Netgear N900 Dual Gigabit Wireless Router - Performance & Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly
Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

8/10

User Score

Review Price £130.00

The Netgear WNDR4500's Genie also gets kudos for its Genie mobile app (currently available on iOS and Android) which allows you to configure and block devices, view all hardware attached to your network and stream media from all DNLA compatible devices. It is definitely a class leader.

Netgear N900 WNDR4500 Dual Gigabit Wireless Router app

For all the plaudits we'd like to throw at Genie, the simple fact is it comes with all modern Netgear routers so the N900 has to earn its own praise. Primarily this comes through performance and taken on pure numbers it does a good job.

At two metres the N900 managed to hit speeds of 8.5MB (68Mbps) and 9.1MB (72.8Mbps) per second when transferring a 3GB file using 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands respectively. This dropped to 4.5MB (36Mbps) and 5.2MB (41.6Mbps) per second at 10 metres line of sight, but then held remarkably steady at the same distance with two solid walls between it with 2.4GHz and 5GHz at 3.5MB (28Mbps) and 4.1MB (32.8Mbps) per second.

1

All these speeds are enough to reliably stream HD content and head and shoulders above every router we have tested with the notable exception of the D-Link DIR-645 SmartBeam. In the same test area it managed 10.3MB (82.4Mbit) per second at two metres, a speed it maintained at 10 metres line of sight and dropped to 5.51MB (44.88Mbit) per second at 10 metres with the same two walls obstructing it. This creates a problem for the N900 as the DIR-645 achieves this using the supposedly 2.4GHz band (it is a single band router) and retails for just £79.99.

Against this is the fact dual band will be invaluable for busy tech savvy households and we found the N900 could maintain these performance figures with both bands transferring data simultaneously. This makes multiple HD network streams a viable proposition as long as your NAS or Internet connection can keep up.

Netgear WNDR4500 2

So should you buy a Netgear N900? The biggest problem is price and expectation. Online retailers commonly list the N900 in the £120 to £140 range which is a significant premium over the even faster D-Link DIR-645 SmartBeam, but it does offer dual band. As for expectation, if all you want to do you reliably stream HD video around your house the N900 works brilliantly - even if it is massive.

If you raise expectations a little higher, however, you come to the question of the imminently available 802.11ac. Indications are they will be little more expensive than premium 802.11n routers (which the N900 certainly is), but they require bulky and pricey (circa £30) USB dongles for each computer and smartphones and tablets are unlikely to be compatible for some time. Then again who wouldn't want to future proof?

Verdict

The Netgear WNDR4500 N900 Dual Gigabit router is a good product launched at a bad time. It is notably bulky, but performs well – especially simultaneously over two bands – and has excellent range. Against this the cheaper, single band D-Link DIR-645 SmartBeam beats it in raw performance and 802.11ac equipment is just weeks away. Who wouldn't wait for that?

Scores In Detail

Build Quality
7/10
Design
7/10
Features
9/10
Performance
8/10
Usability
9/10
Value
7/10

Our Score

8/10

User Score

Previous page

AJ

May 21, 2012, 3:15 pm

I have been looking at this router so found the review very interesting - I would be using it to replace the BT HH3 that came with my Infinity Package.

Could you tell me what is required to utilise the Dual-Band though ? Will our work laptops, iPhone, iPad2/3, etc devices that are N capable automatically make best use of this capability, or is something extra needed ?

gagagaga

May 21, 2012, 5:18 pm

Iphones are single band, most budget laptops are too. Increasingly, devices are dual band -ipad, many recent/premium android phone (Galaxy Note etc) and quality laptops.

I've got a HP Elitebook with the top end 450mbps Intel wifi (6300 ultimate iirc). My connection maxes out at 35MB/s when copying big files over 5GHz ... 35 megabytes actual throughput (so 280 mbps) this is when connected at 450mbps.

Note a lot of the dual-band kit is still only dual antenna (mid range gear, typically) so is limited to 300mbps whether on 2.4 or 5GHz. If that's your laptop, you might as well go for the older, cheaper 300mbps kit.

The other thing to remember is the range for 5GHz is smaller than 2.4 ... 5GHz is great is you live in a block of flats / centre of a big city and need to avoid interference, other wise i'd stick to the cheaper 2.4GHz stuff.

Mike B

May 21, 2012, 5:28 pm

For the same price as this you can get an Apple AirPort Extreme with similar specifications but far more reliable! Also very easy to extend the coverage by adding additional units.

AJ

May 21, 2012, 6:46 pm

Thanks. That helps. I suspect therefore that only my iPad would benefit from the dual-band.

AJ

May 21, 2012, 6:47 pm

Why is the Apple device more reliable than this top of the range NetGear router ? Wouldn't be because it has a fruit on it by any chance ?

Pbryanw

May 21, 2012, 7:29 pm

I think I'll wait for ac devices: throughput of over a Gigabit (in theory), along with beamforming technology (which I hope is similar to that used in the D-Link Smartbeam) make it very attractive to me.

As it currently stands I don't think any of the new routers (even the Asus RT-N66U) will improve on the speed I currently get from homeplugs. I'm just concerned about whether these early ac routers are ok to buy as the specification isn't finalised yet. And also whether their wireless-N speeds will be as good as the current crop of routers.

Bugblatter

May 22, 2012, 12:28 pm

The Asus RT-N66U is the router I've heard the most buzz about. It uses beam-forming, is dual-band and reportedly has excellent throughput even over distance.

My top-of-the-range Transformer Prime is 2.4GHz only; can't say I was impressed about that. Having said that, since it had a radio-signal-killing back I doubt a 5GHz signal would make it very far.

I'm hoping the Galaxy S3 has 5GHz; the 2.4GHz range is pretty crowded around here.

AJ

May 22, 2012, 3:17 pm

I'm adding this to the watch list I think. Although I won't get much extra from the dual band just yet it does have gigabit ports that I need and might be more reliable than the BT Homehub I have.

Can't see any point in AC for a long time as I'm not interesting in buying dongles and it's built into nothing I use.

Mike B

May 22, 2012, 7:17 pm

Take a look at any of the support forums for Netgear or Belkin and you will find many users with problems that have not been resolved by continuous firmware updates. The Apple Airport devices are very reliable, never needed a re-boot and perform well in speed and range tests.

In the past I have had various problems with different brands of router but since I switched to Apple in 2008 have had not one issue!

Mike B

May 22, 2012, 7:20 pm

Dual band is useful when you have older 2.4 devices that can't use N as they will slow the band down to the lowest speed they can manage.

With true dual band the devices that can operate faster are not slowed down. Essential in my opinion where you have a range of devices to support.

Bry

May 25, 2012, 11:15 pm

Nice speed test screenshot there, especially filename
Chronicle 720p x264 macgu...

That wouldn't be Macguffin one of the main sources of bluray rips available on torrents? naughty to publicize this on a review site such as this....

ItSpecialist

September 16, 2012, 8:01 am

I bought this router in February 2012. Initially I was very impressed. The speed is very good. However, I feel it somehow restricts the bandwidth to a max 11mbs download speed. Although the speed test shows otherwise. Anyhow satisfied with the speed.
However, there is a major problem with the USB connectivity. To connect a printer you need to install the netgear printing software and the printer driver separately. That is still ok, but the printing works sometimes and sometimes it doesn't, for no reason. When contacted netgear, they flatly refused to help saying that the printer is a third party hardware and they can't do anything. Next the external hard drive. While copying files onto the disk, the internet slows down almost to a standstill. Also the files that are copied sometimes just disappear. I thought there was probably was a virus. I formatted the disk and copied files again, same story. Infact most of the times the after 80% of the file is copied there is an error, "this file already exsists".
Again netgear refused to help.
Initially when I was so impressed by it, I recommended to several people. Two of them had a problem within 15 days. Netgear agreed that the router was defective and that they would replace it, but THEY WOULD CHARGE FOR SHIPPING BOTH WAYS. After getting this kind of service I recommend not to buy any Netgear products.

usualstuff

November 22, 2012, 6:40 am

as written above -currently one of the worst companies to deal with - make asus look good. save yourself time and money - avoid reviews on netgear cause any company that breaks warranty as totally as they do is unfit to do business with. Routers need support.

Cinzano

January 28, 2013, 8:26 pm

Good review, good inside photos,... oh, wait...

Adrian Farrugia

September 23, 2013, 9:23 am

can this access point handle 30 con current connections of people browsing and accessing other devices on the network?

Alain

February 6, 2014, 7:50 am

What is the best DSL modem to use with the Netgear N900 WNDR4500

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