Funkwerk – Bintec RS120wu review

top-notch wireless router with embedded 3G modem
Photo of Funkwerk – Bintec RS120wu
£525 + VAT

Many Wi-Fi routers aimed at small businesses tend to be dumbed-down to such an extent that fitting them into anything other than the simplest network configuration is all but impossible. German company Funkwerk takes exactly the opposite view, and its RS120wu wireless router is so flexible that it could be quite a shock to those more used to consumer models.

The five rather ungainly antennas sprouting out of the back and sides of the blood-red metal fanless chassis are the first warning signs that something’s afoot. Three belong to the dual-band (2.4/5GHz) 802.11n Wi-Fi radio, and two are dedicated to the integrated 3G modem. This latter feature removes the need for cumbersome USB dongles, and it also allows you to plug in an external antenna for better 3G reception. A single screw releases the case to allow access to the standard SIM holder on the motherboard.

All status lights are at the front, although the small grey labels are unreadable at a distance. At the rear are five switched Gigabit Ethernet ports, any of which can be configured for WAN or LAN use. A standard SFP expansion slot is included for fibre optic modules. Also at the rear are a USB port for a 3G dongle plus a mini-USB port for serial console access (a serial cable is supplied).

The graphical configuration interface is where things start to get interesting. It’s all clearly laid out and has full context-sensitive help, but those not used to configuring routers from first principles could quickly get lost. Fortunately there are wizards for the basic tasks of setting up Internet connections and getting the wireless LAN working, although even these use terms and concepts that might throw some users. A long read of the user manual will help: although the English isn’t perfect, it’s very comprehensive.

However, once you’ve got used to the terminology, those used to high end networking kit will love the freedom to configure each Ethernet port to do exactly what they want. There’s even an SNMP browser in the web interface if you really want to dig into the innards.

By default, four ports are grouped together as a logical LAN interface, with a routing bridge to the fifth port which is configured as a WAN port for connection to cable broadband or an xDSL modem. This can be changed at will, so in theory you could have four wired WAN connections plus a 3G connection operating simultaneously, with LAN access via Wi-Fi. The wireless LAN can be split into eight independent SSIDs.

An upcoming firmware update will allow simultaneous use of two 3G connections (this can already be configured via Telnet). There’s fully-configurable load-balancing between interfaces, and the automatic failover and failback worked seamlessly with just a couple of lost pings.

There’s actually very little this router can’t do (apart from use 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless bands simultaneously) and it will fit seamlessly into almost any conceivable network. Security is handled by a configurable SPI firewall, and five hardware-accelerated IPSec VPN tunnels are supported. Enabling content filtering will cost you £134 (plus VAT) per year, though. The excellent, if rather quirky, DIME Manager device management software is bundled for free.

Company: Funkwerk

Contact: 01932 260505


Verdict
It's not cheap, but the RS120wu is a supremely flexible wireless 3G router that will happily fit into any small business or branch office network. Well-constructed and with good documentation, it deserves serious consideration if you're thinking of adding 3G connectivity as a backup or as your main internet link.