The VBR's plastic package maintains SMC's dark grey color scheme, and has about the same thickness, but slightly smaller footprint than your average Tom Clancy page-turner. All indicators are on the front panel and include Link/Activity, and Speed for each of the four LAN ports, Link/Activity for the WAN, and Power. All LED's were bright and viewable from a wide angle. The four switched 10/100 LAN ports are on the rear panel, along with the 10/100 WAN port, power socket, Reset/Reset to Defaults button. Note there's no support for uplink capability, so you'll need to depend on whatever you use to expand the number of ports (if four aren't enough), or use a crossover cable.
The 10/100 WAN port is a give-away that the VBR joins the ranks of D-Link's DI-604 [reviewed here] and NETGEAR's FR114P [reviewed here] as a next-generation router based on the ADMtek 5106 Home Gateway Controller. To answer the question that at least some of you are asking, no, it's not a clone of either the D-Link or NETGEAR, although the designs are similar. So any experimentation involving flashing the router with something other than SMC's firmware is at your own risk. One difference that I need to point out is that the VBR is the only one of the three to not have a heatsink on the ADMtek chip. All three routers run warm to the touch, so time will tell if SMC has made a wise choice here.
SMC includes a printed "EZ 3-Click Installation Guide", Installation CD, and normal CAT5 patch cable. The CD contains:
- a PDF copy of the User Guide
- a copy of a Windows-executable for the 3-Click setup wizard
- a copy of the Adobe Acrobat Reader installer
SMC has changed the graphic design of their product packaging and Installation Guide, giving them an updated look. The User Guide design remains unchanged, and although there are plenty of screen shots in it, I would have liked more information on some of the VBR's unique features such as the NAT Address Mapping and Firewall Intrusion Detection screens.