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Wireless Reviews

Introduction

Updated 12 March 2008: Ubicom test result corrected
Updated 6 March 2008: Added metamaterial antenna info
Updated 5 March 2008: Corrected Linksys WGA600N info

Netgear 5 GHz Wireless-N Access Point/Bridge

At a Glance
Product Netgear 5 GHz Wireless-N Access Point/Bridge (WNHDE111)
Summary 5 GHz Draft 2.0 802.11n AP/Bridge with auto connect and automatic QoS
Pros • Self-configuring when used as a pair
• Can be used as AP or bridge
• 100+ Mbps close-range throughput
Cons • Disappointing range
• Single band vs. dual-band
• Disappointing performance with 11a clients

One of the ways that networking vendors are trying to entice you to make the jump to draft 802.11n is to resurrect access points as a consumer networking product. D-Link was the first, announcing its DAP-1555 Xtreme N Duo MediaBridge back in May 2007.

Linksys also decided to try this approach, announcing its WGA600N Dual-Band Wireless-N Gaming Adapter at this year's CES. Netgear also introduced the WNHDE111 and WNHDEB111 kit (which just bundles two WNHDE111s into one box) at CES, which I'll be looking at in this review.

Of the three products mentioned, the WNHDE111 is the only one to be a 5 GHz single-band only draft 11n solution; the other two are dual-band products. I think that Netgear took the single-band approach to hit a $100 price point vs. the $160 - $215 that Pricegrabber currently shows for the DAP-1555.

Updated 5 March 2008 But Linksys might have trumped them both, with multiple etailers offering the dual-band WGA600N between $80 and $85! Note however, that the WGA600N can't operate as a true AP, but can be configured in a multi-station Ad Hoc mode.

The concept of all three products is to have a single product that can be used to add draft 11n wireless to your current wired or wireless router by acting as an access point, or to wirelessly connect any device with an Ethernet port. The difference between this new generation of "gaming" adapters and the current 11b/g models is the AP / bridge dual modes and the use of draft 802.11n technology.

Figure 1 shows the controls, lights and ports on the front and rear panels of the 111, which are pretty straightforward.

Front and rear panels

Figure 1: Front and rear panels

The two ports are 10/100, not gigabit, which might seem like a foolish tradeoff given the > 100 Mbps useful throughput that draft 802.11n is capable of. But given the conditions under which the adapters will typically be used, your throughput won't really be limited by Netgear's choice to try to eke out a bit more margin before the sales price gets driven down by competition. (If you want to see Som Choudhury, Product Line Manager of the Advanced Wireless group at NETGEAR, defend the 10/100 port and other of the 111's design choices, see this DSLReports thread.)

Internal Details

Figure 2 shows the 111's main board with RF shield and heatsink in place. But the FCC ID photos were helpful in getting some of the component details. The processor under the heatsink is from Ubicom, but the photos aren't clear enough to tell which one. But if it's based on the same Ubicom reference design as the Linksys WGA600N, it will be an IP5090.

 Inside view
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: Inside view

The radio uses an Atheros AR5416 MAC/Baseband and probably AR5133 dual/band 3x3 MIMO Radio, since Atheros doesn't make a 5 GHz-only MIMO radio chip. Two Atheros AR8012 10/100 PHYs are used for the dual Ethernet ports, which appear to be configured as a mini switch. There is also 256 KB of flash and 16 MB of RAM. Updated 6 March 2008 By the way, you can see the six "metamaterial" antennas at the bottom and left side edges of the board.

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