The hype surrounding the 802.11n high-speed wireless specification has triggered a deluge of compliant products with every vendor that’s anyone rushing to hit the market. We all know by now the status of this specification as in May the first working draft failed to achieve the required 75 per cent of votes to make it to the final draft stage. However, even though it’s a risky business producing products that may have no future, no vendor wants to get caught napping. We’ve seen Buffalo’s Nfiniti and D-Link’s DIR-635 draft-n routers and PC Cards and it’s now Netgear’s turn to step up and be counted.
The DG834N router certainly makes its mark physically as it is an almighty great slab of plastic with more than a hint of Apple-like design to its shiny white casing. The reason for its size is the multiple aerials needed for MIMO operations are hidden inside and the router has two groups of three fitted. It incorporates the standard quad of Fast Ethernet switched ports and combines these with an integral ADSL2/2+ modem. It comes with a small plastic stand and Netgear insists that it must not be left on its side. Presumably, this is to ensure air flow through the unit is unobstructed as there are vents at each end, although after running it for a week it stayed remarkably cool. Gone is the silly blue plastic dome and circulating lights of its predecessors to be replaced by a simple LED display at the front.
Before we take a closer look you should know that Netgear also has another version of this router that supports Gigabit Ethernet. Costing around £180 inc. VAT, the WNR854T comes with five Gigabit Ethernet ports but does not include an integral ADSL modem. There’s good reason to consider this as the Fast Ethernet ports on the current crop of draft-n routers could cause a bottleneck for data transfers between users on the LAN and WLAN if the quoted wireless speeds are to be believed.
And so to the DG834N - Netgear’s installation is a little more interesting than most as you run its SmartWizard routine from the supplied CD-ROM. This guides you gently through the physical installation of the router and then hunts it down on the network and attempts to identify the type of ADSL connection. It did a fine job for us as it discovered that PPPoA was in use and simply asked for our BT Broadband user credentials. Its last task is to sort out wireless access and security and then you’re up and running and all in a couple of minutes. It also drops a quick access icon on the desktop to make things easy.