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Security Reviews


Updated 11/18/2009: Added more VPN throughput test results.

Sonicwall TZ100W

At a Glance
Product SonicWall Internet Security Appliance (TZ100W)
Summary Relatively low cost multi-function UTM device
Pros • High UTM and VPN Throughput
• Flexible configuration options
• Dual WAN capability
• Stable
• SSL and IPsec VPN
Cons • No Gigabit ports
• Menus could be better organized
• SSL VPN installation can be challenging

The white plastic cover and simple design of the SonicWall TZ100W give the impression of just another wireless gateway router.  But don't judge this book by its cover, since the TZ100W has a lot more than meets the eye!

The SonicWall TZ100W is a Unified Threat Management (UTM) device with the ability to securely manage complex networks and the horsepower to handle the traffic loads efficiently.  In addition to wired and wireless network functionality, the TZ100W provides Anti-Spam, Content Filtering, Anti-Virus, Intrusion Detection and Prevention, Anti-Spyware, SSL and IPSec VPN services along with a powerful firewall. 

SonicWall’s TZ line has been revamped for 2009, replacing previous models including the TZ180 and the SonicWall TZ190W I reviewed a few years ago.  The newer TZs are designed to provide a significant upgrade in performance “maximize the highest speeds available from modern ISPs while delivering full UTM protection,” according to the SonicWall spec sheet.   

Under the Covers

The case on the TZ100W is a white plastic housing measuring 6.3” wide x 5.6” deep x 1.5” high  with two large popsicle stick shaped wireless antennas in the back.  The actual indicator lights are on the top front edge of the device as shown in Figure 2.

The TZ100W runs on a 64-bit 300Mhz CPU from Cavium Networks.  Along with this processor, the TZ100W has 128 MBof RAM and 16 MB of flash memory.  The board is shown in Figure 1.

TZ100W main board

Figure 1: TZ100W main board

There is an Atheros AR9160 chip visible on the Wi-Fi radio board.  This is the BB/MAC for the AR9100 chipset. There are three antenna terminals on the board, which indicates that the radio chip is probably an AR9132 3X3. Note that only two antenna connects are used.

The CPU is passively cooled with the heat sink shown in the lower right of Figure 1.  I noticed the heat sink gets pretty warm to the touch.  There is a small cooling fan on the right side of the board that exhausts heat through ventilation holes on the top of the case.

Fan noise was never an issue with my test unit.  SonicWall told me that the cooling fans in their TZ products are controlled by ambient temperature, thus they only run when the temperature reaches a certain threshold.  With the case open (which would help the device run cooler) and the device turned on, I could see the fan wasn’t even running. 

In the back of the TZ100W (Figure 2) are the five 10/100 Ethernet ports, a pair of detachable antennas for the 802.11b/g/n radio, and the power connector.  Also on the back is a serial console port for device management.

TZ100W rear view

Figure 2: TZ100W rear view

I think the TZ100W should have Gigabit Ethernet ports.  When I asked SonicWall about this, they replied that the more expensive models in the TZ line have Gigabit Ethernet ports. But to keep the cost down on the TZ100W, they equipped it with only 10/100 Ethernet ports.  In my mind, SonicWall went half way on this one.  They equipped the TZ100W with the latest 802.11n wireless network capability, why not the latest wired network capability?

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