The N600 series from Netgear, particularly the WNDR3800 is regarded as one of the best and most feature-rich routers in the market and it is right up there along with other popular routers, like Asus’ RT-N16. The WNDR3800 has been with us for a while now and it’s about time we had a crack at it, so here it goes. There are a total of four different variants of the N600 and the WNDR3800 is their flagship ‘Premium Edition’ router. Netgear have given it a different colour scheme as well to help it stand out from the rest of the pack. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll call it the N600 for the rest of the review.

Design and Build 

The router is packaged well in a cardboard box and comes with the necessary manuals, driver disk, power adapter, Cat 5e Ethernet cable and a stand for the router. The router is not what you’d call small but thankfully, you can place it either lying down or vertically. It looks good, but the glossy bit on the main body will attract a lot of fingerprints and dust, so be prepared. The N600  does not have any external antennae as they are all built in. The quality of the plastics used is good and there’s isn’t too much creaking or flexing when pressed. There are four rubber feet underneath for grip and the router can be wall mounted as well. 

All lit up!

All lit up!

Coming to the pots, we have a physical power button, power socket, four Gigabit LAN jacks, modem port, USB 2.0 port. All the ports are a bit recessed into the plastic mould, which is not a problem for any of the cables, but you may have slight issues plugging in a USB drive, especially if it’s not a standard shape. The reset switch, along with the labels for all the ports and other information like the deault password for the Wi-Fi are placed underneath. This makes it very easy to setup even for a novice and you won’t have to go looking through the manual. 

The various ports

The various ports

Thankfully, unlike Belkin, Netgear are very generous with the use of LED status lights and there’s one for just about everything. You have your power light, a green one for the 2.4GHz band and a blue one for the 5GHz band. There’s one for USB, Internet, four LAN jacks and WPS. Netgear have also provided two physical buttons in the front, one to toggle the Wi-Fi radios and the other for WPS. The LAN status LEDs glow amber if the connection is 10/100, else they glow green if it’s a Gigabit connection, which we felt is a very nice touch and not seen often on routers. Overall, we were quite impressed with the design and build of the Netgear and we especially loved the use of different LED status lights.   

Features 

First, let’s go over some of the premium features that that WNDR3800 exclusively offers. The first is a ‘Clear Channel Selector’, which automatically searches for a clear channel and switches to it. ReadySHARE Cloud lets you access your USB storage drive connected to the router, from anywhere in the world. You can also access your files through a smartphone, but these apps aren’t free, unfortunately. You can also connect USB printer for some wireless printing.

ReadySHARE works well and is easy to setup

ReadySHARE works well and is easy to setup

The N600 WNDR3800 packs in a 680MHz MIPS processor with 16 MB of flash memory and 64 MB of RAM, so it’s definitely a powerful router. This particular version doesn’t have third-party firmware, like DD-WRT support, yet, but it should very soon. As you probably know by now, it’s a dual-band router with 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands running simultaneously. DLNA support is also present and the WNDR3800 also lets you extend our TiVo storage and is compatible with Apple’s Time Machine. Finally, we also have Guest Network access and Live Parental controls. The N600 is a very feature-packed router and has most of what the feature ones would typically use. Now, if they had only added a torrent downloader, that would have made my day. 

Interface 

The interface is very easy to use and is quick as well. Rather than typing the IP address, you can also access the interface by using “routerlogin.net” in your browser. The interface is well laid out and simple to navigate through. All the sub-menus are placed on the left, giving you the choice of simple or advanced options. The first couple of menus are pretty straightforward, so let’s have a closer look at the ReadySHARE feature directly. Setting up a new account is very simple and straightforward. Once created, you can access the contents of your drive from either a web interface or through an application.

Clean and simple to use

Clean and simple to use

The web interface will only let you view the files, while the application will let you modify the files as well. For some reason, we couldn’t browse the hard drive through the web interface (even though it showed up), but we could do so through the application. Depending on your Internet connection, you’ll be able to watch 720p movies as well from your drive. The ReadySHARE service is currently free till January 1, 2013. 

Performance 

To test the transfer speeds of the router, we setup three different zones and copied a 200 MB (sequential and random) file from one laptop to another. The notebook was hard wired to the router, while the other, the Dell XPS 13, was wireless. The good thing about the Dell is that it supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, so we could test the speeds on both. 

All scores are in

All scores are in “MB/s”

All scores are in

All scores are in “MB/s”

The performance is actually pretty solid, especially under the 5GHZ band. In Zone 2, the notebook was placed about 15ft away from the router with a wall right in the middle, it still managed some good speeds. Zone 3 consisted of two semi-soundproof doors in between the router and the notebook, which is where we see the speeds taking a substantial hit. With this kind of bandwidth available, we were easily able to stream 1080p movies from the hard drive through DLNA in all the Zones quite well. It’s also important to note that if your laptop or any other device supports 5GHz, we strongly recommend using that, as the difference in speed is quite significant. 

Verdict

The Netgear WNDR3800 is priced at Rs.12,225, but many online sites are selling for lesser. This makes it quite expensive for many, but then again, it does have good performance to back it up. If you don’t need the extra features in the premium model like the ReadSHARE Cloud and TiVo support, then the standard versions are a lot more affordable and since the rest of the features are pretty much the same, it should give you the similar performance as well. The WNDR3800 rightfully deserves a place among front runners, as it offers very good performance and solid features in a very easy to use interface. It’s a bit on the expensive side and we wish the smartphone apps for ReadySHARE were free.

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