NetGear WNDR3300 RangeMax Dual Band Wireless-N Router
The Netgear RangeMax Dual Band Wireless-N Router WNDR3300 features a rather misleading name. The router doesn't support true dual-band wireless-N, nor does it offer very good range. It's a basic router with two separate access points (AP), one of which supports Wireless-N and can operate in either 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequencies--similar to the D-Link DGL-4500--while the other is a regular 802.11G 2.4GHz-only AP. The result is that when in dual-band mode the router is able to offer Wireless-N only in the 5Ghz frequency, while the 2.4Ghz frequency is maxed out at the 802.11G speed. Still, if you have a growing stable of 5Ghz-based devices and want a router that supports both frequencies, the WNDR3300 is the cheapest router on the market (at about $100) that will suit your needs.
While its max throughput is relatively low, the router offered very consistent and considerably high throughput speeds on both our mixed-mode and long-range throughput tests. Unfortunately, its range is possibly the shortest among Wireless-N routers. If range is not important to you and your network primarily consists of 5GHz-based clients, the WNDR330 is a good bet. Otherwise, for the same price, we'd recommend the 2.4GHz-only Linksys WRT310N; or you can pay $50 more for the true dual-band Linksys WRT610n.
Design and setup
The Netgear RangeMax Dual Band Wireless-N Router WNDR3300 looks like others in Netgear's RangeMax series, with the sleek casing (that attracts fingerprints very easily) and the big, round, blue-glowing button on top. The button also activates the router's Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) feature, which instigates a short window of time wherein other WPS-compliant clients can enter the network without having to manually enter the encryption code. We like the blue light emitted from the button, but also found it a little too bright for certain locations, such as your bedroom, or beneath a television if you want to watch a film in a darkened room. In this case, you might want to cover it with a piece of black duck tape, as you cannot turn it off.
The best design feature of the router is its internal antenna, which helps make the router compact, though not as compact as the design of the latest Linksys routers, such as the WRT110. The WNDR3300 can also work in a vertical position and comes equipped with a base for just this purpose. It is, however, not wall-mountable.
The WNDR3300 is very easy to set up. The router comes with a software application that walks you through the setup process step by step, from setting up the hardware to creating the wireless network. Unlike the desktop application of the D-Link DIR-855, the WNDR3300's works well even if your computer has more than one network connection. If this is so, it prompts you to pick the one that's currently connected to the router; and if you pick the wrong one, you can go back and pick another.
The WNDR3300 is the first router Netgear has sent us that supports both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies simultaneously. This is a significant move, because traditionally most routers (both Wireless-G and Draft N) were made to operate in the 2.4GHz frequency. With the proliferation of wireless networking in the last couple of years, the chances are that if you live in a city the 2.4GHz spectrum is saturated with signals from multiple routers. On top of that, other home electronics, such as cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, and so on, also use this frequency to transmit their radio signal. Moving to 5GHz means the router works in a cleaner spectrum and, therefore, potentially offers better wireless performance. At the same time, router manufacturers don't want to completely shut out all of the existing 2.4GHz-based wireless clients because there are just so darn many of them. This is where dual-band wireless routers, like the WNDR3300 and a few others, come in to play.
Unfortunately, unlike the D-Link DIR-855 or the Linksys WRT610n, to our disappointment, the Netgear WNDR3300 doesn't offer true dual-band Draft N 2.0. It offers Wireless-N in the 5GHz frequency and it offers Wireless-G in the 2.4GHz frequency, which means that only 5GHz-based clients can take advantage of the high Wireless-N throughput (up to 270Mps), while the 2.4GHz-based clients are maxed out at the sluggish Wireless-G speed (up to 54Mps).
The WNDR3300 also has a few other shortcomings, including the lack of Gigabit and USB support. As a result, wired throughput maxes out at 100Mbps, and it won't work as a print server or offer a network storage feature.
On the brighter side, however, the router does offer Wi-Fi-Protected Setup, and its Web interface is very well-organized and intuitive. You can use this interface to configure the router's useful settings. For example, Content Filtering lets you block certain Web sites or services, while more advanced networking settings allow you to assign a fixed IP address to a computer in the network and forward certain services to it. This will come in handy if you want to set up a computer within the network to be an FTP or Web server.
The Netgear RangeMax Dual Band Wireless-N Router WNDR3300 offered mixed performance in our testing. We tested the router in dual-band mode, where the router operated in both frequencies at the same time.
On CNET Labs' max throughput test, the WND3300 disappointed us by coming in as the slowest amongst the 5GHz routers we've tested. At 57.2Mps, the router was almost half the speed of the D-Link DIR-855. Note that the DIR-855 was also tested in dual-mode and it was supporting Draft N 2.0 performance in both frequencies.
On the other hand, the WNDR3300's scores on our mixed-mode and long-range tests were much better at 52.7Mbps and 51Mbps, respectively. These scores were the second and the third best for each test on our charts for routers we've tested this year.
The WNDR3300's range was short. In our tests, the router could barely offer a stable connection at more than 200 feet. Further than 230 feet, there was no signal at all. This is a bad range for a Wireless-N router. Most other Wireless-N routers can easily offer range up to 270 feet or more.
Service and support
Netgear ships the RangeMax Dual Band Wireless-N Router WNDR3300 with a limited, one-year warranty, which is common for routers these days. The support pages on Netgear's Web site are somewhat elusive (you have to click through many layers of links to get to where you want), but nonetheless offers lots of support information, such as troubleshooting and manual downloads.