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NetComm NB9WMaxxn review: NetComm NB9WMaxxn

NetComm's NB9WMaxxn could be best described as competent, and with a built-in ATA it's reasonably priced as well. Wireless performance over mid to long distance was good, and would have been excellent all round if not for its poor Intel 5100AGN results. We hope a firmware update will be issued soon to increase the compatibility.

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Craig Simms
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Craig Simms

Special to CNET News

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.

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One thing we haven't seen a lot of among the modem/routers we've been reviewing lately has been integrated analog telephone adapters (ATAs). These allow your standard phone to become Voice over IP (VoIP) capable, and NetComm's NB9WMaxxn ADSL2+ modem/router contains one such beast, offering two phone jacks and PSTN fallback. For those not familiar, this means that when your internet is out, your phone will switch back to the normal phone line as a back up — providing you have a typical voice service in addition to VoIP.

netcomm-nb9wmaxxn_1.jpg
7.0

NetComm NB9WMaxxn

The Good

Good medium/long range 2.4GHz performance. Three-year warranty.

The Bad

Poor wireless performance with Intel 5100AGN. External antennas aren't removable.

The Bottom Line

NetComm's NB9WMaxxn could be best described as competent, and with a built-in ATA it's reasonably priced as well. Wireless performance over mid to long distance was good, and would have been excellent all round if not for its poor Intel 5100AGN results. We hope a firmware update will be issued soon to increase the compatibility.

Otherwise, the usual modem/router trappings are here, with blinky lights, a pair of sadly non-removable antennas and four 100Mb Ethernet ports.

Specs at a glance

Firmware tested D111-S310NCM-C01_R07
ADSL2+ modem Yes
Annex M Yes
3G modem No
Wireless protocols 802.11b/g/n
Highest wireless security WPA2
WDS No
Ethernet ports 4x 100Mb
USB print sharing/storage No
Accessories Ethernet cable, phone cable, CD containing quick-start guide and manual

Connections

NetComm NB9WMaxxn rear

Power jack, two phone lines, reset button, four 100Mb Ethernet ports, PSTN fallback jack, ADSL line. The lack of mechanical power button is annoying. (Credit: Craig Simms/CBS Interactive)

UI and features

The NB9WMaxxn's user interface (UI) sports a different look to the 3G15Wn, and unlike the latter the wireless configuration pages load a little more snappily. Its tree menu design down the left-hand side also makes it a little easier to navigate.

NetComm NB9WMaxxn UI

NetComm's UI on the NB9WMaxxn is easy enough to find your way around. (Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

As one would expect, on top of the usual features, the NB9WMaxxn has a page dedicated to VoIP settings, and other standout features include time of day restrictions down to the MAC level, and TR-069 management.

Performance

After analysing the spectrum with InSSIDer, an empty channel of either 1, 6 or 11 is chosen for 2.4GHz wireless testing. The router is restricted to the 20MHz band and will only allow 802.11n clients. If possible, the MCS is set to 15.

We use iperf to determine throughput, running eight streams, with a TCP window size of 1MB, and an interval of one second. The test is run for five minutes in three different locations, on two separate occasions. The locations are in the same room as the router, one floor down around spiral stairs and with concrete walls and floors, and two floors down under the same conditions.

The wireless throughput is tested using three chipsets, the Atheros AR5008X, Ralink RT2870 and Intel 5100AGN, then all results are averaged.

2.4GHz throughput (in Mbps)

  • Billion BiPAC 7800N
  • Linksys WAG320N (2.4GHz)
  • Asus DSL-N13
  • NetComm NB8WMaxxn
  • Location one (same room, no obstructions) 69.2065.9765.1756.00
  • Location two (one floor down, some obstructions) 64.6354.3753.4357.23
  • Location three (two floors down, some obstructions) 38.2335.2729.7335.7

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The NetComm doesn't put in a very strong showing with wireless at short range, but manages to do quite well at mid to long range. It should be noted that its average scores would be even better if it weren't for poor performance with the Intel 5100AGN, which consistently produced scores half of what we'd expect from 2.4GHz.

ADSL performance is simply measured by the sync speed on an Internode ADSL2+ connection to the St Leonards exchange, on Internode's very high speed profile. If the connection remains stable over a period of time, the sync speed is recorded.

ADSL2+ sync speed (in Kbps)

  • Billion BiPAC 7800N
  • Linksys WAG320N (2.4GHz)
  • Asus DSL-N13
  • NetComm NB9WMaxxn
  • Uplink 1349134213461338
  • Downlink 22,30622,57921,92121,578

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Power consumption

We measured power consumption using a Jaycar mains digital power meter. It's important to note here that due to limitations of the meter, measurements are limited to values 1W and greater, and are reported in 1W increments.

The wireless radio was turned on, and an iperf test begun for measurement, using one wireless client and one wired.

Juice Box
Transmitting 9W
Idle 7W

Nothing exciting here, the NB9WMaxxn follows the path trodden by many modem/routers before it.

Warranty

NetComm offers a three-year warranty, but only if you register online.

Conclusion

NetComm's NB9WMaxxn could be best described as competent, and with a built-in ATA it's reasonably priced as well. Wireless performance over mid to long distance was good, and would have been excellent all round if not for its poor Intel 5100AGN results. We hope a firmware update will be issued soon to increase the compatibility.

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