Modems. They just don't cut it any more, do they? If it's not because half of them look like frogs, it's because they make it a royal pain in the proverbial to share your broadband Internet connection. All hail the router then, with its connection sharing skills and always-on attitude to life.
Routers aren't a new thing. Even when we were all using dial up, our packets of data were being hurled across the Internet thanks to routers. Of course, these were real routers, connecting together ISPs, countries and continents, all without using a single private IP address (usually).
As soon as I got an Internet connection with enough bandwidth to share between two computers, I got a router. It was a 3com OfficeConnect ISDN router and it was a nightmare to configure. Still, after the three whole days of telnetting over an RS232 cable and finally setting my sights on what then passed as a web interface, things started to work. Back then, routers were still a product of the enterprise and relatively cutting-edge small office.
Now, things are different. Broadband's fast enough and computers are cheap enough for nearly everyone in a modern household to want to connect to the Internet on their own computer (kids are never satisfied sharing computers, right?). In fact, many ISPs now offer, or straight up give you a router. Most of them have a built in ethernet switch, which is great. Some of them even have a wireless access point for wire-free connectivity.
Of course, half of you reading this are using one of the aforementioned routers, although chances are a fair few of you bought them yourselves to replace the hideous modem you were given by your service provider. You can actually pick up a router these days for less than £30. However, when you become what one might call a 'power user', things can get a little rough around the edges. For example, you find your router caves in amidst the incoming FTP connection that's port forwarded to your PC. Or perhaps you've upgraded the firmware to have UPnP support so you don't need to configure so many forwarding rules, but then find the router crashes after a day or so.
OK, so not all cheap routers are going to be hit by these problems, in part because of better design and in part because of how they're being used. Still, for us power users, it can be a pain. Now that we've hit the sixth paragraph, it's probably about time to introduce the product around which this review is centred. It's not a cheap router. It's an expensive router, reassuringly expensive, weighing in at around £150; around five times more than some home routers. It's a Draytek Vigor2800VG. In fact, this product could be considered more of an office router, as we'll see in due course, but the fact of the matter is, if you're willing to pay, the Vigor2800 series of routers make great home routers too.
Arguably, I could be biased. I bought this router with my own money, so I'm inclined to say it's good, right?; I need to justify spending £150 on it. So, this review is more one of interest for me, and hopefully for you too. We're going to look at the hardware differences between a cheap and more expensive router, then go on to see just what features you actually get for £150. On we go.