The quirky, and we have to say slightly politically incorrect considering it's a German product, named Fritz!Box takes a scattergun approach to the market. Aiming in equal measure at home users and business, home workers and offices, it not too surprisingly struggles to satisfy them all.
For the home user market there are just too many competing products which do not require you to rip out your existing wireless router and start again. Skype, in its various incarnations, being perhaps the most obvious of these. Then there is the price, at £125 it is most certainly not the cheapest wireless router available.
OK, so how about the office market then? Here it has to work against the fact that, outside of Germany at least, AVM just does not have the established brand presence and this cannot be overlooked when making a business decision on which kit to install. We suspect it will sell best in what used to known as the Small Office Home Office (SoHo) sector, people working from home and wanting to make the most out of their connectivity with minimal outlay and using the minimal amount of hardware on the basis of the less there is then the less there is to go wrong. Here, the Fritz!Box scores highly because it provides what is in effect a seven bits of kit in one solution. Count 'em:
1. ADSL modem
2. 802.11g wireless router
3. 4 port Ethernet hub/switch
4. Voice over IP telephone system
5. File server
6. Print server
7. Hardware firewall
Some of the Germanic concepts do not survive translation particularly well, like Stick and Surf for example. Not that there's anything wrong with being able to transfer configuration and security settings including network keys and encryption types from the Fritz!Bos to a Fritz!WLAN USB stick. Indeed, it makes copying configurations easy and solves the setting up securely problem that so many people new to wireless broadband fall foul of. Nope, it's just the name we have a problem with. Stick and Surf, sounds like it came out of a new Carry On movie.
Security overall is well thought out though, from providing factory activated WPA encryption out of the box, to there being a hardware switch on the device to simply toggle wireless network availability.
The real trick up its sleeve has to be the addition of the built-in two port PBX which enables you to make telephone calls over the Internet or on your landline. In fact, the web-based configuration page makes setting all this up very easy and allows for the Fritz!Box to automatically route calls to either your Internet device or landline depending upon the number, so you can ensure that emergency calls always get routed via the landline while those chats with your mother in Australia go via the Internet.
The PC doesn't need to be switched on either, the Fritz!Box handles everything for you, getting around one of the problems faced by many Skype users who might not want to keep their computers up and running all the time.
The telephony functionality is really very impressive indeed, and home users will surely appreciate the business-like features such as detailed logging of all incoming and outgoing calls for both internet and landline telephones just as much an office bound user would. We especially liked the ability to put the device into a smart Night Service mode which disables the wireless access point and prevents all phones ringing during the wee small hours, perfect for the home office user (assuming they have a separate domestic line of course). VoIP is achieved using SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) for those who care about such things.
Voice quality is good, aided by the fact that can use your current landline telephone to plug into internet telephony calls. All too often it is the cheap plastic handset hardware that ruins otherwise acceptable call quality at the budget end of the online telephone call market. Moving data around our small office was not so impressive though, we never managed to get much more than a standard 54Mbps out of the wireless network, certainly never attaining the great promised heights of 125Mbps.
For the small office on a budget, especially the home office user wanting full functionality for a bargain price, the Fritz!Box 7140 is hard to beat.
For everyone else you will probably be paying for stuff you don't need and never use.