Review: SmartAX MT882 wired ADSL modem/router
TalkTalk ups its broadband connectivity options reports Don Bradbury
|Product||MT882 wired ADSL modem/router|
|Price||Now Free at sign-up, or £29.99 to buy later
(Wireless alternative: £20 at sign-up, or £49.99 to buy later)
|We like||Choice of Ethernet or USB connectivity, effective hardware Firewall|
|We don't like||Single PC connection|
In the beginning
The original basic package offered by Carphone Warehouse for their TalkTalk broadband service included a SpeedTouch 300 USB modem. For our particular computer, installation from the installation CD failed, so we installed the service manually - a simple enough task. In any event it was apparent that a full install would put software we did not need onto the test computer so we actually preferred manual installation.
In short, apart from USB driver installation, all the broadband service actually needs is correct connection details that have been set up via "make a new connection" in the Control Panels Network Connections applet, which would direct the modem to connect using the user name provided by TalkTalk, in the form <phone number>@talktalk.net, and the eight character password which they include in their initial account correspondence.
To be sure, this procedure did not install the drivers and support software which are intended to deal with any connection difficulties and diagnostics. It also misses the TalkTalk custom connection shortcut and security software but the user can add any of these by simply installing the appropriate executables on the CD; viz, StDialup.exe and DragDiag.exe in the programs folder, AssistGo.exe in the software/agent folder, fsecure.exe in the software/fsecure folder (which installs the possibly unwanted security programs if you already have your own anti-virus and software firewall installed), and the modem USB drivers to be found in the modem/drivers/ST330 folder as Setup.exe.
The manual procedure doesn't install a TalkTalk email account, though after connecting you can simply proceed to the www.talktalk.co.uk web site to set that up if required. You don't have to have a TalkTalk email account if you already have an existing email address with another provider; TalkTalk will send bills and other correspondence to any email address you specify. But this should have got the user online in quick time and let them establish an Internet link via their web browser.
This, we have to report, has worked quite well over an extended period. The only real complaint was of the system occasionally reporting "no dialtone" if the modem was left idle for an extended period, and that necessitated a restart. The problem was partially resolved by installing updated modem drivers. These second generation drivers were sent by TalkTalk upon request, or could be downloaded from the maker's (Thomson) web site. It's a recommended move for those intent on staying with the USB modem; just make sure you select the correct modem type for its new drivers.
Moving to the TalkTalk ADSL2 wired modem
The SmartAX MT882 wired ADSL modem/router which new subscribers could opt for free at sign-up, or if already a customer as an upgrade for a modest £29.99 offers a mains-powered ADSL2 modem (not wireless) that gives always-on Internet access with better stability and potentially faster speeds, though download speed depends on several factors beside the modem. You certainly shouldn't expect to get ADSL2-type connection speeds, but it's there if ever the service is suitably uprated.
The MT882 features both USB (USB2 is best as you're unlikely to get a connection faster than 2Mbps using USB1.1, according to TalkTalk technical) and Ethernet sockets. Ethernet is preferred as it avoids possible USB bottlenecks and requires no drivers.
Again, we installed manually in order to avoid putting unrequired software onto the test PC. This was easily achieved by accessing the modem's setup directly after connection. Simply plugging everything in and making sure the modem was switched on, and then entering 192.168.1.1 into the browser address panel (or 192.168.1.2 if you were using the USB connection), and logging on by entering "admin" (no quotes) as the default user name, and "admin" again as the default password.
Clicking OK, or Log In, proceeded to a system information page where you click on Basic, select WAN Settings, and then click on the pencil icon on the right of the screen to edit the configuration. Type in the TalkTalk username and password as provided, then select Submit and Save All. To save all settings, click OK. Clicking on OK should not be omitted is it leads to the modem not remembering your details. It's a pitfall that some have reportedly fallen into.
The SmartAX MT882 modem is smarter and more powerful than the previously offered basic Alcatel ADSL modem. It features a built-in hardware firewall which augments any software firewall you have installed. Both should be left in action to provide a suitable level of security.
This is nominally a single-user modem, hard-wired as we pointed out, and so will not accommodate additional PCs without the addition of a hub or switch to network it with although you can connect one PC to the USB and a second to the Ethernet if desired. TalkTalk do not support this configuration though.
The modem provides all the configurability you need - for those who need anything beyond the perfectly adequate default settings - and it adds a DHCP server to provide a different IP address for your PC to the publicly visible one the modem uses, which is important in this day and age of the hackers/trojan planters and what have you. All, as we said, customisable via the webpage interface which is accessible at any time as described.
Required cables, a power-on light, a getting started leaflet, and ADSL and LAN connection status lights on the front of the unit complete the package, and apart from not forgetting to set your PC to "never dial-up" in the control panel, that's about it. The modem should be seen whenever you start the computer, and remain connected until you switch off either the computer or the modem.
The Smart AX MT882 modem's way to improved stability and Internet activity may not be some people's idea of comms heaven, but if it's all you need, it works well and it's available at a knock-down price. The TalkTalk add-on software may or may not be needed, the user can decide, though TalkTalk, understandably, will wash their hands of you for technical support if you leave it out.
The above installation procedure we found worked perfectly well, and this good value package is recommended for a single PC upgrade.
Carphone Warehouse are planning another, even more attractive update to their TalkTalk Broadband package through their AOL subsidiary. Limited access, depending on supplies, but it comes complete with a Dell Inspiron notebook, in return for agreeing to an extended contract. We hope to report further on this offer in due course; it's due for launch soon.
See Carphone Warehouse for details.