Wireless Networking: Nine 802.11n Routers Rounded Up

Netgear WRN2000v2 And WNDR3700

In several ways, Netgear is almost identical to Linksys in our minds: good quality networking gear that tends to step a step or two behind the bleeding edge. A few products bomb, but most are reliable and more than sufficient. The company does a great job with addressing mainstream networking needs, as well as urging the mainstream into slightly new directions.

The WRM2000v2 ($69.82) falls into the former category. This is a straight up, no frills 11n router. The four LAN ports are 10/100, and there’s no USB port. The two biggest call-outs Netgear seems to have for this unit are its WPS button (dubbed “Push ‘N’ Connect”) and its green features. However, it’s telling that the two green features seem to be comprised of the packaging being manufactured with at least 80% recycled materials and the fact that the router features a “convenient power on/off switch to conserve energy.” OK, we like Netgear, but we question any marketing team that promotes a power switch as a “green” feature. This does not bode well for our benchmarking.

We had higher hopes for the WNDR3700 ($159.99), which on paper appears to give Linksys’s dual-band powerhouse a run for its money. This router is also touted for its green features, but we tend to appreciate D-Link’s ability to detect Ethernet cable length and modify signal power accordingly more than Netgear’s promotion of wireless signal strength adjustment as a power-saving feature. Of course, it is saving power, but this little option setting has been promoted for years as a security feature long before eco-friendliness came back into vogue.

Enough semantics. The WNDR3700 is a simultaneous dual-band router with eight antennas and a 32-bit, 680 MHz processor for enabling gobs of concurrent sessions. You can have four SSIDs, perform remote router management from across the Internet, stream media to ReadyDLNA devices, and keep an eye on recent WAN traffic volume. QoS tools include a couple of pull-down menus with common applications for establishing new QoS rules. You can also mandate QoS prioritization for a given LAN port or MAC address, which are nifty extras. And of course, there’s a USB port for creating network storage and shares, and Netgear throws in its ReadyShare applet for local volume mapping.

Because of the restrictions in our test setup, we had to pair both of these Netgear routers with Netgear’s own WNDA3100 USB adapter. To make a long story short, this was disastrous, we went through three of these adapters before finding one that yielded even moderately decent results. As soon as we switched to our notebook’s internal 11n adapter, performance bounded forward. Unfortunately, we have to stick with our same-brand results. The WNDA3700 is a good router. Just be sure to use it with someone else’s client adapter.