A product review by Bobulous
The FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270 is a communication hub made by AVM. It has a feature set aimed at a busy home or small office:
The FRITZ!Box setup process is very similar to that of most other modem/router devices. You connect the power cable, then connect up to four Ethernet cables for wired devices, and then connect any wireless devices. Then use the web-based interface to enter the details for your internet connection.
The difference with the FRITZ!Box is that you can then also connect your analog phone, and/or a printer, USB memory stick, fax machine, ISDN phone or PBX device, and up to six DECT-compliant cordless phone handsets. The PDF manual on the CD does a good job of explaining how to do all of this.
If you want the FRITZ!Box to have access to your phone line, you must use the provided forked cable, one end goes into the back of the FRITZ!Box and the other end splits into a DSL cable and a phone cable. This is fine so long as you don't have a custom DSL cable you want to use, but this won't be a problem for the vast majority of people.
The FRITZ!Box does come with installation software on CD but, as with most modem/router devices, this software is just a helper tool and is not required to get things up and running. In fact, the FRITZ!Box uses a DNS trick to allow you to reach its web interface just by typing "fritz.box" into your web browser, without any software configuration on your operating system.
Once you're in the web interface you're likely to find it very easy to use. All the information and settings are well laid out and everything is clearly labeled. Even the help buttons in the web interface work, taking you directly to the relevant page on AVM's website. A vast improvement on the half-baked interfaces I've seen in the past.
The FRITZ!Box did give me some problems with DSL synchronization on an earlier version of the firmware, but the last couple of firmware releases (current version is 54.04.81 at time of writing) have been rock solid. Updating the firmware on the FRITZ!Box is very easy, with a simple "Find New Firmware" button in the System menu of the web interface which finds and installs new firmware automatically.
AVM have added new features to the FRITZ!Box with each new firmware release, and one of these features is an Online Meter which tells you how much data you have downloaded and uploaded over the current day, week, month and previous month. This is handy but the upper limit you can set for your allowance is 99999MB, which will be a problem if your allowance is more than 100GB a month. I also find that the meter tends to report a slightly higher value for monthly download than my ISP records, but not by much of a percentage. It's certainly a welcome feature for users on an allowance whose ISP does not offer an easy way of keeping an eye on usage.
Something I've no cause to use, but which may be welcomed by parents, is the "Child Protection" feature. Each individual machine which uses the FRITZ!Box can be configured to have access to the internet only between certain hours, limited to a maximum number of hours (such as one hour each day between noon and six). If you use this feature, make sure you set a non-default, non-obvious password for access to the web interface, otherwise your kids are likely to just disable this setting without your knowing.
The wireless connection provided by the FRITZ!Box has proved very stable. The WLAN page in the web interface offers a very nice graphic view of radio interference sources from neighbouring wireless access points. It also lets you choose which wireless standards to use, such as "802.11 n+a" or "802.11 n+g+b". You'll also find options for WDS (for extending wireless range using additional access points) and settings for wireless security.
On the subject of wireless security, the FRITZ!Box offers WPA2 wireless encryption, and you really ought to use this in preference to WPA (and never even think about using WEP or an unencrypted connection). Even better, the FRITZ!Box allows you to restrict the wireless connection to only those devices you've permitted (identified by their MAC address which is usually written on a label on the wireless device or laptop) and I recommend you do this unless you frequently need to allow new devices to conveniently access your wireless connection.
I like the fact you can turn wireless networking on or off by simply pressing the button on the top of the FRITZ!Box, to save energy and close off your network when wireless is not needed. You can also use the "Night Service" feature to instruct the FRITZ!Box to turn off wireless between certain hours. Unfortunately there's no option to turn it off and leave it off, so the wireless will come back on at the end of the specified period, whether or not you need it. But it's still a great feature if you know you'll be using wireless only between certain hours.
The wired connectivity is fine, though I would have liked to see Gigabit Ethernet. As it is, if you want Gigabit speeds across wired PCs on your network, you'll need to connect a Gigabit switch to your FRITZ!Box and then connect your Gigabit-capable PCs to that switch. If you don't need Gigabit bitrates, though, the FRITZ!Box does a fine job of providing networking for up to four Ethernet-wired devices.
If your home network often has multiple devices accessing the internet at once, you may be interested in the QoS feature, configured on the "Prioritization" page of the web interface. This allows you to specify criteria which mark certain outgoing internet packets as higher or lower priority. For instance, by default the FRITZ!Box treats "BitTorrent" and "eMule" applications as "Background Applications" (low priority traffic). You can also define "Prioritized Applications" (multiplayer gaming connections, for instance) and "Real-time Applications" (such as internet telephony connections). I wasn't convinced that QoS was working on the earlier firmware, because my online gaming latency would rocket whenever another user was downloading anything, but I haven't noticed this problem with the most recent firmware versions.
I've not yet used the FRITZ!Box with a DECT cordless phone, nor do I have an internet telephony account with a VOIP provider. But with a typical analog phone plugged into the FRITZ!Box, incoming and outgoing calls are routed as normal by default, and the FRITZ!Box web interface shows a history of incoming and outgoing calls. However, the FRITZ!Box offers all sorts of features that a typical phone would not.
First up, you can create up to six answer machines, each of which can respond to calls on one or more of your phone numbers (such as your fixed line phone number or the phone number of an internet telephony account). The menu system when dialling into your answer machine is as frustrating as any phone-based menu system, especially when trying to replay a message. To get around this, you can tell the FRITZ!Box answer machines to send an audio file of each new message to a specified email address (once you've given the FRITZ!Box details for an SMTP server). You can also check your messages by dialling in from an outside line (so long as you enable this option and set a PIN for security).
For each answer machine you can record a separate greeting, and set whether the caller simply hears that greeting or gets to record a message after hearing it, how long each recorded message can be, and how many seconds of delay before the greeting plays. I found that the caller has to wait for two rings before the answer machine picks up, even when "Greeting delay" is set to "Immediate".
Another handy telephony feature is that you can use the "Night Service" interval to stop one or more of your phones from ringing between certain hours, or set separate hours for each telephony device. Very handy if you sleep next to your telephone and don't want it to wake you. But if you do want your phone to wake you, you can configure up to two different alarm calls, either one-off or repeating daily, each causing a particular telephony device to ring at the specified time.
If you do have a VOIP service you can create dialling rules which tell the FRITZ!Box when to use your fixed line phone for outgoing calls, and when to use an internet telephony account. For instance you can specify the number range "00" to direct all international calls to an internet telephony service (which tend to be cheaper for international calls). It's worth noting that, by default, the FRITZ!Box will use your fixed line service if it can't connect to your internet telephony service, and this could be expensive if you don't realise it's happening.
Similarly, you can create block rules which stop calls being made to or received from certain numbers or ranges of numbers. So you can block the range "09" for outgoing calls to stop any calls being made to premium-rate numbers (in the UK, that is; I've no idea what the premium rate ranges are in other countries). If you're being harassed by junk calls from a certain number, you can also block incoming calls from certain numbers (or even from all calls which hide their number) by specifying them in the same sort of way, though bear in mind that you'll need to have Caller Display (also known as calling line identification) enabled on your phone line otherwise the FRITZ!Box won't be able to determine the calling number of any incoming calls.
The FRITZ!Box can also handle the connection of a physical fax machine. If you want to receive faxes but don't have or want a physical fax machine, the FRITZ!Box can act as a fax receiver, and then send new faxes to a specified email address (you'll need to give the FRITZ!Box details of an SMTP server for this to work). There is also a "fax switch" option which presumably stops the phone ringing for fax message transmissions (but I've not tested this theory).
The FRITZ!Box has a USB port to which you can connect most recent models of printer, which allows you to access the printer from any computer on your home network. Sounds handy if you can't afford a network printer (which usually plug straight into your router using an Ethernet cable) but I've not tested this as I'm not a fan of printing.
Possibly more useful, the last FRITZ!Box firmware release added support for USB storage devices, such as memory sticks and USB-connected hard disk storage. I tested this feature with a Corsair Flash Voyager and found it to work very well. After plugging in the USB memory stick, you can almost immediately access everything on it by simply typing "ftp://fritz.box" into your web browser from any machine connected to the FRITZ!Box. (In Ubuntu Linux you can also go to "Places" in GNOME's main menu, then "Connect to server", then type the server name as "fritz.box" and hit enter.) The manual warns that the file size limit is 2GB, which might be a problem for power users (but power users are likely to have a dedicated NAS device anyway).
The manual mentions that suitable playback devices such as FRITZ!Mini and FRITZ!Media can use USB-connected storage to turn the FRITZ!Box into a streaming media server, but this isn't something I've tested.
The FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270 is a great piece of kit for anyone who doesn't want to have to buy separate ADSL modem/router, network switch, wireless access point, answer machine, print server, media server, and network storage devices. For a home or small business, the telephony and networking features are likely all you'll need, and only if you really need serious hardware (such as Gigabit Ethernet, or high performance NAS) might you have to buy anything extra.
The FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270 is easy to use and very stable, the wireless signal is always reliable, and the features have become more impressive with each firmware release. This is an excellent communications device.