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LAN & WAN Reviews

The Pitch and Product

Hawking Broadband Booster
Summary Upstream QoS device based on Ubicom's StreamEngine technology. Very limited configuration control and operation feedback. Similar to D-Link DI-102
Update None
Pros • Plug-and-go setup
• Very effective for VoIP prioritization
Cons • No quantitative user feedback
• Costs more than some routers
• Use with integrated-modem DSL routers requires additional hardware

Hawking Broadband Booster

You're going to be hearing more about QoS (Quality of Service) in the coming months. It seems that someone has realized that all the whizzy applications such as VoIP, online gaming with voice, web conferencing, etc. sometimes provide a less-than-satisfactory user experience with the puny upstream bandwidth eked out to us by most broadband ISPs.

Some consumer networking product manufacturers have been responding to this need by adding QoS features to their routers. Linksys has actually been quietly adding QoS features for sometime, most likely in response to these features' availability in open source distros like Sveasoft and OpenWRT. Although these QoS controls are more general purpose than those provided by the HBB1, they require some knowledge on the user's part (or experimentation) to use and are relatively unsophisticated in the way they work.

Hawking has taken a different approach with the HBB1, both in form and function. They've made it a small standalone box designed to connect between a router and broadband modem (Figure 1).

Connecting the HBB1

Figure 1: Connecting the HBB1

Hawking has also narrowed the focus of the HBB1 to improving the performance of "time-sensitive" applications for uplink - from your computer to the Internet - data only. Its target applications are things like reducing gaming "lag", preventing VoIP calls from being degraded (at least for your voice) by data traffic and preventing file-sharing applications from interfering with other real-time applications.

Unlike other more general QoS approaches, the HBB1 won't do anything for downlink traffic and can't differentiate among users. So if you're looking for something to limit the bandwidth a specific application or person can use, the HBB1 isn't for you.

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