When we looked at Netgear’s DG834N wireless router we alluded to a Gigabit Ethernet equipped version that this vendor had in the pipeline. Now, we’ve finally got our hands on one. Even better is the fact that it can be had for around half the price we had originally expected. With draft 802.11n in the mix it makes absolute sense to equip these routers with high speed LAN ports as the standard Fast Ethernet variety could cause a bottleneck. Most vendors claim a top wireless speed of 300Mbps which we all know by now is total codswallop but even if it weren’t it would be impossible to achieve these speeds between WLAN and LAN systems if the router only has 100Mbps Fast Ethernet ports.
The WNR854T uses the same slab-sided white chassis as the DG834N and for good reason as the multiple aerials needed for MIMO operations are all hidden inside. At the rear you have a quartet of switched Gigabit Ethernet ports and a separate RJ-45 WAN port, which incidentally is also Gigabit, so you’ll be needing a separate ADSL or cable modem with an Ethernet port. We tested with our trusty Actiontec intelligent ADSL modem and also with the WAN port linked to a network gateway and encountered no problems.
Installation kicks off by running the CD-ROM based setup utility, which helps you connect the router and checks your Internet connection is working. If, like us, your modem is already configured with an ISP account and running a DHCP server then there’s virtually nothing to do except plug everything together as instructed. If the setup utility is happy with everything, it transports you directly to the router’s main web interface and leaves you alone to play.
Before we dive into the guts of the router we would strongly recommend that you check its firmware version and upgrade to the latest. We received an early sample of this router and the older firmware version only allowed wireless clients to connect at 54Mbps over a single channel. Once the update was applied we were seeing our laptop’s PC Card utility registering a dual-channel, 300Mbps link. Usefully, the web interface has an option to automatically check for the latest version and download it for you.
For general features you get pretty much the same as those offered by the DG834N with a NAT/SPI firewall at the top of the list. You can add custom firewall and port forwarding rules for handling particular services and for the latter there’s a few services already defined.