Broadband Routers for DSL or Cable Modem Home Gateways

The broadband router combines the functions of a DSL or cable modem, a hub or switch, and a firewall. Broadband routers attempt to combine all of the essential features of home networking in one integrated, easy-to-use package. Differentiators for home "residential gateways" include specific features, reliability, cost, speed, and vendor reputation.

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SMC 7004VBR Barricade™

This four-port broadband router includes a built-in dual-speed Ethernet switch, print server, and a NAT firewall. The 7004VBR also includes VPN tunneling support as well as a COM port to support traditional modem dial-up (or ISDN) access as a backup or automatic "failover" option. Finally, this router is capable of logging "hacker" attacks. SMC offers a limited lifetime warranty for the 7004VBR.

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Netgear® RT314

Netgear's four-port cable/DSL router contains all of the basic gateway features. Most notably, it offers reliable support for the PPPoE-based Internet connections commonly provided by ISPs today. The RT314 runs on faster hardware (hence delivers better performance, connection speed notwithstanding) than many other routers in this category. Netgear offers a five-year warranty for this product.

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MultiTech RouteFinder™ RF102S

This RouteFinder product is a dial-up router featuring two RS-232 serial ports for external modem connections. It also contains a built-in 4-port 10/100 Ethernet switch. This product supports both VPN pass-through and port forwarding. Those needing a router but not ready for broadband can consider this option.

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Asanté FriendlyNET FR1004

Online gaming enthusiasts ("gamers") that recommend the Asante broadband router cite its speed and port management capabilities as two good reasons to buy the FR1004. Asante also provides easy-to-use installation software with these routers. FriendlyNet routers share the same basic internals as the SMC Barricade, but the Asante broadband routers are backed only by a one-year limited warranty.

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Linksys EtherFast® BEFRS41

Available since January 1st, 2000, the BEFSR41 has become a best seller and remains one of the least expensive broadband routers. Reasonably full-featured, the Linksys routers have undergone many firmware revisions over time to fix reliability problems. One would expect a router in the market for this long to be quite stable, but quality concerns and firmware updates continue to haunt the BEFSR41.

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2Wire™ HomePortal 180

This product maintains a competitive feature set for Ethernet- (RJ-45) based home network integration. It further surpasses the capabilities of other routers in this category by offering both USB and ​phone line (RJ11) network support. Other home gateways may offer this functionality through add-on "bridge" products, but the 2Wire HomePortal 100 combines these features into a single (large) unit.

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US Robotics® USR8000

USR8000 hardware is produced by the same Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) that builds the SMC and Asante router internals. US Robotics entered this product space relatively recently and is worthy of consideration on the "we try harder" principle. Look for pricing incentives and quality of technical support when comparing this broadband router against alternatives.

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D-Link DI804-HV

This 4-port D-Link model supports Virtual Private Networks (VPN). It also includes the standard array of firewall and other security features. The DI804-HV comes with a one-year limited warranty.

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Nexland ISB SOHO

The ISB (Internet Sharing Box) SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) offered a good overall cost/performance ratio in this class of routers. Its four-port full-duplex switch handles more than 8 Mbps, support for PPPoE and Web/email/FTP servers appeared solid, and the free CAT5 cable was a nice added convenience. Nexland provides a five-year warranty for the ISB SOHO. Nexland was acquired by Symantec who now handles the Nexland ISB service/support.