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Wireless Reviews

Introduction

Read the full review.

Wireless fanboys and girls have been eagerly awaiting the WNDR3700, NETGEAR's first "real" dual-band, dual-radio ("concurrent") draft 11n router. I say "real" because its predecessor, the WNDR3300, was an experiment that paired a 5 GHz draft 11n radio with an 802.11b/g-only 2.4 GHz radio.

Ta-Da! Behold the WNDR3700

Figure 1: Ta-Da! Behold the WNDR3700

 

The past year has seen Cisco refresh its entire draft 11n router lineup while D-Link and NETGEAR have limped along. As a result, Linksys' WRT600N, WRT610N, and WRT400N and also the single-radio, dual-band WRT320N have dominated the dual-band draft 11n router market.

D-Link attempted to slow down Cisco's rise with CES 2009 announcements of the Xtreme N 450 Dual Band Router and Xtreme N DIR-685. Although the N 450 was slated for Q2, it has yet to appear, while the DIR-685, which had no announced ship date, has shipped. But the expensive, noisy and flawed DIR-685 won't be taking away share from Cisco anytime soon.

NETGEAR's WNDR3700 was also announced at January's CES show and was supposed to ship by March. But for some reason, NETGEAR kept pushing back the release until product first started dribbling out to select retailers in August. But that's all behind us now with today's announcement of the start of "worldwide shipments".

Although NETGEAR told me that I would be getting one of the first review samples, I'm still waiting. So in the meantime, let's look at whether you should really be so excited about the WNDR3700.

Internal Details

NOTE!The FCC photos shown below are most likely a pre-production sample. Final production units may differ.

It looks like NETGEAR has tried to be conservative with the thermal design of the 3700. Figure 2 shows the board bottom, with a large thermal pad affixed below the Realtek RTL8366SR Gigabit switch, a popular choice also used in the Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH, Belkin N+, D-Link DIR-655 and others.

WNDR3700 board bottom

Figure 2: WNDR3700 board bottom

Figure 3 shows the board top, with RF shield over the two Atheros single-chip radios, thermal pad heatsink affixed to the top of the Realtek switch and finned heatsink atop what appears to be an Atheros processor in other FCC ID doc photos.

WNDR3700 board top

Figure 3: WNDR3700 board top

Figure 4 removes the RF shield and switch heat pad, but leaves the finned heatsink in place.

WNDR3700 board top - heatsink, RF shield removed

Figure 4: WNDR3700 board top - heatsink, RF shield removed

You don't see any obvious antennas, because the 3700 uses the printed-circuit metamaterial antennas that debuted in the WNDR3300 and WNR3500 back in January 2008.

That's about all the component detail that can be gleaned from the not-so-revealing FCC photos, except for two Hynix 32 MB RAM chips (the other is on the board bottom). The NETGEAR product page also specs 8 MB of flash. So I'm relying on information posted in the SNB forum for other component details.

The guess is that the design is similar to D-Link's DIR-825 B1, which uses an AR7161 Wireless Network Processor and 2.4GHz/5GHz AR9220 and 2.4GHz AR9223 radios.

Actually, there is another router that uses essentially the same design—Cisco's Linksys WRT400N. The main difference is that the WRT400N uses an Atheros AR8216 6-port 10/100 switch instead of the Realtek Gigabit switch.

More Wireless

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