- Review Price: £79.99
Aimed squarely at residential users, the latest 780WL finally brings support for VoIP into Thomson’s SpeedTouch range of broadband routers. Wireless connectivity is also on the menu but Thomson has stayed well clear of MIMO and the draft-n specification so the router only offers basic 54Mbps 802.11g operations. Along with an integral ADSL 2/2+ modem and four port Fast Ethernet switch you get a couple of RJ-11 ports that can be used to attach handsets or fax machines and the router also offers a standard PSTN backup port which is a requirement for calling emergency numbers. The router also has a single USB port but this is not for connecting external storage devices or printers but for directly linking one PC or notebook to provide it with Internet access.
We found installation very well handled with the CD-ROM providing a tutorial on physically connecting the router. Next, you connect a PC and simply load a browser – you will be automatically redirected to the router’s set up page. Most of the default values suited us so we just added our BT Broadband ISP account details and Internet access was ours for the taking in less than a minute. The web interface is very well designed and quite intuitive with chunky icons to one side for quick access to the different functions. Sensibly the firewall is switched on by default with the Standard setting allowing all outbound traffic but blocking all unsolicited inbound traffic. Two other settings are provided but they simply allow you to switch the firewall off completely or block all inbound and outbound traffic.
Intrusion detection and prevention provides protection from nearly forty different types of attacks. There’s nothing to do here as this is permanently enabled and cannot be customised or changed by users. This web page provides a list of the attacks with a counter alongside and you can switch over to the router’s event log for more information. This a quite a useful feature as along with detected intrusions you can view details about the LAN and WLAN ports, system messages such as VoIP call setup and the various services.
To test voice services we used our standard sipgate VoIP test account and found that the router’s documentation and online help was reasonably good if a little muddled. We did get VoIP services working and our account registered but it was largely through trial and error. Some may find it off-putting but you do need to access the Expert Configure screen as details of the SIP proxy and registrar servers must be input and we found it would only accept IP addresses and not URLs. Nevertheless, with this in action we could assign both phone ports to one SIP account or link them to separate accounts. The router maintains a record of the last ten calls and clicking on the number will automatically dial it for you. You can also create an address book and each entry has room for up to four phone numbers, a SIP URI and provision for one click access for speed dialling. The router supports a number of useful call related functions including call hold, call waiting, call transfer and three-way conferencing and the manual provides clear instructions on how to use each one.
Wireless security is good enough for residential use as you get SSID masking plus WEP and WPA/WPA2 encryption. We liked the fact that the WLAN LED on the router glows red to warn if you don’t have encryption switched on. Another useful feature is an access control list (ACL) that only allows registered systems to connect wirelessly. The ACL can be automatically populated by pressing the button on the front panel. This action unlocks the ACL for one minute and any clients associating with the router during that period will be added to the list.
Wireless performance isn’t impressive but it is in the right ballpark for a basic 802.11g access point. Using a Fujitsu Siemens LifeBook equipped with a Proxim triple-speed PC Card we ran Iometer over a link with a Supermicro Pentium D 3.2GHz PC on the LAN. For a two metre line of sight connection it reported 26.6Mbit/sec for an open link and 22.4Mbit/sec with WPA2 encryption in action.
The router offers QoS capabilities for prioritising different types of traffic. However, this is not for the fainthearted as you have to Telnet into the router and configure QoS profiles from the CLI (command line interface). Parental controls for web access are better than many competing routers as you have options for allowing access to unlisted sites or blocking access to all unknown sites. For the latter, this means you can set up a list of permitted URLs where the router will stop all others from being viewed and redirect the user to an internal warning web page.
The 780WL may not be packed with the latest features but it is one of very few broadband routers offering VoIP support for under £100. Wireless performance is low but the router is very easy to manage making it a good choice for residential use.
The setup process starts automatically on first contact with the router.
The router offer a very well designed and intuitive web management interface.
Different SIP accounts can be assigned to each phone port and there are plenty of useful call handling features provided.
Wireless security is good and new users can be automatically registered with the router.
A useful status screen helps keep track of connected wired and wireless systems.
Score in detail
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