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Netgear RangeMax MIMO wireless router

Does it live up to the hype?

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Inevitably, the burning question is whether the WPN824 delivers on Netgear's claims for speed and coverage. We used a 1.6GHz Fujitsu Siemens notebook running Windows XP SP2 and fitted with Netgear's RangeMax WPN511 wireless PC Card. With a line of sight connection of 5m the open source Iometer reported a very respectable 43.2Mbps over an unsecured link. Moving to a secure WPA-PSK link made this drop to 34.4Mbps. These figures put Netgear's RangeMax on a par with Belkin's Pre-N products.

We were impressed with MIMO's range capabilities and found it delivered exceptional coverage in a normal home environment. Moving the test rig into an office complex with far more signal disruptors still produced some good results. Positioning the laptop some 50m away down the end of a corridor with two large fire doors in its path saw performance for an unsecured link drop by around 25 per cent. We then did a complete circuit of the first floor and found one dead spot about 60m away in a straight line although this did have a steel reinforced concrete floor, three fire doors and four other offices in the way.

Along with good performance and range the WPN824 delivers a reasonable level of features that are standard across its range of multi-function wireless routers. For Internet security you get NAT plus a standard SPI firewall that defaults to blocking all unsolicited inbound traffic. Web access restrictions are nothing special, however, as the router implements simple URL filtering so you'll have to create manually lists of sites you want to block. However, you can use a single schedule to apply blocking lists at specific times of the day or week. Email alerting to one address is supported, and a message can be automatically sent by the router if it detects an attack or a user attempts to access a banned web site. Wireless security extends to SSID masking, MAC address access lists, 64 and 128-bit WEP plus WPA encryption. For the latter, Netgear now only offers PSK (pre-shared key) encryption and has removed support for 802.11x authentication via a RADIUS server. Considering the range this router has, we would strongly recommend implementing at least one of the available security measures.

Verdict

There's no denying MIMO wireless products deliver in the performance and range stakes and Netgear's WPN824 offers a good selection of features suited to home users and small businesses alike. Of course, the downside is that to get these speeds you'll have to purchase Netgear's accompanying RangeMax PCI and PC Card products. Though this means losing the convenience of the built-in wireless that so many laptops are now equipped with, the speeds benefits of making this switch are palpable. And as with the router itself these products are available at competitive prices.

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NetGear RangeMax Smart MIMO WPN824 Wireless Router
 
Rating 90%
 
Price £85
 
More info The Netgear site

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