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Basic Features

The 824 comes in the slim plastic case characteristic of NETGEAR's consumer router line. But instead of "platinum" grey, the router is a pristine iMac white rimmed by a band highly-polished clear plastic running across the front and sides. Because of its unusual internal antenna configuration (more below) the footprint is larger than the VHS cassette size of NETGEAR's other consumer routers. The 824 takes up about as much desk space as a hardcover novel, but it's still pretty slim at slightly over one inch (2.54 cm) thick.

All indicator lights are on the front of the box and are reasonably bright and viewable from a wide angle. All network connection indicators are single Link / Activity types for the four 10/100 LAN ports, WLAN (wireless LAN) and 10/100 Internet (WAN) ports. The LAN ports also change color to indicate 10 or 100Mbps connections. Power and Test round out the light complement.

Four 10/100 LAN ports, one 10/100 WAN port and power jack are on the rear panel (facing the front of the GX) panel. All ports are auto MDI / MDI-X (though NETGEAR doesn't spec or mention this) which means they'll figure out how to connect to whatever you plug into them, including switches if you decide to expand the number of ports. The reset-to-factory-defaults switch is also on the rear of the router.

The most striking feature is the frosted plastic dome on top of the router, though which you can see a circle of seven blue LEDs - one for each antenna. This display lets you see the BeamFlex software in action as it selects among the seven antennas when sending and receiving data. Though the Video54 folks told me back at CES that this originated as a debugging feature, its value in the 824 is mostly as eye-candy and marketing flash.

Be warned, however, that if this router will be located in a bedroom, you'll want to unplug it when you retire for the night since the light it produces is surprisingly bright! I think it would be a good thing if the option to shut off the light show is included in the next firmware update.

NETGEAR includes a two-piece plastic stand and confirmed that the 824 operates just fine if you want to stand it up. But wall-mounting won't be easy, since there are no screw-head slots in the bottom cover.

Also included in the box are a printed one page Setup Guide poster, Resource CD, normal UTP Ethernet cable and wall-wart 120VAC-only power supply that will take up a few positions on your average outlet strip. The CD that came with my 824 has PDF versions of the Setup poster and a longer Setup Guide, but did not include a reference manual. Fortunately, you can download one from NETGEAR's website by using the Documentation link in the 824's admin screens. NETGEAR said the downloaded User Manual method is now standard on all its "home" routers since "this ensures that consumers will always access the most current documentation".

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