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Review: SonicWALL firewalls for less than $1,000

SonicWALL TZ200 and TZ210 deliver enhanced features

By , Network World
November 02, 2009 12:03 AM ET

Network World - SonicWALL recently started shipping six new firewalls to replace the low-end of its product line. The new firewalls are the TZ100, TZ200 and TZ210, each also available with 802.11n wireless integration. This product release completes SonicWALL's transition to the Cavium Networks' Octeon processor line, putting all of their firewalls on the same code base and with a similar feature set.

UTM performance: The yo-yo effect
How we tested SonicWALL's firewalls
Archive of Network World tests

Network managers who have experience with older TZ-series firewalls will be especially impressed with the jump to the Cavium, as the new Cavium-compatible SonicOS Enhanced v5.5 brings a substantial set of useful features, including integrated SSL VPN, integrated in-the-cloud antispam service, and several new reliability options designed to increase uptime and performance.

We've been critical of SonicWALL's UTM performance in the past with pre-Cavium processors, so this transition to the Cavium brings much-needed performance boosts. In our testing, we found the TZ210 delivers more than 125Mbps of pure firewall power, although there is a significant slowdown when all UTM features (antimalware and intrusion-prevention system [IPS]) are enabled. This makes the TZ210, and its slightly smaller brother, the TZ200, an excellent choice for solid UTM coverage well within the bandwidth requirements of the SMB market.

New hardware

We focused on two devices, the TZ200 and TZ210, in our testing. While the TZ200 looks like something Apple would sell with a white plastic case and curvy lines, it still boasts respectable specifications: five 10/100Mbps Ethernet ports, an optional 802.11n (2.4GHz only) 2X2 Wi-Fi, and raw firewall performance of 97Mbps in our tests. We concentrated on its bigger brother in the somewhat uglier (but more professional looking) boxy Volvo-esque metal case, the TZ210, with seven Ethernet ports (two Gigabit Ethernet, five 10/100), optional 802.11n (2.4 GHz) 3X2 Wi-Fi, and raw performance of 126Mbps in our tests. Both run the same software, and pricing for each is very attractive.

The TZ200 costs $400 to $450 (depending on whether you get the 802.11n/b/g Wi-Fi) while the TZ210 costs $600 to $750 (again depending on whether you want Wi-Fi). The TZ200 and TZ210 (and TZ100 as well) are sold without per-user or per-node limits. Many firewall manufacturers added per-node limits and extended licensing costs on their low-end appliances as a way to try and get more money from larger companies for the same hardware, but SonicWALL has now moved away from such customer-disappointing strategies. Both the TZ200 and TZ210 are normally sold with a year's software support, content filtering, antimalware, and IPS subscription for about $150 to $200 a year. Presumably the bigger price differential on the TZ210 hardware is because of the more powerful Wi-Fi (3X2:2, meaning three transmit antennas and two receive antennas, and two data streams, giving a maximum theoretical performance of about 300Mbps, if 40MHz channels are used) than the 2X2:2 Wi-Fi on the TZ200. The main theoretical advantage of the TZ210 wireless is a longer reach and more immunity from noise, not higher performance.

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