Netgear WNDR3300 review
draft 802.11n, 4x 10/100 Ethernet ports
The biggest problem with wireless routers is the amount of interference, which can disrupt your connection. This is bad enough with standard 802.11g networks, but with Draft-N it's potentially worse and can turn a super-fast network into a slow one.
Netgear's WNDR3300 dual-band cable internet router can output a signal on the standard 2.4GHz radio band, but can also use the 5GHz spectrum. By default, the router is configured to use 2.4GHz to create a 54Mbit/s 802.11g network for your existing devices; the 5GHz network is reserved for Draft-N devices.
This separates the faster network from normal devices. It also places Draft-N traffic on to a band that is less prone to interference and, more importantly, hardly used in the UK. The only downside is that you need to use Draft-N network adaptors that can use the 5GHz spectrum. If you want to, you can switch off the 5GHz mode and run the router as a regular 2.4GHz Draft-N router. However, if you do, there's little point buying this router. In any case, we got poor performance from our Centrino laptop in this mode.
The WNDR3300 is configured by a CD-based wizard that helps you set up your internet connection and turn on a secure wireless network. The only added complication with this router is that there are two networks to configure. Fortunately, Netgear keeps it simple by using the same security settings for both, and asks for two network names: one for 2.4GHz and one for 5GHz. If you use different names the WiFi Protected Setup (WPS) feature, which is operated by pressing the blue button on top of the router, will work only for the Draft-N network.
Advanced management settings need to be changed through the router's web interface. There are built-in QoS controls, with a pre-set profile that prioritises voice traffic. You can add your own applications into the mix, or even set priority based on a wired Ethernet port to give a PC or other network device priority for all its network traffic.
Performance with our Centrino laptop wasn't quite as good as we'd hoped. Speeds at 1m and 10m were acceptable, but we couldn't get a reliable signal at 25m. Switching to the WNDA3100 USB adaptor (which costs £53 including VAT) produced better results, turning out the fastest performance at 1m we've ever seen. At 25m, 12.8Mbit/s was good, but we've seen better from other Draft-N devices. The network adaptor doesn't currently support WPS.
The WNDR3300 is a clever way to improve Draft-N performance and beat interference, but it's expensive for a router without an ADSL modem and, as with Linksys's WAG160N opposite, you've got to buy matching adaptors to get the best out of it. The Centrino range was also disappointing. Unless you're having real interference problems, TP-Link's TL-WR941D is a better choice.