Wireless home and business networks are but one of the technologies
enjoying a growing audience worldwide, predominantly because households
now contain more than one computer, and businesses are demanding faster
and more convenient internet access. Previously, shared internet access
was only available in the wired variety for both business and household
consumer use, meaning an ongoing battle with wires and restrictions with
movement of the computer to different locations.
Enter the Wireless Router, a device that allows more than one computer to
share an internet connection, and access servers, all without the need for
wires or complex setup procedures. Indeed, the wireless router allows
freedom from a physical connection, meaning you can roam around the space within
range of the router and still enjoy a fast internet connection. Many
cities around the world are also now setting up public wireless internet
access areas as demand for access to the internet in personal and business
life is growing rapidly, and with more and more technology almost
demanding an internet connection for functionality, it's no wonder the tech
manufacturers are jumping at the opportunity this emerging market demand
Now, there are perhaps hundreds of companies manufacturing and selling
wireless broadband routers, and to be honest, a lot of them offer similar
features and speeds, but today we are taking a look at the NetComm NB620W
Wireless Gateway, because it has a few additional extras you will not find
on your stock standard 802.11 router.
The NB620W Super-G router conforms to the 802.11b/g wireless
standards. Via the 'b' option, it is backwards compatible with existing
802.11b wireless network interface cards, however, the 802.11g standard
offers much faster data transfer speeds, and is now the standard in
wireless broadband data transmission. While 802.11g can transfer up to
speeds of 108Mbps with some fancy tweaking and tricks from the
manufacturers, the 802.11g offers up to the standard 54Mbps transfer
speed, and this is the speed one can expect from the NB620W package with a
basic setup. The
router does seem to work as fast as my Optus broadband connection will
download data in general web surfing activities. There is a little longer
delay between activating the request and receiving the response from the
internet when working on a remote computer hooked up wirelessly, however,
this is perhaps only 20% longer than the delay experienced when hooked
with wire to the modem directly. The NB620W also features what the company
calls "Atheros' Super-G wireless mode" which helps to further speed up
data transfer, potentially up to the 108Mbps speed claimed (with
appropriate receiver hardware and solid wireless connection strength).
The NB620W can be used with both ADSL and Cable modem connections. It
plugs in directly between your existing cable/ADSL modem and your
main computer box. So the data link from the outside "world" first passes
through your cable/ADSL modem, then to the NB620W router, and then to your
main computer wired to the router. Because the router is placed between
the modem and the main PC, the internet connection can also be broadcast
wirelessly to any computer within its range (typically 100m indoors and up
to 300m outdoors). Range can also be affected by solid objects in the line-of-sight between the router and remotely connected computers, but the
NB620W will easily pass through walls in a standard sized home dwelling or
small office building,
so having remotely connected PCs in another room of the house or workplace is generally
not a problem.
Setup of the router is easily achieved via the web-based interface coded
into the router itself, and accessed via a standard web browser. From this
setup interface, all feature options can be enabled or disabled and the
router can be initially setup and maintained via the point-and-click menus.
There is no coding to be done for basic setup and even a novice to networks will be
able to get through relatively easy if they follow the included
documentation carefully. One thing I had to do to get it running with my
Motorola modem on the Optus network was to switch the modem off and the
router, leave the modem off for a few minutes then switch the modem back
on, followed by the router. After this the router was successfully able to
identify the broadband connection and complete setup. This is a one-off
setup event and from there on everything worked fine, and automatically.
Unlike some other routers on the market, the NetComm NB620W is compatible
with any operating system that supports TCP/IP protocols, including
Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh and Linux-based systems. However,
TCP/IP is not the only protocol it supports. Support is included for PPPoE,
DHCP (Client and Server), UDP, ICMP, DNS Proxy, Dynamic DNS and SNTP
protocols and the router will work fine with both Optus and Telstra
"Back of Unit" Features
The NB620W features 4 10/100 ethernet ports for wired connections to
computers hooked up to a LAN, so the internet connection can be shared in
both wired and wireless form. Network Address Translation (NAT) features
allows the private network to be concealed from the internet for added
privacy/security by masking the actual IP address of the user. In addition, the NB620W features two USB ports on the
rear of the unit. These USB ports are not found on all wireless routers,
and rarely found on any of the budget offerings on the market.
They are USB 2.0 ports (for faster data transfer, but backward compatible
with USB 1.1 devices) and you can hook up a
wireless storage device (such as a USB flash drive or a USB hard drive)
and the data on that drive can then be accessed via the network readily.
Via wireless connection to the storage device, the data can also be
externally accessed via
FTP using the "server's" IP address and the virtual port/server
features of the router. The USB ports support universal plug-and-play
options, so most devices that are plug-and-play enabled will be
recognized and configured for use automatically. I find the option to hook
up a storage device to the router for wireless access to be very handy,
particularly if your connected computers are not used as your 'main'
system but you still require access to data you may have stored via your
The second option for the USB port is to hook up a USB printer. When a USB
printer is connected to the router, wired and wirelessly-connected
computers have access to the printing queue of that printer, so you can
initiate print jobs from a 'remote' computer hooked into the network. This
is great if you do not have a printer for each computer hooked up to the
network, and all connected systems can utilize the one printer as if it
were connected locally.
The 2.4Ghz Range
The NB620W operates in the 2.4Ghz wireless range, like most home
cordless phone systems. There can be issues with running more than one
system in the 2.4Ghz range, however, most of these issues are now resolved
with newer technology by providing the systems with multiple channel
options within this range. The NB620W router has over a dozen available
channels to utilize. I also run a 2.4Ghz cordless phone and a 2.4Ghz AV
sender system in my residence and neither have caused any problem running
alongside the NB620W, so it shouldn't be an issue with this router.
Channels are selectable via the router configuration interface, so you can
readily change channels if the default selected channel (channel 6) is causing
problems with other 2.4Ghz systems operating in the same area.
Security is a big issue with wireless networks, and rightly so.
Without any security measures implemented, virtually anyone with a
wireless receiver card can tap into your broadcasted internet connection
if they are in the vicinity. Thankfully, wireless security is quite good
these days, and the NB620W features the latest set of security options
built into the router.
In addition to the NAT protection mentioned above, the NB620W also
features SPI/DoS (Stateful Packet Inspection/Denial of Service) firewall
technology. The NAT security works by basically masking your connected
computer's IP addresses to the internet. SPI involves examining packets of
data downloaded from the net via the router and denying suspicious
packets, because the router knows what type of programs might be utilizing
a particular protocol. Denial of Service attacks from hackers are but one
type of attack the router helps to prevent via this technology. The NB620W
also features VPN passthrough to allow secure connection between specific computers
over the internet.
WEP (Wireless Encryption Protocol) provides another level of security for
the user by encrypting data transferred over the wireless network, usually
with either 64 or 128-bit level encryption. However, WEP security is
not considered to be very strong. WPA (WiFi Protected Access) security is
considered a much better option, and the NB620W also features this higher level of
security in both PSK and Radius modes. To use WPA, all network hardware
must be WPA compatible/enabled. The technology works via keys and
passphrases. There is more detailed descriptions of the technology
available online for further reference.
The three types of security available with the NB620W should be sufficient
to maintain network security if used properly, but individual security
situations should be assessed if you are very conscious of network
security, for business or personal use.
Once initial setup is complete, the router is virtually
maintenance-free, runs in the background and is barely noticeable. Speeds
seem close to the 54mbps maximum at most times, even when our indicated
connection strength was indicating "low"
on our D-Link receiver card. We experienced virtually zero dropouts using
the router in the last 5 weeks we have been testing it. Although the
router has a rotatable transmitting antenna, we found it didn't make a lot
of difference where this weas actually positioned in our tests, but your
mileage may vary. If you do have transmission problems, try moving the
router itself to different locations of the room you wish it to be in.
This can make small differences in signal strength received but for your
average sized home or small office building, the router should work very
This router is not
the cheapest on the market at AUD$330 (Oct 05), however, it offers many
more features than budget models, and these features will appeal to those
looking for print and disk sharing, as well as more advanced security
options. For the price, we feel it offers good value for money if these
are the features you are looking for. In comparison to the
D-Link DI-624 router we
reviewed elsewhere on this site, the NetComm NB620W certainly offers more
features and is a much more versatile router for both home and small
office use. You are paying a bit more for it over the D-Link option,
however, the additional features are well worth the extra investment in
our opinion, mostly because they offer options that make the home network
more efficient to use.
For more information on this router, or where it can be purchased from,
visit the NetComm Australia website at
Win this NetComm NB620W Router!
Congratulations to M. Adams of NSW, Australia who was drawn the lucky
winner of the NetComm NB620W Router reviewed here. Your prize has been
Thanks to all that entered, and stay tuned for more review unit
product giveaways on Net-Reviews.com soon!
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