Thursday, 20 December 2012

Netgear WNDR4500 N900 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router Review

When Daddy said to me that he was going to buy a new Router, I asked him if the WNDR4500 Netgear N900 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router was something he was considering, as I'd had an email during the week asking if I'd like to do a blog post about one. As Netgear is the business standard for routers or switches and used exclusively at Daddy's work, he said it would be great and he'd do the review for me. So here it is!

Netgear N900 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router WNDR4500

With a name like "WNDR4500 N900 Dual Band Ethernet router", there should be little questioning what this device from Netgear is. What it does for our connected household is another matter!

In the good old days, when the PC was the only device that accessed the internet, and it was tied to the wall with a phone cable, devices like this didn't exist. Now, in this house alone, we have various phones, tablets, laptops and other devices where wires are just not part of the offering - and WiFi is the only way to get these things online.

Unfortunately, we also live in a 1960's house where they never used one brick when they could use two, extra bricks where they could have used plaster, and I'm pretty sure they lined the floors with concrete (or lead). WiFi reception is therefore patchy, which has led to needing 4 WiFi access points just to cover the whole house (oh, and the Garden, for those summer months when you just need to Tweet from a deckchair).

The blurb for the Netgear WNDR4500 N900 Dual Band Ethernet router suggests it has both "ultimate speed" and "ultimate range". Strong claims but I feel I have the house and the devices to put this to the test.

Now, here's the techy bit. The 900 in the name is because it contains two radios, one in the 2.4GHz and one in the 5GHz band, each capable of 450Mbit speeds (2x 450 = 900, see!). It also has six internal aerials, and is 802.11b/g/n and 802.11 a/n compatible. It also has two USB ports (which we will come on to later) and four Gigabit Ethernet ports.

One humorous aside, given that I was hoping my devices would be able to see the router from all over the house, and by "see" I mean connect to, it was amusing to find the thing is as big as a small car - you couldn't help but "see" it - I reckon you could "see" it from space! It also weighs a fair bit, and has an even heavier power supply. It is around 4 times the size of the WiFi router it was going to replace and the shiny black finish attracts fingerprints like my TV screen attracts child-size chocolate smears...

Setting the router up was relatively easy, following a series of Wizard's. One mistake I made, and had to retrace my steps, was allowing it to search for my internet connection - I have a DSL connection rather than a Cable one, so this device was never going to be able to connect straight to my ISP - instead I have it daisy-chained off my normal router. Once corrected, by telling it to work only as a WiFi router and not attempt to instigate it's own connection or offer out IP addresses (DHCP server), the rest was very simple - setting up the Wireless was just a question of entering my chosen password, and setting an IP address.

Now, in terms of speed and range, my testing wasn't particularly scientific. What I did find was that, in line of sight to the router, the WiFi to my phone was significantly faster than on my standard BT router in the same room. Moving further afield, the WiFi outperformed other routers located physically closer to me - although by the time I reached the bedroom, another router physically located in the bedroom edged it slightly in terms of speed - not unsurprising being it was 50 feet and 4 walls closer. What was clear however was, if this was the only router in the house, I would be able to connect to it from all over - none of my other routers can match that claim.

A few quick things of note. By default the Wireless is split into two connections - one for 802.11 b/g/n device, and one for 5Ghz a/n devices. I was only able to test the former of these, the latter being a standard that I don't yet have on any other device in my house. Also the WiFi on the 2.4Ghz band was capped to 217Mbps, but you could change it to 450Mbps, so I did - I am not sure why they default it to a lower speed.

So, finally on to my favourite feature of the router - the USB port - which allowed me to connect a USB Hard Disk and instantly access it from all my other PC's around the house - giving me instant network accessible storage without needing to buy an expensive device. Additional to this feature is a DLNA compliant Media Server, which in laymans terms meant that devices like my phone and tablet were able to playback video and music from the USB Hard Disk without needing to have a computer turned on - great for power saving, and allowing us to centralise all our media for the first time - so be it on the Tablet, Phone, Roku Media Player in the bedroom, Top Ender or Big Boy's TV's in their bedrooms - we can all access content via the Netgear WiFi.

This is very much a domestic product compared to the Netgear products I work with day-in, day-out at work, but given that pedigree and my experience with it so far I would have no problem recommending this to any household who, unlike me, might want just one Wifi router. I would be more than happy with this as my sole device if I hadn't already gone to the trouble of wiring up the house and adding additional WiFi access points. The USB storage and media server feature are a great bonus, and this is where we will give it the most use. As my devices move along and upgrade, the addition of the 5Ghz band on this adds a degree of "future proof".

Currently Amazon reckon the RRP is £344.00 but are selling it greatly reduced at around £109, which is a great deal.

We were sent a Netgear N900 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router WNDR4500 to review. Daddy did the review as he knows about the technical stuff that you'd want to know about. Me? Well, my phone connects to it when I'm in the house as Daddy did something to make it and my phone still works. That's a plus as far as I'm concerned!

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