Well known for its dialup modem business, Australian manufacturer NetComm has made a significant push beyond its traditional boundaries, and is moving into the general networking, wireless and ADSL modem space.
At the moment, while ADSL is still on the uptake, most people getting hooked up are new to ADSL. As such, the ISPs are still providing modems as part of the installation package. These modems are typically the most basic units available, and already people are looking to upgrade to a more feature-packed unit.
The NB1300PLUS4 is the perfect example of one of these more heavily featured ADSL modems, and it includes some extra functionality that is sure to come in handy. The most basic of ADSL modems attach via USB, and offer a direct connection to the net, with your PC having an IP address on the greater Internet. This is not the most secure way of connecting to broadband however. If you're doing this, you should be sure you have a solid software firewall between you and the net.
An alternative to this is using something like network address translation (NAT), as with the NB1300PLUS4. This gives the modem an IP on the net, but then the modem uses DHCP to allocate you an IP that is only visible on the internal network. This adds a measure of protection to your PC, as its IP address is masked from the Internet. You should note, however, the NAT doesn't function if you connect your NB1300PLUS via USB, so you should opt to connect via Ethernet.
Another feature of the NB1300PLUS4 is a 4-port 10/100 switch, which in addition to the built in DHCP server, will allow you to easily connect up to four PCs to the ADSL connection.
NetComm is aware that there are a great number of new users getting into ADSL, and the world of networking they suddenly have to deal with can be quite daunting. This is especially important when it comes to configuring security options, as inexperienced users could inadvertently leave their PC exposed to hazards like the Blaster worm if things aren't properly configured.
For this reason, NetComm places a big emphasis on producing clear and easy to follow manuals, and the NB1300PLUS4 is no exception. While the manuals for most networking products usually consist of a single sheet quick start guide targeted towards network admins, with a more detailed manual on CD, the NB1300PLUS4 comes detailed colour manual that steps you through all the essential stages of setting up your modem in a number of possible configurations, both on PC and Mac.
The configuration is changed via a Web interface, which is about as simple as you can make for a device such as this, and you can still dig into advanced settings if you want to tool around further.
The NB1300PLUS4 also comes with EasyConfig software with a number of typical ISP profiles that will set up your modem with only four clicks. While that's the minimum number of clicks, and you'll probably want to dig a little deeper to insure things like the NAT are properly configured, I found the EasyConfig connected me up to my ISP first go.
This makes the NB1300PLUS4 an excellent option for those who just want to get the thing up and running without fuss and without needing to become a networking expert.
You do pay a little price premium for all these features though. You can get a basic USB ADSL modem for around $100 less than the NB1300PLUS4, although it's worth spending the extra money for the Ethernet connectivity, 4-port switch, NAT and easy setup. The NB1300PLUS4 is also one of few products to ship with a MicroFilter, which will eliminate interference if you have a phone hooked up to your ADSL line.
Overall, a good option for those looking for more than a basic ADSL modem, and just the NAT features alone make it recommended over a direct connection.