Overall, we were very pleased with the performance and ease of use of the NetPassage 16 and WL11A.
Hook-up is a snap. Simply connect the NP16 to your broadband modem, connect the PCs to the NP16, and you’re off and running. The built-in DHCP server assigns local IP addresses to each connected PC. One feature we found extremely useful is the NP16’s ability to mimic the MAC address of the network adapter in the PC to which it is connected. Some broadband modems obtain DHCP leases from the ISP based on associations with the MAC address of the network card to which they’re connected. If the MAC address changes, the Router would not be able to obtain an IP from the server (at least until the old DHCP lease expires, which could be a matter of days). With the NP16’s ability to clone MAC addresses, you’re able to get going right away.
Installation of the WL11A PCMCIA cards will require installation of some drivers, which are included with the cards, of course, but is otherwise simple and straightforward.
We found the NP16’s HTML-based user interface to be powerful, yet still relatively easy and intuitive. The interface can be accessed from any computer connected to the NP16 simply by pointing to the router’s IP in any browser. There is also a Telnet-based configuration system, which will no doubt be of importance to Linux and Unix users (both can be password protected, if security is an issue). Strangely, on two separate occasions (on two different PCs), the NP16's configuration system ceased to respond, and the router had to be reset before it would respond again. We've been unable to identify any cause of these two blips, and while they proved to be only minor annoyances, we thought it prudent to make brief note anyway.
Fig 2 - WL11A 802.11b Wireless PCMCIA Card
Upgrading the NP16’s firmware, and adding wireless capability was a snap as well. To upgrade the NP16 to be fully wireless-compatible, simply insert a wireless (802.11b) PCMCIA card into the NP16’s expansion slot, and reboot the router. The wireless card is automatically detected, and the NP16 configures itself for wireless operation as well. The ability to add wireless capability at a later date is the NetPassage 16’s most compelling feature, in our opinion.
Finally, we have omitted performance tests for the time being. Throughput tests of the NP16 and WL11A would be essentially meaningless due to their heavy dependence on environmental variables. We hope to publish a comparison of several brands of wireless products in the near future, and we’ll provide performance comparisons at that time.