The Plus' plastic package maintains SMC's dark grey color scheme, and at first glance looks just like the original, homely little Barricade. The main differences are that the Plus is about half an inch wider and the indicators have been moved from the top to the front panel. The lights include Link/Activity, and 10/100 for each of the four LAN ports, Link/Activity for the WAN, and Power. All LED's were bright and viewable from a wide angle.
The four switched 10/100 LAN ports are on the front panel, along with the Reset to Factory Defaults button. The 10/100 WAN port and power socket bring up the rear. Although you won't find a Normal/Uplink switch or shared Uplink port, all the Plus' ports are auto MDI / MDI-X. This means they'll figure out how to connect to whatever you plug in whether you use a Normal or Crossover cable.
The Plus uses the Conexant CX82100 single-chip ARM940T-based processor, which is the same processor used in Linksys' BEFSX41[reviewed here]. This processor has more oomph than the ADMtek 5106 Home Gateway Controller used in most current generation routers, and gave the Linksys some decent IPsec VPN throughput results. As we'll see later, however, the Plus' IPsec VPN results don't come up to par.
NOTE! I learned a few weeks ago that ADMtek sold their 5106 Home Gateway Controller to Conexant, who has rebranded it the CX84200 Network Processor. So it looks like Conexant, not ADMtek, is winning most of the current generation router design-ins.
SMC includes a printed "EZ 3-Click Installation Guide", Installation CD, and normal CAT5 patch cable. The CD contains:
- a PDF copy of the User Guide
- a copy of a Windows-executable for the 3-Click setup wizard
- a copy of the Adobe Acrobat Reader installer
What's not included (and what would have saved me some time) is a copy of the Barricade Plus VPN IPSEC & PPTP Configuration Guide. This PDF document is essential if you're going to attempt to set up the Plus' VPN features. You can download it from SMC's support site. I think it should be included on the CD since it describes how to use a major feature set of the router... and one that customers will probably purchase the router to use!