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PC Engines Wireless Router Application Platform (WRAP) reviewed

PC Engines Wireless Router Application Platform (WRAP) reviewed
By

PC Engines Wireless Router Application Platform

PC Engines Wireless Router Application Platform
Summary Embedded PC based on 266 MHz National Geode processor. Perfect for m0n0wall installations.
Update None
Pros • Lower cost than Soekris equivalent
• Supports PoE
Cons • Optional case is amateurish
• Lacks PCI, USB and ATA / IDE interfaces
• Case makes CF slot access difficult

Last month I reviewed the m0n0wall firewall, a FreeBSD distribution optimised to run from CompactFlash media on Embedded PC devices. As part of that review, I looked at the Soekris net4501, one of the Embedded PC devices that m0n0wall has been optimised for. 

This time round I am going to look at the PC Engines WRAP Embedded PC device, an alternative to the Soekris net4501. 

Features

PC Engines GMBH are based in Zurich, Switzerland and make a range of specialist PC related products, from PCI / ISA bus test tools, IDE CompactFlash adaptors to their Wireless Router Application Platform (WRAP) embedded PC device. The WRAP has many similarities with the Soekris net4xxx range of Embedded Devices, though performance-wise is more comparable with the net4801 than the net4501 that was examined in the previous review.

Below is a table giving a quick comparison on price and specification between the PC Engines WRAP and Soekris net4501 and net4801 embedded PCs. The prices reflect recent price reduction from both PC Engines and Soekris.

Supplier Version CPU RAM Price *
PC Engines
www.pcengines.ch
WRAP.1D-2 266 MHz National
Geode SC1100
64 MB $157
3 LAN / 1 miniPCI, CF, Serial, Power Over Ethernet, Case
Soekris
www.soekris.com
net4501-30 133 MHz AMD ElanSC520 64 MB $185
3 LAN / 1 miniPCI, CF, 3.3vPCI, Serial, Case
net4801-50 266 MHz NSC SC1100 256 MB $253
3 LAN / 1 miniPCI, CF, 3.3v PCI, 2 Serial,
USB1.1, UltraDMA-33, Case

* Prices as advertised 29 September 2004, exclusive of shipping and taxes.

The WRAP.1D-2 is one of a range of three board configurations, which differ on the number of Ethernet and miniPCI interfaces they provide. However, the optional case is currently only available for the 3 Ethernet interface WRAP.1-2.

Since the WRAP.1C-2 device reviewed here was purchased, it has been superseded by the WRAP.1D-2. The change in revision is mainly to reflect that the manufacturing has moved from China to Taiwan. The cases are now also available in anodised red and black in addition to the aluminium finish. See the WRAP accessories pages on the PC Engines website for more details.

A summary of the WRAP.1C/D-2's specifications are:

266 MHz National Geode SC1100 CPU 64 MB SDRAM CF Type I/II socket 3 auto-sensing 10/100 Mbit Ethernet ports, RJ-45 1 Serial port, DB9 Three front panel LEDs Mini-PCI type III socket. Power, 3 to 5W at 12V DC supplied through DC, acceptable range +7V to +18V Passive Power over Ethernet

While the 266 Mhz processor on the WRAP makes it comparable to the Soekris net4801 in terms of performance, other features of the net4801 such as the ATA33 and USB1.1 interfaces and 3.3v PCI slot are absent. The WRAP supports passive Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) on the LAN1 interface, this comes into its own when the main board in being used for a wireless router or access point.

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