The web interface is common to all Netgear routers and it provides the standard mix of SPI firewall and NAT protection. The former can be customised by adding your own firewall rules to handle specific services. Port forwarding inbound traffic to specific servers is supported so you can select from nearly forty predefined services, provide the server’s IP address and add either a single IP address or a range to define WAN users that are allowed access. Web access restrictions are nothing special as the router implements simple URL filtering so you’ll have to create lists of sites you want to block.
For wireless security, Netgear only supports WPA and WPA2 encryption when using the higher speeds but you also get SSID masking and MAC address access controls. Setting up an encrypted link with a WN511B draft-n PC Card is nicely automated as you scan the network, pick an access point and enter your credentials using Netgear’s connection wizard.
Testing the router in our standard residential environment produced some interesting performance results. Installing Netgear’s WN511B PC Card in a 1.6GHz Fujitsu Siemens notebook running Windows XP SP2 we used the open source Iometer utility to measure read performance with a Supermicro Pentium D 3.2GHz PC on the LAN. With no encryption over a two metre line of sight connection it reported an average raw read throughput of 67Mbit/sec – marginally faster than the D-Link draft-n products. We then activated the WPA2 encryption options and saw Iometer return a healthy 56Mbit/sec – also faster than the D-Link and Buffalo routers. For real world performance a 691MB video file was copied from the laptop over a close range open link to the PC in 97 seconds for an average speed of 56Mbit/sec and with WPA2 in action this only dropped down to 53Mbit/sec. Moving the laptop to the floor below and placing two brick walls in the way slowed Netgear down but not by as much as the competition with an open link delivering a more impressive 41Mbit/sec.
So far Netgear is the best of the draft-n bunch for performance as this sleek white slab delivers better speeds over close range and at distance although it’s still well short of draft-n claims. It’s not as well featured as D-Link’s DIR-635 but if you are going to risk the lack of guarantees of forward compatibility then the DG834N should be at the top of your shopping list if speed is a priority.