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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Performance

I tested the WNDAP350's wireless performance using the SNB standard open air test method. The test client was our standard Intel Wi-Fi Link 5300 AGN mini-PCIe card in a Dell Mini 12 running WinXP Home SP3 and a recently-updated version of the Intel drivers. I left all client-side defaults in place except for enabling auto channel width mode for the 2.4 GHz band so that I could perform 40 MHz channel bandwidth testing.

The WNDAP350 was loaded with V2.0.1 firmware. All factory default settings were left in place, except setting channel 1 for the 2.4 GHz band and 36 for 5 GHz. As is now our standard, all range tests were done with WPA2 security enabled.

Figure 9 shows the IxChariot aggregate plot for all 2.4 GHz band downlink tests using 20 MHz channel width. Throughput variation isn't too bad, except for a large dropout in Location C. The real disappointment is the sub 1 Mbps throughput in low signal Locations E and F. I've tested much cheaper wireless routers that have done much better in those locations.

NETGEAR WNDAP350 wireless throughput - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz mode, downlink
Click to enlarge image

Figure 9: NETGEAR WNDAP350 wireless throughput - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz mode, downlink

The IxChariot plots for the other 2.4 GHz tests are here:

The simultaneous up and downlink plots are interesting in that they show you don't get higher total bandwidth from running multiple traffic streams. You can also see a pronounced downlink vs. uplink prioritization in the 40 MHz up and downlink plot.

Figure 10 shows the IxChariot plots for the 5 GHz band tests in 20 MHz bandwidth mode. There are no surprises here in that the WNDAP350 failed to be visible at Locations E and F in this band.

NETGEAR WNDAP350 wireless throughput - 5 GHz, 20 MHz mode, downlink
Click to enlarge image

Figure 10: NETGEAR WNDAP350 wireless throughput - 5 GHz, 20 MHz mode, downlink

Once again, running simultaneous up and down traffic in 5 GHz didn't yield higher total bandwidth and pronounced downlink vs. uplink prioritization can again be seen in the 5 GHz, 40 MHz up and downlink plot.

I ran a Wireless Performance Table for the WNDAP350 and the only other dual-band N APs in the Wireless Charts, the D-Link DAP-2553 and DAP-1552. Note that both D-Links are selectable dual-band (one radio) while the WNDAP350 is simultaneous dual-band (two radios). D-Link positions the DAP-2553 as a business-class product, while the DAP-1522 is consumer grade.

The WNDAP350 wins only when running 40 MHz mode uplink and also posts the highest 2.4 GHz throughput of the group in that mode: 80 Mbps. But overall, the DAP-2553 delivers higher overall throughput and consistently better results in weak signal locations E and F.

Wireless Performance Comparison Table - 2.4 GHz

Figure 11: Wireless Performance Comparison Table - 2.4 GHz

Figure 12 shows two wins and two losses in the 5 GHz band comparison. The highest speed that the WNDAP350 could muster here was only 65 Mbps (Location D, downlink, 40 MHz mode), which the DAP-2553 beat handily with 93 Mbps (Location A, up and down, 40 MHz mode).

Wireless Performance Comparison Table - 5 GHz

Figure 12: Wireless Performance Comparison Table - 5 GHz

Overall, this is pretty disappointing performance for a top-of-line product. But I should note that the design is now somewhat dated and there have been no firmware updates since the product was launched last November (or at least none posted on NETGEAR's support site).

I also checked that the WNDAP350 properly limited connect rates to 802.11G's 54 Mbps maximum when using WEP or WPA-TKIP wireless security.

Use the Wireless Charts to further compare and explore the WNDAP350's performance.

Closing Thoughts

The good news is that the street price has come down on the WNDAP350 to around $230, which is almost half its original MSRP. But running a Price vs. Performance plot (Figure 13) shows the WNDR3700 handily beating the WNDAP350 and for about $100 cheaper.

Price vs. Performance - dual-band routers and APs

Figure 13: Price vs. Performance - dual-band routers and APs

The WNDR3700 won't get you the WNDAP350's sturdy metal case, PoE, lifetime warranty and option for connecting higher-gain antennas for the 2.4 GHz radio. But if maximum wireless performance is your primary concern, the WNDAP350 is not your best choice.

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