Netgear RangeMax NEXT review

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Our first taste of Draft 802.11n didn’t live up to expectations, but alternative products are already coming thick and fast.

Netgear RangeMax NEXT review

Unlike most MIMO-based routers, which bristle with antennae, the Netgear’s aerials are built in, so you have to set up the Netgear on its end to keep it working efficiently.

Netgear claims the RangeMax NEXT operates at 270Gb/sec, but that’s just as nominal a figure as the 54Gb/sec of 802.11g. To test actual throughput, we copied 144MB of mixed files from an Ethernet-attached desktop via the router to a Pentium M notebook with the RangeMax NEXT CardBus adapter installed.

At the default setting of channel 6, the RangeMax NEXT achieved inexplicably poor performance. So we switched over to Auto, which allotted channels 1 and 3 for dual-channel mode. This improved things considerably, but not to award-winning levels. With the notebook next to the router, the Netgear kit achieved a meagre throughput of 21.7Mb/sec – considerably behind Buffalo’s Nfiniti. Switching to a room on the same floor, throughput rose to 25.6Mb/sec, but that’s still behind the Buffalo. On a lower floor, we saw performance drop to 6.2Mb/sec – better than the Nfiniti, which failed to complete this test.

While the RangeMax NEXT isn’t the wireless speed demon we’re all waiting for, it does have plenty of features. The version we looked at (DG834N-UK) includes a built-in ADSL 2+ modem, and there’s a cheaper model (WNR834B) aimed at external Ethernet cable modems. Wireless security curiously includes only WPA-PSK, with no WEP option for backwards compatibility. Alongside the usual port blocking and forwarding, the firewall allows you to block websites by domain or keyword, either always or according to a schedule. The firewall also includes protection from port scanning, Denial-of-Service and WAN ping. The router supports dynamic DNS updating too, although only via the DynDNS service.

Alongside our tests of the Buffalo Nfiniti last month, the Netgear’s performance makes us thoroughly suspicious of Draft 802.11n. The new draft standard isn’t living up to the hype and, in our testing, many older MIMO implementations simply outperform it. We’ll wait to see what else comes out bearing the Draft N name before writing it off completely. But opting for proprietary MIMO systems – or waiting for the full spec – is currently the best option for those in need of speed.

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