Netgear WPN 824 RangeMax review
You wait all year for MIMO routers and then two come along at once. Both use the same system of combining multiple reflected radio transmission paths to improve performance, but the Netgear RangeMax’s seven antennae are all internal. Each aerial has a bright blue LED, which shows through the blue dome on top, to indicate which are active: a nice idea, but it rapidly becomes tiresome.
The Netgear is more irritating to set up than the Linksys too. Connecting to the router for the first time forces you into a wizard, and you have to dig about to get to the advanced settings. But once there, you’re met with a fine collection of features, some of which are unique.
For example, Adaptive Radio allows the Netgear to be more friendly towards adjacent WLANs: it will drop to standard 802.11g if it senses an adjacent WLAN. There’s also an eXtended Range (XR) feature, which aims to maintain the connection when signals are faint.
We performed identical tests to those used with the Linksys SRX, copying 200MB from a desktop PC attached via wired LAN to a notebook with the Netgear RangeMax CardBus adaptor. In close proximity, the Netgear actually outperformed the Linksys, achieving 27.1Mb/sec. As we’ve come to expect, this improved further away, up to 29.1Mb/sec – but this was behind the Linksys at this range. Performance dropped further still as we moved down a floor, to 9.7Mb/sec. However, the Netgear didn’t drop much further when we accessed it from the garden, still managing 9.4Mb/sec. But our notebook’s built-in Centrino wireless couldn’t get a signal at all at this range, unlike the Linksys.
Although the Netgear has a comprehensive set of security features, it’s missing one that may be important to business users. There’s no support for WPA RADIUS server authentication, only WPA-PSK. But there’s an SPI firewall with Respond to Ping on WAN disabled, plus keyword and URL site blocking with a trusted IP bypass address feature. The usual port forward and triggering can be configured, as well as dynamic DNS updating via DynDNS.
Although the Netgear is a fast 802.11g router, and is about £10 cheaper than the Linksys, its mid-range performance can’t compete with the SRX. Since you’re most likely to use your WLAN around the office or house, this is the range that counts most, and for that reason Netgear just falls behind Linksys.