Netgear Australia RangeMax Duo Wireless N Router (WNDR3300)
Two wireless routers in one
- Can run 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless networks simultaneously
- Can't run 2.4GHz 802.11n adapters at their full speed, was slower than we were hoping
Having the ability to run 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks simultaneously is an advantage, but this unit's speed wasn't as good as we hoped and it's also limited to running 2.4GHz-based 802.11n adapters at 54Mbps.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
A dual-band wireless router can be beneficial if you live in an environment where there is interference from many wireless networks, as this can significantly slow down fast devices over long distances. By using the 5GHz band for faster 802.11n devices, the Netgear WNDR3300 can theoretically ensure that the performance of these devices isn't compromised by wireless traffic running on the 2.4GHz band. Unfortunately, it delivered sluggish results during our tests.
The WNDR3300 essentially separates network traffic according the frequency band each device supports. All 2.4GHz devices will have a separate service set identifier (SSID) to 5GHz devices, which basically means that using the WNDR3300 will be like running two wireless routers simultaneously. Only devices that support dual-band operation will see both SSIDs, and only devices capable of running at 5GHz will see the 5GHz SSID. This is a good thing if you currently have an extensive 802.11g network that you don't want to fiddle with. However, if you already use 802.11n devices on your network, the WNDR3300's limitations will soon become clear.
It won't run 802.11n devices unless they support 5GHz or dual-band operation, so all 2.4GHz-based 802.11n devices will be made to run at 54 megabits per second (Mbps). There isn't an option in the router's interface that allows for 802.11n traffic to work on the 2.4GHz band, but there are options for running 5GHz-based 802.11n traffic at different speeds. When we changed these, we didn't notice any benefits. In fact, while using a 5GHz-based Netgear WNDA3100 USB adapter we noticed slower 802.11n speeds than we are used to in our test environment. We couldn't connect to the router at a speed greater than 216Mbps, and the speed often dipped to 108Mbps during our tests. This fluctuation is something we weren't expecting from a router that's essentially meant to give you more stability and speed over a longer range.
The separation of 2.4GHz and 5GHz traffic wasn't the success we were hoping for either, due to the slower-than-usual speed we experienced at 5GHz. Copying data over the 5GHz network to our test laptop garnered an average rate of 2.95 megabytes per second (MBps). This is much slower than we were expecting. For example, D-Link's DGL-4500 Xtreme N Gaming Router averaged 10.03MBps. However, D-Link's router can't run 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks simultaneously. When compared to Netgear's own HD/Video 5GHz Wireless-N Networking Kit (WNHDEB111), the 2.95MBps average isn't too bad, but it isn't a patch on what the D-Link could do.
When using the WNDR3300 to simultaneously stream data over 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, the results were again surprisingly slow. We expected the 5GHz-based notebook transfer to maintain its speed during this test, in which we also transferred data to a 2.4GHz-based Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000, but instead its average rate dropped to 2.42MBps. This isn't enough bandwidth to comfortably stream a high-definition movie from a server, but it's fast enough for most high-end ADSL2+ Internet connections, which can achieve download rates of up to 2.5MBps in ideal conditions.
So as you can see, the WNDR3300 didn't impress us greatly during our test period; it was much slower than we hoped it would be. As for its ease of use and looks, it doesn't offer anything new. On the inside it has eight antennas, and the light atop the unit flashes to let you know which one is being used. All this is likely to do is induce a headache (luckily it can be switched off). The unit's interface is the same as all previous Netgear routers in terms of its layout, and it offers all the usual features: DHCP, URL and keyword filtering, QoS and port-forwarding. It can also automatically check the Netgear site for firmware updates.
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