AVM has traditionally focussed on delivering extensive VoIP services with its unforgettably named Fritz!Box routers. We rather liked its Fon WLAN 7140 for its sophisticated SIP functions and the latest 7170 brings even more features to the table.
AVM offers two new models and your choice will be determined primarily on whether you want wireless services as well as only the 7170 is endowed with these - the 5124 is aimed at basic Internet and VoIP services only. AVM has never been tempted to enter the draft 802.11n fray so you'll find the router incorporates a standard 802.11b/g access point. It also supports 125Mbps g++ which the company reckons is around 35 per cent faster that 11g speeds.
As with its predecessor, the 7170 functions as a two-port PBX enabling phone calls to be made over the Internet and landlines as well. Another feature that makes this router stand out is support for ISDN as well as its S0 bus, which allows ISDN telephones and PBXs to be connected via a dedicated port. We're not convinced this is a big selling point as ISDN in the UK is in decline with some businesses using it mainly as a backup connection to their broadband link. We used to have two ISDN lines into the lab but dropped them a few years ago due to their prohibitively high operating costs.
Along with an integral ADSL2/2+ modem, the router provides the standard quad of Fast Ethernet LAN ports. It has a pair of analogue phone ports and you get a USB port that can handle printers or storage devices. It also supports AVM's ‘Stick and Surf' although to use this you'll need one of AVM's optional Fritz!WLAN USB sticks. You plug this into the router and it'll download all wireless network information to it including wireless channels, SSID and security settings. When the Info light on the stick stops flashing you plug it into your laptop whereupon it automatically installs its drivers and utility and configures the wireless connection. We tested this on a Fujitsu Siemens 1.6GHz laptop running XP SP2 and watched it work perfectly.
Physical cabling can be problematic thanks to the cumbersome Y-cable provided in the box. This is required for combined analogue and DSL operations where the lower RJ-45 connector is plugged into the router's DSL port and the Y-branches go to the subscriber unit and splitter. Nevertheless, general installation is handled smoothly by the CD-ROM based quick start wizard and this includes Internet and SIP setup. For the latter we used our Sipgate (www.sipgate.co.uk) account where we just needed to enter our Internet phone number, account ID and password plus the SIP registrar URL.