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.
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.
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.
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?
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?