Sunday, February 28, 2010

Netgear RangeMax WNDR3700 Review

United States of America, October 2009

If you’re in the market for the most technologically advanced large four-door sedan car, and price is not an object, you buy the Lexus LS600h, which costs around $115,000 but is architecturally similar to a Toyota Hybrid. If you’re in the market for the most technologically advanced WiFi home router, the equivalent of the Lexus LS600h is the Netgear RangeMax WNDR3700, or Netgear 3700 for short.

The Netgear 3700 incorporates Netgear’s new industrial design for many of its home products. It’s a great design where the LEDs are easily visible from multiple angles, and the device can stand vertically for optimal RF performance. At its core, the Netgear 3700 has a 680 MHz processor and allows for the highest performance using two SSIDs each on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz alike.

The multiple SSID setup is critical. It allows for having two separate guest networks – one on 2.4 GHz and another on 5 GHz. This router also gives priority to video traffic on 5 GHz. Speaking of video traffic, you can plug in a storage source into the USB and share it on the network, thanks to DLNA.

The performance is astounding. Gigabit Ethernet in combination with the 680 MHz processor and the latest 802.11n radio technology from Atheros means that your system’s performance bottleneck will most likely not be the Netgear 3700. Ultimately, the only weakness in the performance will be experienced as a result of range – whether in free space or through walls. Range, however, appears better than any other WiFi router I have tested. I was getting coverage close to 100 yards down the road, with the router inside my home. With WiFi this powerful, it makes you wonder why service operators aren’t going with this technology to build proper operator networks.

The only weakness of the device that I found, is that you can’t plug in your WiMax USB modem as your Internet source. With Clearwire now available in 28 markets nationwide, and some 100 markets targeted for the end 2010, this will soon become the primary Internet source for millions of Americans. They would all benefit from a combination of the Netgear 3700 and Clearwire’s low-latency, high-bandwidth, access network. Hopefully this will be addressed in a software upgrade to the Netgear 3700 soon.

I have been on the Netgear case since June 1999 and I have tested numerous WiFi products over the years. While the Netgear 3700 obviously can’t compete with the Sierra Wireless Overdrive 3G/4G for what it accomplishes in a mobile environment, for a home or business WiFi router, nothing on the market right now matches the Netgear 3700 either in terms or features or in terms of performance.

The price of the Netgear 3700 is anywhere from $150 and $190 depending on where you buy it. While you can save 70% of that kind of price by buying a cheaper home WiFi router, I believe the Netgear 3700 is well worth the one-time premium payment. I give it my second highest recommendation (a 9 out of a 10), with the one caveat that adding WiMax support would make it completely unbeatable. All products like these need to ensure compatibility with Clearwire, and WiMax in general.