Netgear Australia RangeMax Wireless-N Gigabit Router (WNR3500)
Slow wireless performance.
- Gigabit Ethernet switch
- Poor 802.11n performance, doesn't play nicely with some non-Netgear branded 802.11n adapters, doesn't even work well with a Netgear-branded network adapter!
The WNR3500 produced disappointing results in all of our wireless tests. There are better products available if you want fast wireless speed as well as a Gigabit Ethernet switch. It's also expensive!
Price$ 349.00 (AUD)
It's hard to be enthused by Netgear's WNR3500 wireless router, which underperformed in all of our wireless tests. The upside is that it has a Gigabit Ethernet switch built in, so its wired performance is a class above most routers. However, this also makes it an expensive piece of kit.
Physically, the WNR3500 is a large upright unit with internal antennas. It has eight of them and blue lights seemingly scurry from the front of the unit to the back in order to indicate which of antennas are being used. In the dead of night these lights are annoying, but they can be switched off.
We had no problems setting up the router with our ADSL connection, as it detected our PPPoE interface automatically and prompted us for our login details, but that was the smoothest part of our experience. The unit's Web interface is laid out in typical Netgear style, so there is nothing new to get used to, but it's a very slow interface. Almost every change in setting requires a restart, which means that if all you want to do is change the wireless channel, the router will restart. This can be very inconvenient and makes the unit frustrating to set up as it also affects the wired network.
The unit's wireless access point runs at a frequency of 2.4GHz and supports speeds up to 300 megabits per second (Mbps) using 802.11n, but it didn't play nice with other vendors' wireless cards. For example, if you want to use an existing 802.11n Linksys adapter in your PC or notebook, it will only run at 54Mbps. However, modern notebooks with 802.11n adapters (such as those based on the Centrino 2 platform) won't have a problem connecting to the router in 802.11n mode. We recommend using Netgear-branded 802.11n adapters with this unit.
Even so, we used a Netgear WNDA3100 adapter for our tests (it costs $149), but we still couldn't reach top speed when connected to the router. The connection was initially made at 300Mbps, but promptly dipped to 216Mbps. Our Centrino 2-based laptops topped out at 145Mbps. Despite these connection speeds, the radio signal was reported as being excellent, and this was from a distance of 10m. This resembles our experience with Netgear's RangeMax Duo Wireless N Router (WNDR3300), which also supplied slow connection speeds.
The average transfer rate of the router in 802.11n mode was a miserable 1.8 megabytes per second (MBps), which is 1.15MBps slower than the RangeMax Duo Wireless N Router (WNDR3300). This speed was recorded with the WNDA3100 USB adapter plugged into our test laptop. Changing wireless channels and modes didn't speed things up. Funnily enough, conducting the same transfer while also streaming data to an 802.11g-based Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000, garnered the same speed.
This slow performance, coupled with the high price of the unit, represents poor value for money, so you're better off looking elsewhere if you want a Gigabit router with an 802.11n-based wireless access point. The Linksys WRT310N is a better option at a lower price point.
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