I have now used three different routers, and only the Netgear RT314 is acceptable to me. If I had been able to buy the NetGear at Micro Center in October, I would never have thought there were ANY problems! I finally found it at CompUSA, but you can buy it for $50 less online. I've summarized my results below ...
$179 - 4 port hub / router - both 10 and 100 Mbps I tried two of these, and neither worked well. It clearly has the best price and the best HTML software interface. But I found that I could make it lock up easily by listening to music (Real Audio or Windows Media Player), watching movies (AtomFilms or Ifilm, via the same software), or simply downloading large files.
In my mind, these are the main things you'd want to do with DSL, so this piece of hardware is useless. Once it locked up, I had to power the modem on and off to be able to surf again. I spent days researching at several web sites, and simply conclude that it worked for some people, but not for others.
$199 - 4 port hub / router - ONLY 10 Mbps I tried one of these, and it worked better than the LinkSys. The price is NOT competitive, since it does not support a 100 Mbps network. The HTML software interface was not as good as the LinkSys.
It would still hiccup when downloading large files, or listening to music, or watching movies. The difference is that I did not have to power anything off to continue surfing. If I simply ran my FTP program, then I could proceed. This at least showed me that there was something wrong with the LinkSys, but it was still not acceptable.
$199 - 4 port hub / router - both 10 and 100 Mbps I tried one of these, and it worked flawlessly. The one catch is that somehow, I had entered my Mindspring user name or password incorrectly. And I did it several times, which means there is something fishy, or I was brain dead for about 24 hours (not impossible).
I had to call Tech Support and wait 20 minutes on hold (toll free). Their diagnostic procedure to test the Internet setup gave meaningless messages, so I had to read the screen to the Tech Support guy, and he told me what was wrong. I carefully entered my user name and password, and everything worked.
I have downloaded about 600 megabytes with no interruptions of any sort. Everything works exactly the way it should. Compared to the other hardware routers, I am really impressed!
The price is fairly competitive, since it supports a 100 Mbps network. The HTML software interface is VERY limited. To make most configuration changes, you must use Telnet.exe, which is a DOS-like text screen interface, with numbered menus. There is a lengthy manual (PDF file) on the resource CD, which is fairly clear, and tries to explain some really technical stuff.
Telnet.exe is a windows program. It appears like they were too lazy to re-write it as a Windows interface!
Based on the DSL reports reviews, I knew that every router has problems. What I saw was that many people who bought the NetGear had tried the LinkSys first. They could not get the LinkSys to work, but the NetGear did. But there were also some people who had the opposite situation, and liked LinkSys better.
As for the difference in the NetGear and why it works better, I have no idea WHY. As many reviews said, it simply works. With the LinkSys, they release a new version of the router firmware each month, and the "best" version dates back to July or August!
I use color coded network cables to keep myself from getting confused. The network consists of three computers and two network printers. I started with a LinkSys five port hub, two computers, and no network printers.
I originally had BellSouth DSL, with a USB modem. This is the only thing available to me unless I wanted to pay extra for installing a business phone line (and the ongoing monthly cost).
The USB modem has to be directly connected to a PC, NOT the network. That forced me to use Internet Connection Sharing, which did NOT give me a high level of security in WIndows 98, even though I was using ZoneAlarm as a software firewall. The USB modem often was not detected by the PC, requiring frequent reboots and power on/off to get Windows to detect the modem.
I dropped BellSouth and moved to Mindspring/Earthlink DSL, simply because I could share it across the network. The reason is that their modem is designed to be connected directly to a network card on a PC, or to a router. I recommend getting a DSL service that allows you to connect through a router. I much prefer a totally hardware based system, with the router handling the security and the sharing of the internet.
The Mindspring DSL included a ZyXel Prestige 600 ADSL modem, and the EnterNet 100 software on CD-ROM. I do not use the Mindspring software, since the router supports PPPoE for the DSL connection. As described above, I tried three different routers before I found one that was acceptable.
The Lexmark Optra T612 printer came with an internal print server. The network cable plugs directly into the printer. After installing the high capacity paper drawers and output stacker, it is about five feet tall, and it cost three times as much as the base printer did!
The HP OfficeJet G95 came with an external print server. The parallel cable from the printer plugs into the print server. The network cable plugs directly into the print server.
ZyXel modem front ZyXel modem back
The red network cable connects the DSL modem and the NetGear router.
NetGear router front NetGear router back
LinkSys 5-port hub
Three cables connect the Lexmark printer, Cynthia's office, and Rick's office.
Lexmark network printer
There is another green network cable (not shown) that connects the Lexmark printer to the network.
HP print server front HP print server back
The green network cable connects the HP print server and the NetGear router
The HP network printer connects to the HP print server via the parallel cable.
HP network printer