So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Netgear Wireless N 300 WNR2000 wireless router
For under $100, this Netgear wireless router offers good speed and useful features
- Good Wi-Fi speed; excellent range; keyword filtering works well
- Wireless speed was sometimes unreliable, requiring a restart; LEDs are too bright
The Netgear Wireless N 300 WNR2000 is a good value wireless router for anyone who wants to stream videos and distribute a fast Internet connection in a small home or apartment. We did have some issues with the reliability of its wireless speed, but for the most part the router performed very well at short and long distances.
Price$ 99.00 (AUD)
The Netgear Wireless N 300 WNR2000 is a useful wireless router for distributing a fast broadband connection and it offers very good value. You can use it to share an ADSL2+ or a cable connection wirelessly via its 802.11n (300 megabits per second) access point or by using its 4-port, 10/100 Ethernet switch. It looks stylish, has plenty of features, and, like most Netgear routers, its range is excellent.
It's a stylish router with a glossy exterior and it doesn't have external antennas. You can't wall-mount it or sit it flat on a desk — it's designed to sit upright on a table. We're not fans of its LED indicators: they are very bright and the light from one indicator can bleed into an adjacent one. The front of the router has a button for WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup), while the rear has an on/off button, four Ethernet ports and one WAN port.
Installing the Netgear Wireless N 300 WNR2000 is relatively easy using the supplied CD-ROM, which guides you through physical connections in addition to choosing Internet and wireless networking settings. You can go through the router's Web interface (located at 10.0.0.1) instead if you know what you're doing. Our only quibbles with the Web interface are that it checks for a firmware update as soon as you log in (if you're not connected to the Internet), some changes take a few seconds to take effect, and the Setup Wizard is very unintuitive. Apart from that though, the interface is standard for a Netgear router (the design hasn't changed in years) and it has all the usual settings for port forwarding, filtering content, enabling QoS and monitoring traffic. In fact, it's a well-featured router for home use.
Because the Wireless N 300 doesn't have a built-in modem, you have to attach your own modem to its WAN port; we used the Billion BiPAC 5200S RD. The modem performed just as we expected it to through the Netgear router: using PC World's Broadband Speed Test, our iiNet ADSL2+ connection recorded average download speeds of 16.7 megabits per second (or 16,776 kilobits per second) and average upload speeds of 861Kbps.
For sharing files or streaming media across a local network, the Wireless N 300 will generally be swift, but we did notice some inconsistency in the router's performance. Wireless performance was often sluggish, giving us almost half of the bandwidth that we expected; this was the case whether we used the default 150Mbps speed or the faster 300Mbps speed. We could get around this by restarting the router, and, luckily, the Netgear Wireless N 300 WNR2000 is one of the few routers that has a physical on/off button, which means we didn't have to pull the plug or log in to the Web interface to restart it.
When it worked well, the Wireless N 300 provided us with wireless transfer speeds of 5.36 megabytes per second (MBps) both from our close range (2m) and mid-range (10m) distances. That's one of the good aspects of the Netgear's performance: it was capable of delivering relatively quick speeds over long distances. We managed to get a usable wireless signal over 30m away from the router, but this will vary in your own environment depending on the make-up of the walls and how many electrical appliances are in between the router and the receiving computer. Basically, it's a good router for a small home or an apartment.
That said, its mid-range wireless speed is not as fast as what the similarly priced D-Link DIR-600 router achieved in the same test (7.36MBps). However, the Netgear router performed much better over longer distances in our test environment. You could definitely use the Wireless N 300 WNR2000 for streaming videos from a PC in a bedroom to a TV in the lounge room.
Parents can take advantage of the router's built-in filtering options, which allow you to block content based on keywords. When a flagged keyword is entered, the user is met with a large notice telling them they are trying to access blocked content. A log can be set up to keep track of access attempts. You can also set up the router so that it e-mails you logs of all incoming activity, too, which can be handy for seeing if anyone is trying to scan your Internet ports and gain access to your router. (If you use BitTorrent, then you will end up with a barrage of reports in your inbox.)
Port forwarding is relatively simple to set up and the router also has an option for placing a PC in a 'DMZ'. There is a QoS function, so that you can prioritise voice or gaming traffic over Web traffic, for example, and there is a built-in firewall. All up, for a retail price of $99 (and a street price that's much lower), the Netgear Wireless N 300 WNR2000 is definitely good value. It's perhaps one of the best wireless routers on the market for under $100, although we did have to restart it a few times to get the best out of it.
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