Nexland WaveBase Wireless/Wired Gateway
Review by David on 04.05.02
Item supplied by Nexland
There are basically two ways routers or switches/hubs can be set up: ports on the front, or ports on the back. While there isn't necessarily a clear-cut advantage one way or the other, the best solution will depend on specifically how the user intends to implement the device. Nexland has placed the four 10/100 CAT5 RJ-45 ports on the front of the WaveBase, along with the 10 MBPS WAN port. Directly to the left of the bank of 10/100 LAN ports are corresponding indicator LEDs (one row of 100 MBPS LEDs, one row of 10 MBPS LEDs, and one row for duplex/collision LEDs). The 100 or 10 MBPS LEDs also serve as activity indicators. Directly to the left of the WAN RJ-45 port is also an active indicator LED. Another pair of LEDs on the front indicates the wireless status, of "Ready" and "Active". The last of the LEDs on the front are miscellaneous indicators, such as power, error, WAN activity, and ISDN/Analog backup connection (explained later) indicator. The only real problem with these LEDs is a minor design flaw. The light given off from the LEDs bleeds through into the next indicator's opening, so the indicators are somewhat blurry, although this minor problem does not actually cause any true confusion about which indicator is lit.
As described above, the RJ-45 LAN ports and WAN port aren't on the back of the WaveBase, but it's definitely not as smooth as a baby's bottom. With seven more things onto the rear of the WaveBase, including some of the most important features, the clearance that might have been gained from moving the LAN/WAN ports to the front is replaced by several other things. From left to right when looking at the back are the 9v DC power input, a power switch, a reset button, a bank of dipswitches, a serial port, a PCMCIA slot, and an eject button for the PCMCIA card. The power switch and reset button are two things that might have been better suited for the front of the device, but are nonetheless welcome additions to the WaveBase, which have been absent on a plethora of other networking devices. The dip switches are addressed in the manual, and must be used in different combinations for special activities such as uploading firmware, configuring the device via serial port, or resetting all the device's settings. The (male) serial port is used to configure the WaveBase from a workstation directly, prior to integrating the device into an existing network (so one can specify a different IP address, as not to interfere with preexisting network devices, among other things). The other use for the serial port is to use connect an external ISDN or analog (dial-up) modem for a backup connection, should the WAN connection fail. A serial cable (female to female) is included with the unit. The PCMCIA slot is used to connect the 802.11 PCMCIA card (provided) to the WaveBase for wireless functionality. While some may question the advantages of building a wireless device in this manner, rather than integrating an internal antenna and wireless technology, Nexland had the foresight to use a PCMCIA slot, allowing for future upgrades (to 802.11a, for example).
The WaveBase sits on four rubber feet, securely attached. The bottom of the device also accommodates mounting the device using two screws (not provided). There is no documentation for mounting the unit, however it seems fairly clear that mounting the WaveBase would be possible. Both sides of the WaveBase have several slots for ventilation (19 to be exact), and looking through the unit there appears to be plenty of space for heat dissipation.