Netgear Australia RangeMax Next WNR834B
- Zippy 802.11g performance, excellent range, easy to set up and use
- Slower 802.11n performance than we were expecting, Wi-Fi Multimedia Mode didn't seem to work on our test router
It's got good range and can transfer files quickly, but it's not a major step up from existing 802.11g routers. It's not worth upgrading to this router if you're already using a decent 802.11g router, but if you're in the market for a new router anyway, this one is good value.
Price$ 249.00 (AUD)
Offering real-world wireless speeds that are almost twice as fast as 802.11g wireless routers, Netgear's 802.11n-based RangeMax NEXT wireless router is perfect for streaming media files around your home, but it's not as fast as we hoped it would be.
The RangeMax NEXT is compatible with 802.11b and 802.11g wireless networking devices, including Centrino-branded notebooks, but it adds the 802.11n draft specification to the mix, which allows it to hit theoretical wireless transfer speeds up to 270Mbps.
To reach these speeds the router pairs together two wireless channels to increase its overall bandwidth (a regular 802.11b/g router only uses one channel). It also uses MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) antenna technology to increase data throughput by transmitting two data streams simultaneously. The RangeMax NEXT uses a dual antenna configuration and these antennas are located inside the router in fixed positions. The result is a cleanly designed router that is devoid of any pokey bits.
Using the router to attain 802.11n wireless speeds requires the use of a capable wireless adapter in your PC or notebook. We used the Netgear RangeMax NEXT Wireless Notebook Adapter (WN511B) for our tests, which enabled us to test the router with its wireless speed set to 270Mbps. This adapter got quite hot in our test notebook, which has its PC Card slot located directly underneath the palm rest. During long periods of use, the heat from the PC Card may become bothersome.
In tests conducted one metre away from the router, 350MB of data was transferred at an average rate of 3.8MBps using 802.11n speeds. Using 802.11g speeds, the same amount of data was transferred at an average rate of 2.1MBps. Tests at 10m away from the router, and with a double-brick wall as an obstacle, achieved almost identical transfer rates to the 1m test for both 802.11g and 802.11n speeds. These results are quite fast, but we expected a little more, especially at close range, considering the 802.11n specification has a theoretical transfer speed of approximately 33.75MB per second.
Pushing the router to its limits, we attempted streaming a DivX video file to one notebook located 10m away from the router, while simultaneously transferring our test file to another notebook computer, 10m away from the router in the other direction. The DivX file stuttered only once as the 350MB test file was being transferred in the background at an average speed of 3.6MBps. We can see the RangeMax NEXT being useful in instances where multiple users are streaming video files or transferring data at the same time, but of course, this also depends on the obstacles (such as walls and electrical equipment) that are present in your own environment.
The RangeMax NEXT comes with a feature called Wi-Fi Multi-media (WMM), which gives precedence to video and music content over the network. Netgear claims that this feature is enabled by default in the notebook adapter. In our test router, this feature was disabled and attempts to enable it resulted in the router cutting off our access to the Internet and to our local area network. We're still working with Netgear to find out why this was happening to us.
As for distance, the RangeMax NEXT produced a useful enough signal to allow us to access the Internet from over 50m away in a suburban environment, and it let us comfortably stream a DivX video file at up to 26m away with obstacles such as double-brick walls in the way. Going to further distances than this we found the video stuttered every few seconds and became unwatchable.
With a quoted speed of 270Mbps (approx 33.75MBps) for its wireless transfer speeds, it's logical to think that this router might be able to achieve file transfer speeds better than a wired 10/100 Ethernet connection. This wasn't the case, however. Wireless file transfers using 802.11n didn't come close to the 9.4MBps that we achieved when using a wired 10/100 Ethernet connection on this router.
For data security, the RangeMax NEXT supports WPA and WPA2 encryption using the TKIP and AES algorithms, respectively. However, only WPA2 encryption can be used when the router is set to 802.11n wireless mode. Implementing wireless security is very easy through the router's Web configuration page, all you have to do select WPA + WPA2 security and enter your passphrase. It enables both forms of encryption together, which allows either WPA or WPA2-capable adapters to connect to your network. Additionally, you can make your network more secure by enabling MAC address filtering, so that only the device addresses entered in the router are given access to the network, and you can also hide your wireless network's SSID, so that other people can't see it and attempt to access it.
We tested the router in a static IP environment, but the router also has a DHCP server and it comes with good security features. A firewall with stateful packet inspection (SPI) is enabled by default, which makes sure that any data entering your network is data that you have requested, while keyword and domain name filtering let you block access to undesirable sites. Port-forwarding and DMZ (demilitarized zone) features are available to give certain ports, or indeed your whole computer, access to the Internet.
Looking at the overall picture, the RangeMax NEXT is a well-featured and zippy router. If you already have a decent 802.11g-based router that's allowing you to already stream video easily and giving you all the range you need in your environment, then you probably won't benefit much by replacing it with this model. However, if you're in the market for a new router, then keep this one in mind. For around $280, it's good value.
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