this seems to take slightly longer than some all-in-one routers. That said authentication will not be an issue for cable broadband users, or those with a block of static IP addresses on ADSL.

One oddity we noticed with the P-334WT and its G-162 PC card, was that while most of the wireless cards were happy to run in mixed mode and produce good speeds, the G-162 required the router to be switched from its default 'mixed' mode, into '802.11g only' mode.

We now measure the wireless speed of units in terms of the time taken to copy a large file over the local network. The file transferred is 229MB (Mega Byte) in size, and we measure the time taken to transfer this file and calculate the throughput at two locations.

Transfer rate with router and wireless network card within 1 metre and clear line of sight
(throughput in Mbps)

Thomson 580 Router

3Com 3CRWE754G72-A

BT 2100 Router

USR 9106 Router

Netgear DG834T

ZyXEL P-334WT

JAHT WAM-4054P

Linksys HG200

100Mbps LAN 61.1 61.0 61.1 60.9 70.0 71.2 71.2 71.2
3Com 802.11g PC Card 13 18.3 13.8 15.7 16.8 8.7 15.3 8.9
Thomson 110g PC Card 12.6 20.3 15.3 15.8 17.8 10.6 14.8 20.1
Thomson 120g USB2.0 adapter 13.4 16.6 15.1 15.3 15.5 18.1 15.0 18.0
Netgear WG511T PC Card 13.7 17.8 16.2 16.1 22.6 18.1 14.0 7.9
JAHT 54Mbps wireless card DNT DNT DNT DNT DNT 21.3 13.0 20.6
Zyxel G-162 PC Card 14.4 18.7 15.8 DNT 22.1 20.9 15.4 9.11
DNT - did not test
DNW - did not work
Transfer rate with router and wireless network card through 2 double brick walls
(throughput in Mbps)

Thomson 580 Router

3Com 3CRWE754G72-A

BT 2100 Router

USR 9106 Router

Netgear DG834T

ZyXEL P-334WT

JAHT WAM-5404P

Linksys HG200

3Com 802.11g PC Card 12.6 16.2 13.9 15.1 14.5 3.4 DNT 19.9
Thomson 110g PC Card 12.9 18.5 15.2 15.2 16.7 DNT 8.7 DNT
Thomson 120g USB2.0 adapter 12.9 12.5 14.4 14.4 7.4 3.8 DNW 6.4
Netgear WG511T PC Card 13.2 18.3 12.3 16.2 18.5 12.4 7.3 7.9
Zyxel G-162 PC Card 14.3 15.8 15.7 DNT 13.4 18.9 12.4 8.3

The wireless performance shows that the unit is one of the faster 802.11g units on the market, interestingly the ZyXEL G-162 card ran faster with a Netgear DG834GT than with the ZyXEL router. Coverage wise the wireless card and router do seem to work well, and in a two bedroom flat with brick internal walls the unit manages to provide a stable connection. We suspect that for shorter data transfers the wireless speeds from this ZyXEL kit may actually increase, we did see bursts of traffic at 28 Mega bits per second.

Conclusions

While writing this review, I had to keep reminding myself that I was actually dealing with a unit that is selling online for around £55, and not something costing a lot more. Traditionally two box ADSL hardware solutions are expensive, but combine this with the Linksys ADSL2MUE (£35), and you have what seems to be a really well specified hardware bundle.

The only thing I'd like to see on the unit is a detachable wireless antenna, so that you can place the antenna in a better location. The parental controls while not totally flexible appear to work really well, and combining this with spam filtering on your email, you should have a broadband service you can let granny or the children use without too much fear.

The bandwidth management in the unit is relatively rare, but at least the method of controlling it in this router is relatively straightforward, your newcomer to broadband may be confused, but with some playing around it can be figured out. For people with several computers, controlling the split of bandwidth between users is something that crops up fairly regularly, and with this router there is a fairly cheap way of doing it.


Prices: £45.96 - ZyXEL Prestige 334WT 802.11g+ 125Mbps Wireless Router with 4 x 10/100 Switch and Firewall (£54.00 including VAT)
£25.53 - ZyXEL ZyAIR G-162 Wireless 802.11g+ 54Mbps and 125Mbps OTIST CardBus PC Card (£30 including VAT)
Links: ZyXEL website
Where to Buy: See our DSL Hardware FAQ

Andrew Ferguson
andrew@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 provid