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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Security

I successfully made a WPA2 / AES connection to the 3700 on the first try, using the WPS PIN method supported by my standard Intel 5300 AGN WiFi Link test client using the Intel PROSet Wireless Connection Utility (version 12.4.0.0). I also verified that the 3700 dropped to a maximum 54 Mbps link rate when using a WEP or WPA / TKIP connection.

Video Network

When I went looking for the dedicated video network in 5 GHz band for streaming high-quality HD video feature mentioned on the 3700's web page, I completely missed the Enable Video Network checkboxes on the 5 GHz Wireless Settings and Guest Network a/n pages. But NETGEAR pointed them out to me.

I couldn't find a description of what this feature did anywhere in the online help, printed documentation or NETGEAR online support site. And my query to NETGEAR brought only an intentionally vague description (lest they give away the recipie to their "secret sauce") about optimizations to lower latency and improve video streaming.

So I ran a quick check using a 720p movie trailer with and without the mode enabled to see if I could detect a difference. Since Atom netbooks don't handle HD video smoothly, I used my Fujitsu P7120 notebook connected to the 3700 with a WNDR3100v2 adapter and played the Quicktime HD 720p .mov test file using the VLC open source media player.

While I played the file, I moved the notebook to a location where the video started to occasionally break up during fast motion scenes with Video Network mode disabled. Once I found a spot, I then enabled Video Mode and replayed the file. I didn't do extensive testing, but enabling Video Mode seemed to reduce playback problems.

I tried some IxChariot tests using full-speed TCP/IP streams, but didn't see any difference in throughput variation. I also tried some with and without runs using the IxChariot IPTVv script running at 30 Mbps and UDP. With this test file, enabling the Video Network mode seemed to reduce the UDP streaming errors.

All I can say is that if you're having trouble with your video streaming, you can try enabling the Video Network mode (if you're using 5 GHz clients). Just don't expect miracles.

Wireless Performance - Competitive Comparison

The only fair comparison for the 3700 is with other simultaneous dual-band routers with Gigabit ports, which means the Cisco / Linksys WRT610N and D-Link DIR-825 [A1]. Although I also have reviewed the D-Link DIR-855, I don't have open air test results for it.

Figure 15 shows all three turning in good speed in Location A, but the DIR-825 [A1] fading fast with distance. And the 3700 clearly has the throughput edge in the weak signal Locations E and F.

Competitive comparison - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz channel, downlink

Figure 15: Competitive comparison - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz channel, downlink

Tables 2 and 3 summarize the highest downlink throughput product in each location for the four combinations of bands and modes tested and Tables 4 and 5 compare uplink results. The chart was generated by going through the six-location comparison plots and putting and entering the test result in the product's box that had the highest throughput for each test. If values are within 1.0 Mbps of each other, they both get their throughput entered.

Product 2.4GHz /20 2.4GHz / 40
A B C D E F A B C D E F
Linksys WRT610N
NETGEAR WNDR3700 69.1 50.2 60.3 35.8 29.5 4.3 66.6 60.3 42.8 9 5.4
D-Link DIR-825 [A1] 94
Table 2: Best downlink throughput summary - 2.4 GHz
Product 5GHz / 20 5GHz / 40
A B C D E F A B C D E F
Linksys WRT610N 76.9
NETGEAR WNDR3700 73 49.2 55.4 33.3 81 71.5 30.2
D-Link DIR-825 [A1]
Table 3: Best downlink throughput summary - 5 GHz

Adding up the entries for each product shows that the 3700 is the runaway winner in both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands for downlink and uplink.

Product 2.4GHz /20 2.4GHz / 40
A B C D E F A B C D E F
Linksys WRT610N 69.5 45.8 46.2                  
NETGEAR WNDR3700     47.3 30.7 23 5 90.8 67.9 65.4 43.4 14.2 3.6
D-Link DIR-825 [A1] 68.9                      
Table 4: Best uplink throughput summary - 2.4 GHz
Product 5GHz / 20 5GHz / 40
A B C D E F A B C D E F
Linksys WRT610N 72.2           79.3          
NETGEAR WNDR3700   39.6 42.4 27.6       65 63.7 33.3    
D-Link DIR-825 [A1]                        
Table 5: Best uplink throughput summary - 5 GHz

Closing Thoughts

NETGEAR had somehow managed to generate a lot of excitement around the WNDR3700 before it shipped, with some folks hardly able to wait to get their hands on it. This always carries the risk of the actual product not living up to the hype, however.

But it turns out that the WNDR3700 actually manages to deliver the goods and will get NETGEAR seriously back into the N router game—at least the competition for top-of-line dual-band simultaneous routers.

The WNDR3700 handles the basics well, with routing speed well above what most of us can use, plenty of simultaneous sessions and steady throughput. The routing feature set isn't much different from NETGEAR's other consumer routers, but should handle most home and SOHO needs just fine.

The real benefits that the 3700 delivers on the wireless side include "guest" networks on both radios as well as WDS bridging and repeating. And wireless performance improvements include significantly higher throughput at weaker signal locations in the 2.4 GHz band and relatively low throughput variation in both bands. This is counterbalanced, however, by no improvement in 5 GHz range, although I will say that 5 GHz throughput seems to hold up better with medium-low signal strength (my Location D) than other products I've tested.

Yes, the WNDR3700 really can deliver 250 - 300 Mbps (depending on whose numbers you believe) of aggregate wireless throughput. But think of this as a "fatter pipe" that can deliver higher speeds to multiple users vs. really high speed for single-user HD video streaming.

At any rate, it looks like there is finally some serious competition to put a dent into Cisco's dominance of the dual-band simultaneous N router market. Watch out WRT610N, the WNDR3700's comin' to get ya...

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