3Com ADSL Wireless 11g Firewall Router review

Aimed at the small office and home market, wireless networking couldn't be simpler with the help of 3Com. Considering the SOHO market is growing so rapidly, devices of this ilk are sure to be hot sellers- for family and home office alike- in the run up to Christmas. 3Com show well in this genre with a well priced, easy to use, stylish and most importantly secure, wireless networking all in one box.

This unit replaces your standard ADSL modem (most Broadband users connect via USB) and also provides local networking via 4 10/100 Mbps Ethernet ports.
Once configured to your ISP, the Wi-Fi environment supports 256-bit WPA and 128-bit WEP security to prevent access via your ADSL by unapproved sources. With an integrated firewall, your local network is protected from hacks and should the worst occur, the built in event logging function helps give an indication as the cause of the problem.

Once connected to the main PC, 3 free-switched Ethernet ports are available for other PCs, with an 802.11g wireless access point- ideal for notebooks or streaming media devices. This should cover most home user's requirements- any more PCs can be hooked up by plugging in additional Ethernet switches.

The box is compact and durable, with the build quality you'd expect from 3Com. The steel chassis is just a shade larger than a VHS cassette box, with a smooth, contoured plastic lid. It will fit snugly on a desktop, or tower (allow a 2 inch headroom for the vertical twin rubber coated aerials), but is probably best shelved or wall mounted to allow the best line of sight connection for mobile devices. 4 LAN status and 4 DSL LEDs burn brightly on the front (it stands less than an inch tall), giving a clear picture across a reasonable distance, slightly less than the connection, which is up to 100 metres.

You can't fault the speed and quality of support here either. As a rule of thumb, 802.11g wi-fi runs at a minimum of 22Mbits/sec, compared to the 11Mbits/sec of 802.11b. This router runs at the industry standard of 54 Mbits/sec, ensuring maximum data transfer speed, but allowing a drop in connection speed when required, to ensure a constant, reliable connection.

Verdict

Impressive. At around the £100 mark, this isn't the cheapest router on the market, but certainly a front-runner in its class given the modem and integrated firewall which some rivals chop out to meet a price point. For functionality and forward thinking, it does pretty well (the wireless mini-PCI card feature should be upgradeable in the future, judging by the construction of the slots) and the various components would cost a whole lot more if purchased individually. It's not Bluetooth compatible, but that's really all that separates this multi-functional device from the big boys- and the bigger price tag. If you need secure home networking, then this is ideal. If you have an expanding home or small office, it shouldn't render itself surplus to requirements as your hardware and workload expands.