Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware upgrade and additional utilities

Web-interface

Command line interface

Testing

Summary

Introduction

The Chinese company netis SYSTEMS, a part of the group of companies NETCORE GROUP, has quite recently begun expansion on the Russian market of the network equipment. To admit, earlier we had no experience with the equipment of this vendor therefore today's review of netis WF2681 wireless router will be not only the description of concrete model, but also the acquaintance to the vendor in general. Let's get started!

External design and hardware

netis Beacon AC1200 wireless gaming router comes in a red plastic case with a white stripe on the sides. The device is meant for wall or desk mounting. The case has dimensions of 145x155x35 mm not considering the antennae and the stand with a mass equal to 285 g. To work properly the device needs an external power unit (included in the box) with the following characteristics: 12V and 1А. Minor scratches and attritions, if remain on the body, are almost not visible, but the fingerprints at the same time are very noticeable.

Four non-detachable rotatable antennae with the gain ratio of 5 dBi are located on the upper panel of the case.

On the front panel there are LEDs indicating the status and activity of wired and wireless interfaces of the router, as well as the status of WPS and power supply.

The bottom panel is not remarkable at all, there are a ventilation grate located on it and four mounting holes used for secure the stand that props the case up so that it stays vertically.

On one of the sides two T-shaped tooling holes used to mount the device on the wall are located. Also, a sticker with brief information about the device can be found over here.

The rear side has five Gigabit Ethernet wire ports, a socket for a power adapter connection together with Default and WPS buttons located on it.

Now let’s have a look at the insides of the case.

The electronic stuffing of the model netis WF2681 is one green textolite card PB-7205-M04G-00 which has all essential elements located on one of its sides. The same card is used in another model - netis WF2780. Permanent fastening of antennae cables to the card is worth mentioning. In our opinion, it is not the best solution, however, for the end user usually it makes no difference.

The system is powered by Realtek RTL8197DN SoC CPU that operates at 660 MHz frequency. We have already seen such kind of SoC CPU previously in router D-Link DIR-825AC, however there it has been used with radiator. Hopefully the active use of the model netis WF2681 will not lead to overheating of the chip. DDR2 RAM is presented by an ESMT module M14D5121632A with capacity of 64 Mbytes. The Realtek RTL8367RB chip is the managed L2 switch that has five Ethernet ports at 10/100/1000 Mbps. Support of the wireless network is performed by microchips Realtek RTL8812AR and RTL8192ER.

That is where we bring the review of the hardware platform of the device to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its software component.

Firmware upgrade and additional utilities

Firmware upgrade is carried out in Firmware Upgrade item of System Tools group in advanced mode menu. In order to upgrade the firmware it is only required to select the file with the new firmware version preliminary downloaded from the vendor’s website and click on Upgrade button.

The whole firmware upgrade process takes about three minutes (not considering the time required for downloading firmware from the vendor’s website) and does not require any technical proficiency from an administrator. Although the Russian-language version of the website may initially discourage some inexperienced users. Here, perhaps, it is worth noting that we are somewhat surprised that the firmware for the model netis WF2681 has not been updated for about a year and a half.

One can make sure that the firmware update has been executed successfully at any page of the advanced mode menu - information on the current firmware version number is displayed in the upper right corner of the page. It is worth mentioning that when this article was almost finished, we have received a new firmware version from the vendor that supports Russian language, therefore for later use we will review the updated version. At the time of the publication of this article the new firmware has become already available on the website for downloading. Also the vendor plans to preinstall the new version of the firmware on all routers of this model sold in the Russian Federation.

Complete with netis WF2681 wireless router the software allowing to prioritize a game traffic is delivered. The client part installed on the user's PC reports to a router which traffic should be given priority in case of congestion.

Now let's pass on to reviewing of the device web-interface.

Web-interface

Any modern web-browser may be used in order to access netis WF2681 wireless router’s web-interface. LAN port address is 192.168.1.1 by default. Quick Setup page, which is home page, allows the user to change parameters of a wireless network and type of connection to ISP. All other parameters of router functions are available in the advanced mode.

Status item contains brief information about wired and wireless interfaces of the device.

WAN Item of Network group allows the user to select the type of connection to the ISP. Connection to both wired and wireless operators is acceptable. Access to advanced settings is available by using the Advanced button.

Settings of LAN interface are located in Network group. Address Reservation item is responsible for static IP binding for the definite client.

Unfortunately we haven’t found the opportunity to set up IPv6.

IPTV item of the same group allows one to set up connection of set-top boxes, working with IPTV.

The model WF2681 can work in one of two modes: router and bridge. The choice of the mode is made by Operation mode tab.

Management of the wireless network is performed by the items of the Wireless 2.4G and Wireless 5G groups.

The settings responsible for quality of service are placed in QOS group.

If the administrator needs access from outside to local servers, the Forwarding group will come in handy.

Management of the access is done using items of Access Control group.

DDNS item will be much required in case the ISP offers its users only dynamic IP addresses. Appropriate setting is available at Dynamic DNS item. At the moment only two DDNS providers: No-IP and Dyndns are supported at the WF2681 model.

Let’s have a look at Advanced group which lets to enable or disable IGMP support (version of the protocol is not configurable), select the tunnel protocols, traffic from which will be allowed to pass through the router; enable WoL function (Wake On LAN), set up static routing and select the WAN-port speed.

Management of the user’s settings, firmware upgrade, time settings, diagnostic tools and system log are collected in System Tools group.

That is where we bring review of netis WF2681 wireless router web-interface to a conclusion and pass on to examining the capabilities of its command line.

Command line interface

In order to access the command line one needs to use the same login and password as for the connection to the device web-interface. Here it should be noted separately that disabling of Telnet-access to the device using web-interface is not possible, however connection becomes possible only after the administrator enters login and password on the Password item at System Tools group using web-interface. We also found that though user password setting opens access to command line of the device it also makes web-interface more inaccessible. Naturally, we notified the vendor about this and are expecting this problem to be fixed in the next firmware versions.

Firmware of the model under review is built on Linux 2.6.30.9 OS using BusyBox1.00-pre8.

netis(WF2681)EN-V1.2.29498,2014.09.02 19:45.
(none) login: admin
Password:
BusyBox v1.00-pre8 (2013.01.10-17:24+0000) Built-in shell (msh)
Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.
# uname -a
uname: not found
# busybox
BusyBox v1.00-pre8 (2013.01.10-17:24+0000) multi-call binary
Usage: busybox [function] [arguments]...
 or: [function] [arguments]...
 BusyBox is a multi-call binary that combines many common Unix
 utilities into a single executable.  Most people will create a
 link to busybox for each function they wish to use, and BusyBox
 will act like whatever it was invoked as.
Currently defined functions:
 [, adduser, bunzip2, busybox, bzcat, cat, chmod, cp, cut, date, echo, egrep, expr, false, ftpget, grep,
 head, ifconfig, init, kill, killall, klogd, ln, logger, login, ls, mkdir, mknod, mount, msh, passwd, ping,
 ps, reboot, rm, route, sh, sleep, syslogd, tail, telnetd, test, tftp, traceroute, true, umount, vconfig,
 wc, wget
# cat /proc/version
Linux version 2.6.30.9 (root@yanggal-System-Product-Name) (gcc version 4.4.5-1.5.5p4 (GCC) ) #50 Tue Sep 2 19:57:55 CST 2014

Let's see what processes are currently running using ps command. Top utility is unfortunately absent.

# ps
 PID  Uid     VmSize Stat Command
 1 root        296 S   init
 2 root            SW< [kthreadd]
 3 root            SW< [ksoftirqd/0]
 4 root            SW< [events/0]
 5 root            SW< [khelper]
 8 root            SW< [async/mgr]
 122 root            SW< [kblockd/0]
 132 root            SW< [khubd]
 149 root            SW  [pdflush]
 150 root            SW< [kswapd0]
 711 root            SW< [mtdblockd]
 758 root        328 S   -sh
 798 root        224 S   /bin/logd
 1065 root        216 S   klogd
 1066 root        248 S   syslogd -L
 1095 root        212 S   iapp br0 wlan0 wlan1
 1099 root        204 S   iwcontrol wlan0 wlan1 wlan1-vxd
 1127 root        244 S   miniigd -e 1 -i br0 -w 1
 1133 root        216 S   lld2d br0
 1136 root        220 S   reload
 1166 root       1024 S   switch -d
 1168 root        260 S   game_server -s
 1202 root        160 S   /bin/restart_webs
 1204 root        424 S   /bin/cdrom_wizard
 1235 root        148 S   /bin/restart_oray
 1236 root        192 S   /bin/wps_detect
 1270 root        188 S   telnetd
 1271 root            Z   [sh]
 1347 root        228 S   dnrd --cache=off -s 8.8.8.8 -s 10.0.1.5
 1368 root        252 S   udhcpd /var/udhcpd.conf
 1515 root        360 S   ntp.sh
 1533 root        196 S   udhcpc -i wlan1-vxd -p /etc/udhcpc/udhcpc-wlan1-vxd.pid -s /usr/share/udhcpc/wlan1-vxd.sh -a
 1603 root        300 S   boa -p /web -f /etc/boa.conf
 1625 root        384 S   sh
 1636 root        292 R   ps
# top
top: not found

We present the contents of the catalogues /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin and /usr/sbin in a separate file.

Now let's turn to /proc catalogue to view its contents and find out the system uptime, its average utilisation, information on the CPU installed, and the amount of RAM.

# cd /proc
# ls
1                          alg                        filesystems                qvlan_set
1186                       br_igmpDb                  filter_table               reInitSwitchCore
1190                       br_igmpProxy               fs                         rf_switch
1196                       br_igmpQuerierInfo         gc_overflow_timout         rtk_vlan_management_entry
122                        br_igmpVersion             gpio                       rtk_vlan_support
1222                       br_igmpquery               gpio_test                  rtl865x
1223                       br_igmpsnoop               hbwrr                      scsi
1263                       br_mCastFastFwd            hw_nat                     self
1264                       br_mldQuerierInfo          igd                        slabinfo
132                        br_mldVersion              interrupts                 stat
1332                       br_mldquery                iomem                      suspend_check
149                        br_mldsnoop                ioports                    sys
150                        br_wlanblock               irq                        sysvipc
1563                       buddyinfo                  jate                       timer_list
1565                       bus                        kcore                      tty
1574                       cmdline                    kpagecount                 tz
1593                       cpuinfo                    kpageflags                 uptime
1597                       crypto                     load_default               url_replease
1608                       custom_Passthru            loadavg                    usb_mode_detect
1622                       custom_Passthru_wlan       locks                      version
1631                       devices                    meminfo                    vmallocinfo
1637                       diskstats                  misc                       vmstat
1663                       dns_replease               mounts                     watchdog_reboot
1665                       driver                     mtd                        wlan0
1704                       eee                        net                        wlan0-va0
1735                       enable_dos                 pagetypeinfo               wlan0-va1
1737                       eth0                       partitions                 wlan0-va2
2                          eth1                       pc_game                    wlan0-va3
3                          eth2                       peth0                      wlan0-vxd
4                          eth3                       phyRegTest                 wlan1
5                          eth4                       pptp_conn_ck               wlan1-va0
711                        eth7                       qos                        wlan1-va1
758                        execdomains                qvlan_set                  wlan1-va2
798                        fast_l2tp                  qvlan_set                  wlan1-va3
8                          fast_nat                   qvlan_set                  wlan1-vxd
StormCtrl                  fast_pppoe                 qvlan_set                  zoneinfo
admin_port                 fast_pptp                  qvlan_set
# cat uptime
1147.07 1107.73
# cat loadavg
0.00 0.00 0.00 2/34 1739
# cat cpuinfo
system type             : RTL819xD
processor               : 0
cpu model               : 56322
BogoMIPS                : 658.63
hardware watchpoint     : no
tlb_entries             : 32
mips16 implemented      : yes
# cat meminfo
MemTotal:          49360 kB
MemFree:           28772 kB
Buffers:            1680 kB
Cached:             3772 kB
SwapCached:            0 kB
Active:             5196 kB
Inactive:           2408 kB
Active(anon):       2152 kB
Inactive(anon):        0 kB
Active(file):       3044 kB
Inactive(file):     2408 kB
SwapTotal:             0 kB
SwapFree:              0 kB
Dirty:                 0 kB
Writeback:             0 kB
AnonPages:          2164 kB
Mapped:             1140 kB
Slab:              12456 kB
SReclaimable:       2384 kB
SUnreclaim:        10072 kB
PageTables:          276 kB
NFS_Unstable:          0 kB
Bounce:                0 kB
WritebackTmp:          0 kB
CommitLimit:       24680 kB
Committed_AS:       5012 kB
VmallocTotal:    1048404 kB
VmallocUsed:           0 kB
VmallocChunk:    1048404 kB

A couple of files in /var catalogue have focused our attention: passwd and passwd.telnetd. Both of these files contain the administrator login and password in plain text. Of course, it's not a very big problem, as to gain access to these files one needs to know the administrator password, but together with a standard password for wireless network makes us assume that the vendor engineers are not paying attention to security issues. And, of course, it is also kept in mind that two years ago in netis router firmware there was discovered a built-in easily exploited Trojan that used UDP port 53413, which was, it should be noted, quickly removed.

# cat /var/passwd
admin:oursecurepass:0:0:root:/:/bin/sh
# cat /var/passwd.telnetd
admin: oursecurepass:0:0:root:/:/bin/sh

That’s where we draw the brief review of the device command line interface to a close and pass on directly to testing it.

Testing

The first traditional test we begin this part with is estimating the booting time of the device, which is a time interval starting with the moment when the power is on until the first echo reply is received through ICMP. Wireless router netis Beacon AC1200 boots in 31 seconds. We consider that it is a good result.

The second no less than standard test is a security scanning procedure of the device, performing with the help of a security scanner Positive Technologies XSpider 7.8 (build 8.25.5.24075). The scanning has been carried out from the LAN. There were eight open ports discovered. The most interesting data of this test are presented below.

Before getting down to performance tests we would like to get our readers familiar with the key specifications of the test stand we used.

Component PC Notebook
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme ASUS M60J
CPU Intel Core i7 6700K 4 GHz Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 GHz
RAM DDR4-2133 Samsung 64 Gbytes DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 16 Gbytes
NIC Intel PRO/1000 PT
ASUS PCE-AC68
Atheros AR8131
netis E1+
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

The first performance test we carried out was measuring throughput of user traffic during NAT/PAT. In order to test the devices we used JPerf utility, 2.0.2 version. The tests were carried out with 1, 5 and 15 concurrent TCP sessions. During NAT/PAT testing router web-interface remained responsive and CPU utilization remained relatively low.

Then we decided to measure user data transfer speeds via PPTP tunnels. Unfortunately, neither encryption nor data compression are supported. During this testing CPU utilization was near 100%, web-interface was not responsive to user activity, giving variety of errors.

In order to measure wireless speeds netis E1+ repeater was used as a client within the frequency range of 2.4 GHz.

Fast Ethernet interface became a bottleneck during this test, therefore we decided to repeat measurement and use standard ASUS PCE-AC68 NIC as a wireless client. As a result the speeds were significantly higher.

ASUS PCE-AC68 NIC was selected as a wireless client within the frequency range of 5 GHz.

We made current measurement and both previous using WPA2-protected connections. We also noticed that the CPU utilization of the wireless router netis Beacon AC1200 was close to the maximum, so we decided to repeat the experiment leaving the wireless network open. No encryption of wireless networks reduced the load on the CPU a little bit, but no substantial speed growth was detected.

Another function, by which we could not pass, is QoS. We decided to find out how the configured maximum speed value matches with the real measured. For testing we used ten concurrent TCP-connections. At the graph below one can see that the bandwidth limit works only to values of the range of 300 Mbps, a further increase in this value has no effect on the real speed.

During our performance tests, the router case temperature didn't get higher than 41°С, the environment temperature was 23°С.

That's where we draw the testing chapter to a close and move on to summing it all up.

Summary

We were left with mixed feelings after reviewing netis WF2681 wireless router. On one hand, netis Beacon AC1200 has features not implemented in many other competitors. On the other hand, some of our usual features are missing here. The device demonstrated speeds do not let one call the model WF2681 high-performance top-rated router. However, they will be sufficient to the majority of users who want to upgrade their network equipment and get support for both frequency ranges. Also it is worth noticing that this model is more than two years old. Therefore today, in our opinion, netis WF2681 wireless router will be interesting not to the gamers who are looking for maximum performance, but to common users.

Among the strength areas of netis WF2681 wireless router are the following.

  • Ability to connect to wireless providers (WISP)
  • IPTV flexible configuration
  • IEEE 802.11ac support
  • Ability to create a few wireless guest networks
  • Support of both wireless ranges
  • Software that optimizes the transmission of gaming traffic.

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention some of its drawbacks.

  • Failure of the built-in web server after the inserting of the administrator password
  • No IPv6 support

As of this writing, the best price for netis WF2681 wireless router in German-speaking Europoe countries, according to website http://geizhals.at/, was 58.49 euro.

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