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Netgear WNDR4500 N900 Dual Gigabit Wireless Router review

Gordon Kelly

By

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

Pros

  • Excellent simultaneous dual band performance
  • Class leading range, notably at 5GHz
  • Two USB ports

Cons

  • Pricing on the premium side
  • 802.11n a poor investment with 802.ac imminent

Key Features

  • 2.4GHz & 5GHz simultaneous dual bands
  • Four Gigabit Ethernet Ports
  • Two USB ports
  • Netgear Genie mobile app support
  • Six antennas
  • Manufacturer: Netgear
  • Review Price: £130.00

It seems there is never a good time to buy a new piece of technology, but never has this been truer than with routers in mid-May 2012. For those not in the know late May will see the launch of a new wireless standard, 802.11ac, capable of speeds surpassing a gigabit so anything launching with humdrum 802.11n needs to be exceptional. Netgear thinks it has one such product.

With the long winded 'WNDR4500 N900 Dual Band Ethernet router' Netgear is throwing the kitchen sink at your home network. As the name suggests, the highlight is the N900's dual 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands each of which is capable of theoretical speeds up to 450Mbit and can run simultaneously (hence the '900' reference). To achieve this Netgear has fitted the N900 with two radios and boasts improved range thanks to no less than six antennas.

Netgear WNDR4500 1

On top of this Netgear has unusually equipped the N900 with two USB ports: one for a printer, the other for networking storage from a memory key or external hard drive. There are also four Gigabit Ethernet ports, push button WPS Wi-Fi security and individual power and Wi-Fi off power buttons (the latter to cater for the wired-only crowd. What is missing is DSL as the N900 is a cable only and connects to a dedicated modem.

Ultimately however this is feature heavy and it is reflected in the N900's size. To put it bluntly, the router is huge. At 258 x 172.5 x 81 mm it has a footprint as large as an 11in laptop and at 680g it is as heavy as an iPad. This isn't the last of it either since the N900 takes a trip down memory lane requiring a hefty external power brick (though having the power supply mid-cable rather than on the plug does have its advantages). Despite all this the N900 is a good looking router with an admittedly fingerprint catching piano black finish and a clear stand which gives the impression it is hovering in the air. Surprisingly, given this bulk, the stand is fixed so the N900 sits upright only – arguably not the wisest choice.

Netgear WNDR4500

Routers aren’t usually so eventful in appearance, but thankfully the N900 is far less polarising when it comes to getting up and running. Netgear deserves a great deal of credit for its 'genie' setup software, which has dropped the usual text heavy screens and endless menus of most router software in favour of an icon driven user interface and smart connection wizard which hand holds you through the simple process of plugging in cables and getting your devices online. This includes the ability to set Parental Controls to restrict content to specific network devices and 'Guest Network', which can assign temporary internet access.

Netgear N900 Dual Gigabit Wireless Router6

Those who like to tinker more deeply will also find DLNA compatibility, QoS settings, dynamic DNS support and more. One curiosity is Netgear's decision to restrict the N900's 2.4GHz band to 217MBit by default rather than 450Mbit. This is deemed friendlier to neighbouring signals, but it means you'll need to make an adjustment if the N900 is to live up to its name. Happily, Genie makes this a breeze.

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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