NexLand ISB Pro800 Turbo Router Review

Admin - 2007-01-21 14:31:48 in Networking
Category: Networking
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: June 30, 2002
NexLand
NexLand
Price: $400 USD
Introduction

Nexland products are honestly, very new to me. Until this day, I have never tried a Nexland product. I really don't buy a lot of networking gear, and when I do, it's usually always Linksys or Dlink, for some unknown reason.. The Nexland product that I am reviewing today, is called the ISB Pro800 Turbo. The most appealing feature of the ISB Pro800 Turbo, is that it can load balance two DSL, Cable or T1 connections. It will even load balance mixed connections, like one DSL connection and one Cable connection. Another very cool feature is if one connection goes down the ISB Pro800 Turbo will route all traffic to the good line, automatically. I will be testing all of these features plus more, later on in the review.

Features

  • 2 Modem Ports that Load Balance 2 Broadband Connections
  • Get Amazing Performance for the Price of Another Connection
  • For Businesses with Heavy Traffic Loads
  • Double Redundant Connection Backup
  • NAPT Firewall to Protect your Computers
  • High Speed 8-Port 10/100 Switch with Duplex (200Mb)
  • Analog / ISDN Backup 230k Serial Port for Truly "Always On"
  • Over 8MB Bi-Directional Throughput for Blazing Speed
  • Supports up to 253 Computers
  • Unlimited IPsec Tunnels Passing-Through (Patent Pending Nexland)
  • Supports PPPoE, IPsec Server Behind NAPT, SNMPv1, Full Routing
  • Symantec RaptorMobile VPN Client & Personal Firewall (10 User)
  • Excellent Internet application compatibility
  • Solid Reliability of Nexland Technology... No Freezes!
  • CAT5 Cable Included ($15 value) + Null Modem Serial Cable
  • 5 Year Warranty & 30-Day Money Back Guarantee


    Specifications

  • Weight 3 lbs
  • Dimensions 10 7/8"(W) x 1 5/16"(H) x 5 11/16"(D)
  • Network Ports
  • Port Type: 10/100BASE-TX (RJ-45) - 8
  • WAN ports: 10BASE-T (RJ-45) - 2
  • Backup/Console Ports: RS232 Serial Port with 230Kbps Throughput - 1

    The hardware





    In the box you will find the following:

  • Thick Manual
  • Serial Cable
  • Cat5 patch cable
  • The ISB Pro800 Turbo
  • CD
  • Power Adapter



    This is my setup, all connected. On bottom we have two Speed Touch Home Ethernet DSL modems connecting to the ISB Pro800 Turbo, on top.



    Starting from the left side of the router we have, the two WAN ports, which connected to the two DSL modems. As for the LED lights from left to right we have, the power LED, error LED, LAN/WAN transmit LED, backup active LED, and finally the link LED which will tell you if your link to your modem is working.



    Next to those set of LEDs we have 8 LAN ports. For the price of this router, you would think it would have came with 16 ports. I guess Nexland wanted to keep it small?



    On the other end of the router there are a total of 24 LAN link LEDs. These LEDs tell us if a link is good or bad from a computer on the LAN to the router. If the top LED is lit, that means your connection is running at 100MB. The middle LED means your connection is running at 10MB. The LED on the bottom is the Duplex LED does a couple of things. One of the things it does, is tells us that your Ethernet card supports Duplex. If your card supports Duplex and it is enabled, the LED will be lit, and this gives you up to 200MB throughput on the network! If the Duplex LED is flashing this means their has been a collision on your network. This happens when packets are dropped for some reason or the packets have been misdirected. This usually only happens when two computers are using the same IP address and this usually only happens when you specify an IP address rather than using the DHCP feature built in the router.



    Now if we have a look at the back of the router we are sure to find a reset button or switch. If you have any problems out of the router, like if it locks up or your Internet connection seizes to exist and you know your Internet isn't down, then you may need to reset or "reboot" the router. By pushing the reset button, you will NOT loose any of your saved configurations in the router. You will also notice the power switch in the back. I'm glad to see this, all of the routers I have had in the past didn't even have a power switch!



    On the other side in the back, you will see a serial connection and some dip switches. The dip switches are used for disabling the DHCP server, resetting the router (this wipes the password and ALL configurations), activating serial console interface, and to configure the router for firmware upgrades. The serial port is something you don't find on a cheap router. This serial port, or sometimes called RS232 port, is used to connect an ISDN or analog connection to use with the router's automatic backup feature. I will talk more about this automatic backup feature, later on in the review. This port is also for connecting a null modem cable (that was included) to configure the unit with a program like hyper term.
    Installation

    The hardware installation was very easy, and the quick start instructions made it even easier. The not so easy part of the installation is configuring the router. Different ISP's have different configurations, therefore you will need to contact your ISP to get all of the information you need to configure your Nexland Pro800 Turbo router, if you don't already know. I had a router that this Nexland Pro800 Turbo is replacing, so therefore I already knew what configuration to use. I had to order a 2nd phone line and DSL on that 2nd line, in order to test the load balancing features of this router. Hey, I had a good excuse to get another DSL line :) My first DSL line is something called a Bridged line. This simply means all I do is plug the line in to the WAN 1 port of the router, and then I'm connected to the Internet (via DHCP). As for my new DSL line (the 2nd line), uses PPPoE. That's something that most everyone is familiar with, that has DSL. It wasn't as easy to configure as my first line, because with PPPoE you have a username and password that you must enter in, in order to connect.

    To access the router you will need to launch your favorite Internet browser, such as Internet Explorer. In the address, or URL field, enter in: http://192.168.0.1



    On the Main Step screen of the router, you will see WAN port 1 & 2. Port one is the bridged line, and port two is the PPPoE line. Lets have a closer look at the port two configuration. More importantly where it says "PPPoE Enable only for use with PPPoE connections". This is where I will have to enter in my username and password that my ISP gave me. After I clicked saved, my PPPoE connection never connected.. A lot of things where running thru my mind like, maybe my DSL isn't compatible with this router, or I need to get additional configuration information from my ISP. Then I saw in the left menu "Advanced PPPoE". At the top I had to select the WAN port that my PPPoE connection is on, which is WAN 2. Then I clicked on update fields, which updates all the fields on the screen with my information such as my username and password. Ah ha! There is a "Connect" and "Disconnect" button! Once I clicked on Connect, then clicked back to the Main step screen, I saw that WAN 2 was connected to the Internet :) That's all there was to the installation and configuration of my setup that I have. It maybe a little different than your setup, as you might have two cable connections, or two PPPoE connections, but it's fairly easy to setup and configure anyway you look at it.
    Closer Look





    The "Main Setup" screen is the first screen you come to and is also the first item in the menu to the left of the screen. From the main setup screen you can see if your two WAN ports are connected to the Internet or not. As you can see from the picture, both of our WAN connections are in the Connected state. Just under the Connection Status you will see an option that says "Mode". The Normal option, will be option you will use more than likely, unless you don't have two connections, then you would want to turn WAN 2 off. With the off option you can completely turn off either WAN 1, WAN 2, or both. The backup option is very cool! You can make your WAN 1 or 2 connection a backup connection by changing the mode of the connection to backup. What will this do? Well, if your main connection to the Internet goes down, the router will automatically switch all internet connections to the backup connection :) This really works best if you have one DSL modem and one cable modem, because if you had two DSL modems, they will more than likely be from the same ISP and if one goes down because of network problems at your ISP then you can count on the other one to go down as well.

    If your connection is DHCP, which most cable internet connections are, then you would select enable under "Obtain IP & DNS Automatically". I selected this option under WAN 1 since my WAN 1 connection is a bridged DSL connection. However on WAN 2 you can see it is not enabled, but "PPPoE" is enabled.

    I have already gone over the "PPPoE" options when I was setting up my connections during the installation. Therefore, I'm not going to go over it again.

    The last section on this screen is "Required by some Service Providers". Under this section you will find that you specify your hostname, domain name, and MAC address. Your ISP will let you know if you need to enter in, any of this information. I had to change the MAC address on my bridge DSL connection, and you may have to change yours if you have a bridged DSL connection. I have never seen the "domain name" option on other routers I have used in the past. However, most users won't have to touch any of these options, but Nexland has included them to support a wide range of connections.



    On the "Static IP & DNS" screen you will be able to manually specify your IP address & DNS servers on both WAN 1 & WAN 2 ports. Again, most users won't have to touch any of these options either. I think mostly cable users and only a few DSL users will be using these features. If your ISP has given you an IP address or DNS servers, this is where you will enter it in.



    If your having connection problems with the Internet, then the "Status" screen is the first screen you should look at. The status screen will show your current IP addresses, DNS addresses, gateways addresses, mac addresses, and lots of other things. This screen also shows the Firmware Version which is currently, V1 Rel 5L. I will be checking to see if there are any updates for this, later on in the review.



    The "LAN IP & DHCP" screen is where you can specify what IP addresses the router can lease to other computers on your network. I have changed the UNIT LAN IP from 192.168.0.1 to 192.168.1.1. I also changed the IP range from 192.168.0.1.. to 192.168.1.1.. This is because all of my old routers used this IP range, and I'm more familiar with it :) Under DHCP you can change the IP range, and also enable or disable the DHCP server. If you disable the DHCP server you will have to manually configure every computer on your network with the correct IP address, net mask, and gateway. I personally have my main computer set to a static LAN IP because windows will load slightly faster because it doesn't have to contact the DHCP server to receive an IP address.



    The "Configure Password" screen allows you to, yeah you guessed it, change the password. By default, the router has no password set, which is a security risk. You need to set a password so that only you know what it is.



    Yet another backup feature is found under the "Backup/Analog/ISDN" screen. This screen allows you to setup an analog or ISDN connection to backup your broadband connection in the event it fails. I was unable to test this feature of the router since I do not have an ISDN connection nor an analog connection. However, you can see that it is very configurable!



    This is the "Advanced PPPoE" screen we saw earlier during the installation. I won't go over many of the features since I have already covered them. The feature I haven't covered yet, is the "Choose Service" feature. Some ISPs have different services available for their PPPoE connections. You will have to disconnect before you do this. Once you have disconnected you can click Query Services then you can select a service from the drop down menu then re-connect.
    Closer Look (Continued)





    This is a very nice feature for users that don't have a static IP. My WAN2 modem which is PPPoE has a dynamic IP address, which means every time I connect to the Internet I get a different IP address. If your running an FTP, Mail, or a web server than this can cause many problems. Nexland has included a "Dynamic DNS" feature that allows you to have a static hostname such as, overclockersclub.nexland.net through a service called TZO. When you get a new IP address, the Nexland router will automatically contact TZO and update your IP so your hostname is updated.



    The "Routing" screen is for advance users, who have more than one router on their network. The Nexland ISB PRo800 Turbo supports RIP2 protocol. RIP2 allows the ISB to automatically re-direct packets to the correct router on your network. If you don't understand any of this, then you shouldn't touch anything on this screen :)



    The "Host IP & Group" allows you to customize what user gets, what IP, and if you want that user to have Internet access through WAN 1 or WAN 2. This would be really good if you had one computer that was a web server and you wanted to make WAN 1 dedicated for the web server only. Another idea, is if you only have two computers on your network, then you could bind WAN 1 to one of the computers and WAN 2 to the other. Then both of the computers could have their own high-speed line. The router identifies the computers by the adapter address of their network card (this is also called the MAC address). In order to find out what your MAC address is, in windows 2k, XP use "ipconfig", in windows 98/me use "winipcfg", and in Linux use "ifconfig".



    This screen is more for businesses wanting to limit what content is allowed in to their network. However, this could also be good if your a parent that has a computer and have a son or daughter that has his or her own computer. You could easily limit them access to only surf the web or use email only. I have finally found a feature that this router doesn't have. On my old Linksys router there was an option to choose "when" these filters were to be applied. Like, say you wanted to block web surfing during business hours, or late at night for the kids, it would. I really wish they would add this feature, to the ISB Pro800 Turbo.



    After using a router/firewall for awhile, you will notice that a few applications and games may not run well or even at all, unless you open ports up on the router. By default the router blocks all inbound tcp and udp ports. If you need to open a specific port, or a range of ports, this is where you do that at. Notice "Test2" that I setup. This allows any inbound connections to port 23, and what ever service that runs on port 23 (usually telnet) will be able to send traffic back to client on ANY ports from 1-64443 since I specified that in the "Outgoing" field.



    The "Virtual Servers" screen is a feature I always look for in a router. If a router doesn't have this feature, I don't give that router a second look. How does it work? Well, lets say I have a web server on machine, 192.168.1.99 and the domain name is, mydomain.com. If someone from the Internet tried going to mydomain.com then the router would just drop the packet because it doesn't know where to send it. That's where the Virtual Servers feature comes in to play. If I click on the box beside Web Server and then typed in the IP 192.168.1.99 (the machine that is running the web server) then the router would map any connection requests for port 80 (web server port) to 192.168.1.99. Therefore users from the Internet would now be able to access mydomain.com.



    The "Virtual Servers" screen is a very nice feature, however it only has about a dozen pre-configured ports. If your running a gaming server or a server ports that isn't listed in the "Virtual Servers" screen, then you can manually enter in any port on the "Custom Virtual Servers" screen. I'm running a Half Life Death Match server on 192.168.1.5 and I would like users from the Internet to have access to it. I know that Half life servers run on port 27015 by default, so I entered it in as the TCP port, and since the game server is running on 192.168.1.5 I entered it in as the IP. Users will now be able to access the games server, thanks to the custom virtual servers feature.



    The DMZ feature can be very good, and it also can be very bad, depending on how you look at it. If you set an ip like, 192.168.1.99 as the DMZ (demilitarized zone) then 192.168.1.99 will be no longer be 'behind' the routers firewall, therefore exposing 192.168.1.99 to the Internet. On the screen it says: This feature allows one (1) computer to have unrestricted 2-way communication with Internet servers or users. This is useful for hosting games or special servers/applications. Because of the security risk, this feature should be activated only when required. You should really never have to use this feature because you can use virtual servers to open ports to computers on your network.



    Ah, last but certainly not least the "Expert" screen. This page has more of the advance features of the router. The first option on the screen is Load Balancing. This settings will tell the router what percentage of traffic to send to each WAN port. For example, if your WAN 2 port was a cable connection that was slower than your DSL connection on WAN 1, you could use this option to tell the router to send more traffic to WAN 1. I had to lookup the SMTP bind feature in the manual because honestly, I had no idea what this did. The manual states this: ?If you have Internet accounts from two separate ISPs connected simultaneously, you might have to make sure that your e-mail (SMTP protocol) only transmits on the WAN connection associated with your e-mail server. Otherwise, the server might reject the e-mail being sent from a different domain. You can choose WAN 1 or WAN 2. "None" (no binding) is the default.

    Idle renew DHCP is an option you can specify how often the router will try to renew your DHCP Internet connections. I have left mine to "0" and all has been well. I love the MTU option on this router! This is the first router that I have had, that has this option. "A maximum transmission unit (MTU) is the largest size packet or frame, specified in octets (eight-bit bytes), that can be sent in a packet- or frame-based network such as the Internet. The Internet's Transmission Control Protocol uses the MTU to determine the maximum size of each packet in any transmission. Too large an MTU size may mean retransmissions if the packet encounters a router that can't handle that large a packet. Too small an MTU size means relatively more header overhead and more acknowledgements that have to be sent and handled." -Whatis The MTU size can be tweaked to make your Internet connection a little faster. Please see DSLReports.com for more information. You will notice from the picture, that you can set a different MTU size for each WAN port.

    Allow Ident Port is fairly self explanatory. If you can't figure it out, by clicking enable, this will open port 113 (Ident). This is used by some FTP sites, IRC servers, and various other things. However by enabling it, it will no longer be stealth if that port is scanned. If you disable NAT it will turn your router in to a bridge or pure router. In order to disable NAT you will need to create entries manually in the routing table or be using RIP2 for communications.

    You have two options for logging, debug and user mode. You really wouldn't want to turn on debug mode unless you wanted very detail logging such as port scans, ect.. Also leaving it on debug mode when the router is under extremely high load, can cause problems.


    Performance

    Main test system:

  • Abit KR7-133Raid motherboard
  • AMD Athlon XP 2100+
  • Geforce 4 ti 4600
  • SB Audigy! X-Gamer
  • Netgear 10/100 Ethernet card

    Gaming:

    The first test I did was, testing to see what pings I could get while playing Half Life Death Match on an Internet server while uploading and while not uploading. During the test while I was uploading, I was uploading 3dMark2001SE to my web site.


    24 Ping while not uploading




    254 Ping while uploading (ouch)

    I really did not understand this. When I connected to the Half life server, the router should of routed the connection to the WAN port with less load. I'm not really sure if it did or not, it appears it didn't from the looks of the ping.

    Transferring:

    To test the transfer rate, I sent an 258Mb ISO file to another computer on my network. The computer is about 100 feet a way, and computers have 10/100 Ethernet cards, running in Full Duplex mode.



    Time Took: 30secs
    File size: 258Mb

    Knowing this, we can calculate this to, 8.6 megs per sec or 68.8 megabits per sec (router talk).



    Here is the real test! Actual downloading off the Internet! As you can see from the picture, I was able to download two files and both at 151KB/sec!

    The Math:
    151KB + 151KB = 302KB/sec equal to: 2416kb/sec (kilobits) and is also equal to: 2.4mbit/sec (megabits)




    Conclusion
    The Nexland ISB Pro800Turbo router is by far the most superior router that I have ever seen. With all of its splendor and beauty, there are still a few things I did not like. The router comes with 8 ports, when it should come with 16 ports because of the price. As I said earlier in the review: "On my old Linksys router there was an option to choose the time of when the access filters were to be applied. Like, say you wanted to block web surfing during business hours, or just late at night for the kids, then having this feature you could do just that. I would have liked to of seen this feature on the ISB Pro800 Turbo." While I was Internet surfing I could tell that the speed was increased by about 50-60%. While downloading two files, you could definitely see the load balancing feature kicking in!

    Would I recommend this to a home user? Well, yes and no. There aren't many home users that will need this type of router. If your looking for better pings while playing games, stick with what you have. If your the type of person constantly downloading mp3s and other things then this might be right up your alley! If your a home user and are considering buying this router for two connections, I'd first recommend you call your ISP up and make sure you can get another broadband line in your house. They were very suspicious when I called them up, asking for a new phone line and DSL on that line :)

    Would I recommend this to a business? Most definitely! With this router being able to host 253 connections, 10 included licenses of Symantec RaptorMobile VPN, secure firewall, backup feature, load balancing, speed, and the 5 year warranty, what more could a business want?

    Don't forget that this router does cost $400 and is a lot of money for a home user, and maybe even a few businesses. However, I think it is worth it, if you fall in the categories I listed above.



    We would like to thank NexLand.com for providing us this router to review! Thanks Mike!


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