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Netcomm NB6Plus4Wn ADSL2+ wireless router

Netcomm NB6Plus4Wn ADSL2+ wireless router

Netcomm's NB6Plus4Wn is a reliable all-in-one ADSL2+ modem router, but it doesn't play well with Centrino

Netcomm's NB6Plus4Wn is an all-in-one modem/router that makes it easy to distribute your ADSL Internet connection. It has a built-in ADSL2+ modem, an 802.11n wireless access point, a 4-port Ethernet switch, a firewall, and advanced features such as QoS.

The Netcomm NB6Plus4Wn is relatively easy to set up and use, but the more advanced features, such as QoS, are very hard to figure out — even if you do read the manual. Because it's an all-in-one unit, there's no need to configure a separate modem in order to use the router. Simply plug in your phone line, plug in your computer using the supplied Ethernet cable, and log into the NB6Plus4Wn's Web interface. The Quick set-up wizard can be used to enter your ISP username and password. This is the only thing you'll have to do, as the router will detect on its own settings such as VPI and VCI. (You do need to know what these settings are if you decide to configure the router manually.)

Wireless networking set up is not part of the wizard, so you have to complete this manually. Simply navigate to the Wireless section of the interface to enter an SSID for your network. The NB6Plus4Wn supports up to four SSIDs, which means that you can run up to four wireless networks from the same unit; each wireless network can be isolated from the wired network. Having multiple SSIDs makes it easy to segregate users, though all the networks will be sharing the same bandwidth (up to 300 megabits per second).

We found the NB6Plus4Wn's wireless performance (with the current firmware, 3.103m) to be sluggish when connecting with Centrino-based laptops. Using an Intel WiFi 5100 chip (which is found in Centrino laptops), we could only connect to the router at a speed of 54 megabits per second (although this fluctuated from 26Mbps to 65Mbps) and attained an average transfer speed of 1.9 megabytes per second. This speed is acceptable for an 802.11g network (though some are faster), but not for an 802.11n network. We tried three laptops with Intel WiFi 5100 chips (two from HP and one from Toshiba) and all performed slowly.

An 802.11n adapter should give more than double this performance, and we finally saw this when using a Netcomm 900n USB adapter on the same laptop. The USB adapter obtained average transfer rates of 5 megabytes per second (MBps). The same speed was achieved with a laptop using an Atheros AR928X wireless chip. These wireless tests were conducted in the same room as the router from up to 2m away. Tests conducted from 10m were slightly slower, recording average rates of 3.3MBps. We obtained a useful wireless signal up to 18m away when testing in a home environment, but this will vary depending on your surroundings.

Wireless security can be set up from on a different page to the SSID details. You can select from WPA, WPA2 or mixed mode (WPA/WPA2, TKIP/AES) encryption. If your wireless adapters support Wi-Fi Protected Setup, you can use a PIN to set up your wireless security without manually selecting the encryption type (the NB6Plus4Wn will select the highest possible encryption level for your adapters). We wish the security settings were on the same page as SSID setup, which would make it easier to configure the wireless network in one go.

The unit has a built-in firewall and can filter traffic according to IP, but there is no keyword filtering option, which would be handy for parents. Port forwarding can be implemented easily through the Virtual Server section, and the router can be put in a DMZ. There is also support for VPN passthrough traffic.

We ran the NBPlus4Wn continuously for one week. It connected to our iiNet ADSL2+ account at an expected speed, and handled heavy peer-to-peer traffic along with local LAN traffic (both wired and wireless) without any stability problems. As far as the reliability of the unit is concerned, we can't fault it. It just works. We do wish it would play nicer with Centrino-based laptops, as the average speeds in our tests were disappointing.

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