Get the most from your phone line and broadband connection
Given that most internet service providers give away routers, it might be hard to see why you would buy a new one.
The AVM Fritz Box 7390 costs quite a lot but it has a lot to offer.
The first hint of this is when you connect it to the telephone socket – there's an unusual cable that plugs into both sockets on a microfilter.
That's because the Fritz Box 7390 can take control of all the phones in your home allowing you to make cheap internet calls using any ordinary phone. It can work as a base station for up to six Dect phones as well as anything plugged into the two wired sockets on the back.
Setup was easy: switch it on, plug in the network cable and then on you computer type http://fritz.box into the address bar of a browser. After setting the language and location the box restarted and came back with a wizard for entering the ADSL or cable connection details - it works with both.
The interface has been improved since the previous Frtiz Box 7270 model. AVM says an update for that router will bring it up-to-date. There are simple wizards to set up telephones, numbers and the internet connection and to upgrade the box itself.
A very useful bandwidth report is available, emailed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. It can also set time limits on internet access for specific computers on the network, handy if you have children with their own computers.
Some thought has been put into making it easy to understand: for instance the local network is called ‘Home Network' rather than, as on most routers, ‘Lan', which makes it much easier to recognise. The overview page shows all connected devices, which can be set to always be given the same IP address, with one of the easiest ways of doing this we have seen.
A new and useful feature is giving visitors ‘guest' access to the internet without letting them access the computers on your network. There are two USB sockets into which can be plugged a 3G modem for backup should the main internet connection fail, or a printer or hard disk to be shared over the network. The downloadable printing utility for Windows was very impressive.
Plugged-in disks can even be shared over the internet, though we would strongly recommend adding password-protection if doing this. To make this easier the router supports dynamic DNS and, for future-proofing, IPv6.
The telephone side takes time to set up but it's worth the effort. Each phone can be given its own internal number for making internal calls, and can have its own answerphone. Phones can be used as alarm clocks, ringing specific handsets rather than waking the whole house. A new feature of the 7390 is that it has built-in memory for storing answerphone messages - previous models needed a USB memory key plugged in.
Skype is not supported but there are plenty of alternatives (known as Sip services) that offer free calls between compatible accounts and cheap calls abroad.
We were impressed that the router will attempt to first make the call using the free service and then automatically use the landline if that doesn't work. Dialling rules can be set to force particular number - such as 999 - to always be called from the landline.
The catch is that the Fritz Box 7390 is very expensive (though it's available for less online), but if you're likely to make use of the more advanced features it's excellent value.
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This router isn't for everyone, but if you want to better use answerphones, wireless handsets and parental controls, it's superb value
Some of the best home networking tools we have seen; excellent phone handling; works with wired and wireless home phones; guest wireless network; easy to set up
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