The Product, Continued
The "secret sauce" that makes the HBB1 tick is a technology called StreamEngine from communications processor maker Ubicom. StreamEngine uses a patent-pending algorithm ("Intelligent Stream Handling") that Ubicom says automatically manages the flow of traffic going to the Internet, without the need for user configuration.
The blurb on Ubicom's site also says Intelligent Stream Handling "minimizes the impact of large-packet, lower priority traffic on latency-sensitive traffic and eliminates delays caused by DSL or cable modem connections". Put into simple terms, StreamEngine examines and classifies data flowing through it, and speeds packets from real-time-sensitive applications (VoIP, gaming) on their way ahead of data that doesn't care much about when or in what order it arrives at its destination (FTP, Email).
D-Link actually incorporated an earlier version of StreamEngine into its DGL-4100 and 4300 gaming routers [reviewed here], but provided both controls to tune the way StreamEngine worked and user-accessible information about how it identified and prioritized traffic flowing through it. The company will soon be releasing an HBB1 competitor, the DI-102 Broadband Internet / VoIP Accelerator, but it looks to be as black boxish as the HBB1.
The heart of the HBB1 is a Ubicom IP3020 Network processor, which is an 8-way multi-threaded 32 bit processor clocked at 250MHz. Figure 2 also shows that flash memory and two Davicom DM9161A 10/100 Ethernet tranceivers are about all that there is to the hardware.
Figure 2: HBB1 board
(click on image to enlarge)
Hawking has taken a "black box" approach with the HBB1, exposing very few controls and providing only a blinking LED and single "Information" page to assure you that it is working. Two nice touches worthy of note is the weighted base that's intended to help keep the HBB1 from sliding off your desk under the weight of its two Ethernet and one power cables and the short power extension cable that keeps the largish power wart from taking up more than one position on your outlet strip.