To get started, simply plug the Ethernet cable from your DSL or cable modem into the router's WAN port. Next, connect a PC to one of the four, wired LAN ports, and screw the radio antenna into the connector on the back. Siemens fails to include any Ethernet cables in the box, so make sure you pick up a couple extra at the store. After the LEDs on the front of the router flash and turn on, open your PC's Web browser, type in the IP address provided in the manual, and press Enter. The SpeedStream Simple Setup wizard will launch and ask you a few basic questions about your Internet connection. Once up and running, you can then use the Web-based configuration tool for more-advanced settings such as virtual servers, client filtering, and remote management.
Because the SpeedStream 2624 supports Universal Plug and Play (UPnP, which can automatically discover and configure the router, you may have an easier time setting up the router with Windows XP and Windows Millennium Edition than you would with older OSs.
The SpeedStream 2624 offers the usual assortment of features found on competing routers, plus a few extra. For example, in addition to its built-in, four-port Ethernet switch, the back panel features a parallel-port connection that lets you share a printer with the rest of your home network. Also, unlike many of its competitors, the router features a detachable wireless antenna. You can extend the effective range of the SpeedStream 2624 by attaching a pigtail cable (not included) to the removable antenna, then relocating the antenna to a better spot. Alternatively, you can attach an optional SpeedStream 6dBi wireless directional indoor antenna and expand your wireless coverage, as well.
Removable wireless antenna.
This router's Web-based setup interface is big and bold, with simple graphics and uncluttered screens. It lets you control DHCP client or server settings, configure virtual servers, use dynamic DNS, and manage the printer port. It supports DMZ and can also be configured for remote management. You can also upgrade the router's firmware using the Web interface (then pressing the Reset button on the router to engage the new software).
We did notice one oddity, however. To use wireless client filtering, you must enter the IP address of the PC you want to filter, rather than the MAC address as you would with other routers. The SpeedStream 2624 then records and maps a database of IP addresses against known MAC addresses.
Advanced Internet screen.
In terms of security, the SpeedStream 2624 uses Network Address Translation (NAT) to protect your network from outside intruders. It also offers 128-bit WEP, a network security protocol for wireless networking that's as good as it gets for residential devices. And though WEP isn't foolproof, we recommend you enable it and change the default network name immediately.
You can also configure the firewall to allow for special applications such as Internet games or conferencing apps that may require open ports and multiple connections. The router firmware automatically identifies and supports more than 40 games and online gaming portals, including MSN Gaming Zone; Westwood Online; Half Life; and Quake I, II and III, to name a few. It similarly supports a dozen or so telephony applications, including NetMeeting, CuSeeMe, and Yahoo Messenger, generally with no need for configuration. This makes the SpeedStream 2624 a near-ideal choice for many gamers.
The Access Control screen on the advanced menu also lets you completely block or restrict access to defined services. The built-in list of services includes IRC, and you can also add services you want to restrict, although this requires a level of technical expertise beyond that of the average user.
In CNET Labs' tests, the SpeedStream 2624 turned in slightly better throughput performance than competing 802.11b gateways from Belkin, HP, Intel, and Microsoft. In informal tests, wireless range was comparable to that of other 802.11 b products, working well up to 50 feet and a few walls away but falling off rapidly with more distance or interfering barriers.
| Throughput tests |
Measured in Mbps (longer bars indicate better performance)
| Response time |
Measured in milliseconds (shorter bars indicate better performance)
For practical throughput tests, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot 4.3 software as its benchmark. For wireless testing, the clients and routers are set up to transmit at short ranges and at maximum signal strength. CNET Labs also runs response-time tests with Chariot software using the TCP protocol. Response time measures how long it takes to send a request and receive a response over a network connection. Throughput and response time are probably the two most important indicators of user experience over a network.
The SpeedStream 2624 comes with a disappointing one-year warranty on parts and labor. Other manufacturers such as D-Link offer a three-year plan, while 3Com and Belkin come through with lifetime coverage. You can double the standard one-year warranty by registering your product, but this seems like an unfair ploy by the company to get you to submit personal contact information.
Support Web site.
On the plus side, toll-free phone support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And the company's Web site gives you all the information you need in one easily accessible place, including firmware updates, a searchable knowledge base, user guides, and warranty information.