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Wireless Reviews

Introduction

NETGEAR RangeMax Wireless Router

At a Glance
Product NETGEAR RangeMax Wireless Router (WPN824)
Summary 802.11b/g enhanced-wireless router based on Atheros Super-G radio with Video54 MIMO antenna technology.
Pros • Indoor performance comparable to other MIMO products
• Client can provide improved performance when mixed with normal 11g products
• Priced below True MIMO-based products
Cons • Different settings required to optimize different performance aspects
• No wireless bridging or repeating
• No QoS controls
• Limited wireless monitoring
• Twice as expensive as 11g products

Even though the high-rate wireless 802.11n standard still does not have a working draft, wireless networking product vendors are proceeding with the deployment of gear that provides higher speeds and longer range than standard 802.11g products. Since the Wi-Fi Alliance announced it would bring its ruler down across the knuckles of any company daring to use "802.11n" in any form, most vendors have chosen to use the "MIMO" moniker to hawk their offerings.

Most of the noise to date in the MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) wireless networking space has been made by products using Airgo Networks' True MIMO proprietary technology. But MIMO products using other proprietary technology have recently started to hit the shelves.

In this review, I'll look at NETGEAR's WPN824, the first product to use startup Video54's BeamFlex smart-antenna technology to add MIMO capability. NETGEAR has dubbed its implementation of Video54's RF magic RangeMax and is so far the only vendor to offer product with Video54 inside.

I'll be making plenty of comparisons to the results I obtained in my recent review of the True MIMO-based Linksys WRT54GX. But if you're looking for info on how the WPN824 stacks up against D-Link's Super-G w/ MIMO gear, you won't find any. Despite repeated requests to both Atheros - which supplies the VLocity chipset upon which the products are based - and D-Link, product has not been forthcoming.

MIMO - Should you care?

While accusations and white papers continue to fly back and forth regarding whether the various technologies flying the MIMO flag are doing so legitimately, the real question is should you care? At this point at least, my answer is no.

MIMO does not equal 802.11n and every product currently (March 2005) hawking MIMO is using its own proprietary mix of technologies. Interoperability is promised only with gear from the same manufacturer, although more adventurous buyers can probably mix Airgo-based products with success.

For now, MIMO is primarily a marketing buzzword, being used mainly to keep you on the wireless upgrade treadmill.

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