Netgear Gigabit Router with RangeMax Wireless N - Testing: Wired, Wireless and More

Article Index
Netgear Gigabit Router with RangeMax Wireless N
Up Close and Web Configuration Impressions
WNR854T Router Setup and Settings
Netgear Wireless-N WN121T USB 2.0 Network Adapter
Testing: Wired, Wireless and More

Testing:

We have been using this combination for a few weeks under many different situations.  This combo actually made it to LANtabulous and we used it for some of our gaming sessions.  Most of it's use has been out on the farm and we are using it across our yard to reach the neighbor and share our network with them.  The router is in our house, above our TV and the USB 2.0 adapter is in our neighbor's basement.  All-in-all the signal has to travel through two 6" thick walls and a concrete basement.  Neither the router nor the wireless adapter are near any windows, so this is a pretty amazing feat.

Every now and then the WN121T can see my D-Link DGL-4300 router, but it cannot connect to it so the Netgear WNR854T does indeed have greater coverage.  Although coverage is nice, it's not the only thing that makes a wireless network handy.  Network throughput is also very important.  We ran tests using iPerf and actual data transfers in order to see if the Wireless-N products have what it takes to boot our good old 802.11g D-Link Router.

Please keep in mind that the speed tests were not done across the yard, but actually performed in our shop.  Both D-Link and Netgear routers were 15' away from the wireless clients.

Test Setup Quick Breakdown:

  • 1000Mbit tests were between an AM2 4200+ X2 machine using the onboard network on a K9N Platinum motherboard and a Core 2 Duo E6600 machine with the 975X Platinum motherboard.
  • 802.11g - 802.11g tests were done between a wired client and an Acer Travelmate laptop through the D-Link DGL-4300 Router.
  • 802.11n - 802.11g tests were done between a wired client and an Acer Travelmate Laptop through the Netgear WNR854T Router.
  • 802.11n - 802.11n tests were done between a wired client and the WN121T through the Netgear WNR854T Router.

Click for larger image
Click for larger image 

 

In real-world situations, the 802.11n doesn't improve performance a whole bunch.  We see sustained data transfers of 47.6Mbit / second, but nowhere near 15x faster than our 802.11g hardware.  It's interesting that the Netgear router shows poorer performance than the D-Link when connected through our integrated wireless on our laptop.  Although we don't have a chart showing CPU usage, the USB 2.0 WN121T required 38% of our Pentium 745 processor, while the integrated wireless used only 18%.  The performance is marginally better, but not enough to warrant an extra 20% CPU load.

 

Conclusion:

We were very interested to take a look at some draft-N wireless networking hardware and Netgear was kind enough to oblige.  Although the performance of these two products is somewhat disappointing, the added range of the RangeMax products is very nice.  I've tried connecting a wireless network between the two houses before, but have been unsuccessful due to the distance and extreme circumstances (walls, hedge, trees and concrete basement).  The Netgear WNR854T and WN121T made this link possible.

The range is great but the two things that cased strikes against the Netgear wireless products are the performance, and the constant rebooting of the Router required during setup.  It took almost 20 minutes to get all of the ports forwarded, set up some blocked lists, set up the wireless network and more.  Most of this time was spent waiting on the router to reboot.   Although wireless performance was less than expected and certainly less than advertised, wired performance of the Gigabit switch was very good.  This router is a good choice for a Gigabit router solution that offers better-than-wireless g range.

Pros:

  • Excellent wireless range.
  • Very good wired network performance.
  • Robust security features and scheduling.
  • Easy to use software for the WN121T.
  • Did I say excellent wireless range?

Cons:

  • Mediocre wireless performance (throughput).
  • Poorly designed web interface.
  • Must apply and reboot router between changes.
 

 

BCCHardware.com Rating
Quality:
9/10
Performance:
7/10
Software Interface:
4/10
Stability:
9/10
Features:
9/10
Value:
7/10
Total Score 7.5

 

Although the router and wireless card have excellent range, it just doesn't live up to the 802.11n wireless hype of lightning fast transfers.  We tested both with QoS enable and with QoS disabled.  Also the WN121T requires high CPU resources and just doesn't perform like it should.  For the money, you're likely better off to stick with a good 802.11g setup.  As the "N" standard matures, I'm sure that it will replace "G", but until then, things still look pretty good for the "G" camp.  Unless you need extended wireless coverage that you can't get with your current setup, I'd wait a little longer before I dropped $230 on a new router and wireless card.

I'd like to thank Netgear for sending these products our way for a review.  If you have any questions, comments or other feedback, please feel free to post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.