4 out of 5
Lately, most of the attention is (justifiably) going to the first (draft) 802.11g-based
products which are coming to market, but if you want 802.11b range and compatibility
and a bit more performance to boot, you might consider a product like the SMC
2404WBR Barricade Turbo 11/22 Mbps Wireless Cable/DSL Broadband Router.
This is because the 2404WBR utilizes the Texas Instruments ACX100 wireless
chipset to provide 802.11b compatibility along with an enhanced 22 Mbps mode
(AKA 802.11b+) when used with similar hardware. Like other products based on
this TI chipset, the 2404WBR provides and additional 256-bit level of WEP encryption.
There’s more to like than to dislike about the Barricade, and SMC has included
a number of features focused on security and ease of administration.
On the other hand, one immediately obvious shortcoming of the Barricade is
the presence of only three switched LAN ports rather than the more customary
four. Typically, when a router omits a fourth port, it’s because the presence
of something like a printer port or serial port for dial backup puts real estate
on the rear of the unit at a premium. That’s not the case here. Nothing but
LAN ports. The SMC does have two wireless antennas, one on either side of the
unit. They tilt and rotate, but are fixed to the unit and can’t be removed.
The Barricade’s EZ 3-click Installation utility is Windows only, though it
does support any version from Windows 98 through XP. If you don’t like going
to the movies and having to watch advertisements before even the previews have
started, then you won’t appreciate the ads for other SMC networking products
that are displayed as the software initially configures the router. Perhaps
as penance for making you sit through the ads, the utility will allow you to
register the router as well.
Once past the utility, you’re free to configure the SMC via the browser interface.
You’ve got to hand it to SMC for the quality of the interface. It’s as attractive,
functional, and logically organized an administration console as any other I’ve
seen on a comparable product.
One noteworthy feature of the SMC is that the wireless functionality can be
shut off via the administration console. This might seem to be a superfluous
capability, but I wish every wireless router provided it. I can think of various
scenarios when you might want to squelch the wireless signals without pulling
the plug on the entire router, like perhaps turning it off at the end of the
day as a form of added security to thwart war drivers.
Another feature of the SMC that I like and rarely see on other products is
an administrative timeout feature, which lets you specify how long the admin
console will be available before you have to log in again. Ask any harried small
business IT guy (or girl) how often they get called away from their desk and
forget to give their machines the three-fingered salute.
To prevent kids or wayward employees from getting to certain sites, content
filtering is provided by keyword or URL, though it’s limited to only 30 entries.
Perhaps more useful is the access control feature that lets you control what
type of traffic can get to specific LAN clients, so if you want to block newsgroup
access to one PC and FTP access to another, you can. You can also schedule the
access control by day and time. Additionally, MAC filtering lets you block access
to the WAN port entirely for either wired or wireless clients.
More than half of the Barricade’s 130+ page manual describes how to set up
TCP/IP on various versions of Windows, but it also offers useful tips on how
to configure the router’s VPN passthrough feature– including IP port information
for various VPN vendors like Check Point and others–handy information to say
When it comes to alerts and logging, the Barricade provides a reasonable level
of functionality but omits a couple of key features. For example, its firewall
has intrusion detection that monitors incoming traffic for various common TCP/IP
attacks and it can be configured to e-mail an alert notification in the event
of an attempted breach. On the other hand, although it does maintain a security
log, the router can’t e-mail the logs, nor can it save them to a file or upload
them to a Syslog application.
The Barricade promises twice the speed of a conventional 802.11b access point.
Not surprisingly, it doesn’t quite live up to that claim. It does, on the other
hand, improve performance, and significantly so.
At close range tests with NetIQ‘s Chariot
for instance, the SMC 2404WBR achieved a throughput score of 6.436Mbps, roughly
half again as fast as you’ll typically get from garden-variety 802.11b hardware.
Performance degraded fairly linearly as distance grew, and at 50 feet from the
access point was still quite good at 3.635 Mbps. Response time and streaming
tests were equally impressive, and performance with the 256-bit WEP encryption
turned on was within the margin of variance.
I conducted the performance test witWhh the Barricade paired to its CardBus
NIC counterpart, the SMC2435W in 22 Mbps mode. I also was able to successfully
connect to the Barricade in 22 Mbps mode using a similar product, the TI ACX100-based
All in all, an extra LAN port and more robust logging and alerting capabilities
would make the Barricade 2404WBR more useful. However, it does provide enough
administrator-friendly features and high performance to justify a place in a
small business or home office network.