Big Tin

Big tin: IT infrastructure used by organisations to run their businesses. And other stuff too when I feel like it…

AVM Fritz!Box 4040 review

AVM Fritz!Box 4040

AVM Fritz!Box 4040

AVM’s Fritz!Box range of routers has long offered a great range of features and are, in my experience, highly reliable.

The 4040 sits at the top end of the lower half of AVM’s product line-up. The top half includes DECT telephony features but if you’ve already got a working cordless phone system, you can live without that.

The 4040 looks like all the other Fritz!Box devices: a red and silver streamlined slim case without massive protuberances that would persuade you to hide the device from view. A couple of buttons on the top control WPS and WLAN, while indicators show status, with the Info light moderately configurable; it would be helpful if AVM broadened the possible uses of this indicator.

At the back are four 1Gbps LAN ports which you can downgrade individually for power-saving reasons to 100Mbps, and a WAN port. A couple of USB ports are provided too, one 3.0, one 2.0.

The 4040 supports all forms of DSL, either directly or via an existing modem or dongle, WLAN 802.11n and 11ac, both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The higher frequency network provides connectivity at up to a theoretical 867Mbps; I managed to get 650Mbps with my phone right next to the access point.

Power-saving modes are available for the wireless signal too – it automatically reduces the wireless transmitter power when all devices are logged off – providing a useful saving for a device you’re likely to leave switched on all the time.

Security is catered for by MAC address filtering on the wireless LAN, and by a stateful packet inspection firewall with port sharing to allow access from the Internet.

The software interface is supremely easy to use and handsome too. The overview screen gives an at-a-glance of the status of the main features: the Internet connection, devices connected to the network, the status of all interfaces, and of the NAS and media servers that are built into the router.

The NAS feature allows you to connect storage to the router over USB only and access it from anywhere either over UPnP, FTP or SMB (Windows networking). Other features include Internet-only guest access which disables access to the LAN, an IPSec VPN, and Wake on LAN over the Internet.

The Fritz!Box 4040 is the latest in a long line of impressive wireless routers, continuing AVM’s tradition of high quality hardware and software, and it’s good value at around £85.

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Review of new WD 3TB WD30EZRX disk drive

Quiet and huge describes this new 3TB Western Digital disk drive pretty well. It contains enough data that, if printed out on paper would probably cover the whole of Wales or several elephants, but who’s counting? You could certainly fit well over 500 standard DVDs onto it.

The WD30EZRZ updates the previous model, the WD30EZRSDTL, by upgrading to the latest 6Gbps SATA interface, which won’t make much difference to most people as it will take several drives to fill that data pipe. In other words, the update is largely academic for most users, and the drive is mechanically identical to its 3Gbps predecessor.

What this drive promises is an ability to fit into a range of environments without disruption. If you sit next to your PC all day, you’ll know that the disk drive is one of its noisiest components. And if you have a PC in the living room, you’ll know that when it wakes up and does its stuff, you can hear the drive start rotating and then make a rattling sound when it’s working.

All drive makers have gone some way to making disk drives much quieter than before, with WD’s range of domestically-oriented devices dubbed ‘cool, quiet, eco-friendly’ by the manufacturer. #

So in addition to being quieter, this drive is claimed also to use less power. Fortunately for disk drive makers, the main users of power and generators of noise are the same: the motor that spins the disk and the actuator that moves the drive head — that’s the component that ‘rattles’. So by reducing the power to both of these they can achieve their objectives at the cost of performance. WD doesn’t reveal the speeds its ‘green’ disks spin but one enterprising reviewer calculated it from the sound of the disk at between 5400 and 7200 rpm.

The drive is quiet when idle — within a metre of it, it’s barely audible even while out of the PC case — and you can barely hear the drive rattle when seeking. A sound meter sited the standard distance of a metre away didn’t register the sound in a normal office environment.

But what does that quietness cost in speed? I tested the WD30EZRX using an Intel motherboard housing Intel’s four-core i7-2600K CPU clocked at 3.40GHz and with 8GB RAM. Running the SiSoft Sandra disk benchmark against the drive revealed a data transfer rate, at 100MBps, unchanged from its predecessor’s results. This isn’t the fastest transfer rate there, nor is the drive’s access time of nine milliseconds the lowest, but for most purposes the trade-off is probably good enough.

So if you need a drive to store your DVDs or CDs on, this is close to ideal. But watch out: 512GB solid state disks (SSDs), which are silent and hugely faster than mechanical devices, are commonplace if expensive. And while SSDs will always cost more than rotating media, they’re now approaching the point when you might consider abandoning spinning drives altogether.

In the meantime, the WD is at least as good as its rivals in the places where it matters.

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