Like most router manufacturers, Netgear's picked its design model for routers, and as such, any given Netgear router tends to look much like any other Netgear router. The WNDR3300 is, like other Netgear models, big, and primarily designed for vertical mounting. This does reduce its footprint somewhat, but at the cost of standing out far more than a horizontally placed router.
When the WNDR3300 is powered up, you'll be struck by the blinking lights. Not that blinking lights on routers are necessarily new per se, but aside from the status lights, Netgear's also enabled the logo in the centre of the router to flash, disco light style. Tastes vary — you'll either think it's cute if you don't have to look at it too much, or hate it if it sits on your work desk and tires your eyes out.
Windows users get an automated set-up routine — and you're instructed not to plug anything into the WNDR3300's Ethernet sockets until it's run — but Mac and Linux users just get a PDF instruction manual on the set-up CD.
We're seeing a number of devices on the market that sell themselves as dual-band wireless N, but just when you might have thought that networking companies might have worked out that simplicity sells, the birth of dual-band makes it all the more confusing.
Specifically, the WNDR3300 manages dual-band by running two access points simultaneously; you can run in full speed Wireless-N mode at 5GHz, but you're limiting yourself to 802.11g speeds for all your 2.4GHz devices. It's feasible to run the 2.4GHz network at "up to" wireless N speeds, but then you miss out on the signal clarity that 5GHz offers. Competing models are hitting the market that offer switching, simultaneous Wireless N at full speed, and in this regard the WNDR3300 compares poorly.
So what are your options? By default, the WNDR3300 operates in 270Mbps (5GHz) and 54Mbps (2.4GHz) dual-band mode, but it's also possible to run in 270Mbps (2.4GHz only), 130Mbps (2.4GHz only) or 130Mbps (5GHz) and 54Mbps (2.4GHz) dual-band.
For a router that sells itself on speed, it's a touch disappointing that Netgear hasn't opted for gigabit wired Ethernet ports. With the number of consumers opting for wired NAS, printer and even Media Centre connections, it'd be a great addition, but all you get is standard 10/100 Ethernet.