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LAN & WAN Reviews

Balance
At a glance
ProductPepLink Balance (20)   [Website]
SummaryDual WAN router supporting link aggregation, balance and auto-failover.
Pros• Helpful & responsive phone support with no support contract
• USB WWAN port with broad modem support
• Very quick failover
Cons• Low VPN performance
• No VLAN support
• Relatively expensive considering its feature set

Typical Price: $293  Shop Amazon

Introduction

As you log into the Peplink Balance 20, you are presented with a simple screen requesting a user name and password. In the upper left is the Peplink logo, along with the slogan "Protecting Business Continuity." This slogan describes Peplink's intent for its Balance routers.

Businesses rely on continuous connectivity to the Internet. Businesses also rely on continuous connectivity to other locations, often facilitated through VPN tunnels. Peplink has nine multi-WAN VPN routers focused on providing continuous connectivity. The Peplink Balance routers allow you to use multiple Internet connections and VPN tunnels to maintain network connectivity, even if one of your Internet Service Providers goes down.

Below is a chart listing Peplink's Balance routers and a few basic stats to help identify each model's target network. The Balance 20 and 30 are targeted at power users and home office users, while the 210/310 are targeted at small business. The 305/380/580 are targeted at mid-size business and the 710/1350 are targeted at large enterprises.

Model WAN Ports Throughput Rating (Mbps) Recommended Maximum Users
20 2 100 25
30 3 100 25
210 2 100 50
310 3 100 50
305 3 200 500
380 3 200 500
580 5 400 1000
710 7 800 2000+
1350 13 1500 5000+
Table 1: Peplink Balance models

Clearly, as the model numbers increase, so do the number of WAN ports, throughput capability and number of recommended maximum users. Supported features also increase with the model numbers. For example, features such as Drop-In Mode, SpeedFusion, RADIUS support, Access Point support, Application Prioritization, advanced bandwidth controls, and content filtering are available only in the higher model numbers. To see which features are available on which model, take a look at the Peplink's complete Balance model comparison chart.

As a basis for comparison, I last looked at a router from Peplink in my review of the Balance 30 back in 2008.

Inside

The Balance 20 is housed in a black metal case measuring 1.4" x 10" x 5.2". The metal enclosure gives a higher quality impression than the black plastic case I encountered in the old Peplink 30 review. The power supply is external. Cooling is passive so the device is silent.

On the front is one USB 2.0 port, four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, two Gigabit Ethernet WAN ports, a reset button, and a status and power LED, all shown below.

Front

Front

The back of the device has just the power connector and a Kensington security slot to keep the device from growing legs. There is no on/off switch.

Back

Back

The main components in the Balance 20 are an Atheros AR7161 network processor based on a 32-bit MIPS 24K core, 64 MB DDR SDRAM and a Vitesse VSC7395 5+1 port Integrated Gigabit Ethernet Switch with a Realtek RTL8110 Ethernet Controller.

  Balance 20 Balance 30 (old)
CPU Atheros AR7161 Micrel KSZ8695P
Ethernet - LAN: Vitesse VSC7395 switch
- WAN: Realtek RTL8110
LAN: in Micrel
WAN: Realtek RTL8139D
RAM 64 MB 256 MB
Flash 16 MB on board
4 GB on SD card
64 MB (x2)
Table 2: Balance 20 and old Balance 30 comparison

Like the old Balance 30, there are two levels of flash, 16 MB on board and 4 GB supplied by an SD card on the circuit side of the board. Here's a photo of the board topside.

Main Board

Main Board

Feature Summary

I created the feature summary below from Peplink's Balance model comparison chart.

  • (2) WAN Ports (GbE)
  • (1) USB WWAN Port (supports 4G/3G modems)
  • (4) LAN Ports (GbE)
  • Rated Throughput = 100 Mbps
  • WAN Load Balancing and Failover
  • NAT/PAT
  • Multiple IP Address Support Per WAN interface
  • Supports up to 25 LAN Users (recommended)
  • Supports up to 3 PPTP users
  • Supports up to 2 Site-to-Site VPN Tunnels
  • Bandwidth Usage Monitor
  • QoS Controls
  • SIP, H.323 ALG
  • UPnP
  • Dynamic DNS

A Peplink Balance feature not available on the Balance 20, but worth mentioning is Peplink's trademarked SpeedFusion feature, which is available on the Balance 210 and above.

Peplink's SpeedFusion bonds VPN traffic between Peplink routers over multiple WAN interfaces, effectively increasing the bandwidth available to the VPN connection, as well as increasing reliability. This is unique among multi-WAN routers I've tested.

Every other multi-WAN router I've tested will run a VPN connection over a single WAN interface that may fail over to a secondary interface if the primary interface goes down. A SpeedFusion VPN tunnel will reportedly use multiple interfaces simultaneously for the VPN tunnel and so will not be interrupted even if an interface fails, as depicted in the below image.

SpeedFusion

SpeedFusion

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