Like Netgear's other Draft-N products the DG834N is a white, book-sized box designed to sit upright. This makes it relatively desk-saving with a footprint of only 172mm by 39mm -- and it's also fairly lightweight at 560g.
The Netgear's lack of external antennas is striking, and this is because, unlike other competing routers, the Netgear uses internal antennas -- just like modern laptops. However, Netgear is still a MIMO design -- as per the draft-N specification. Netgear added the salient point on its Web site that internal antennas are also protected from damage and misalignment.
If you've ever seen a router you'll know that there's not much to see, but Netgear do make more of an effort than most -- and this has been the case ever since it released the first RangeMax router a few years ago.
The Netgear offers a desktop stand, and the accompanying materials suggest you don't lie this down -- it needs to be upright for maximum efficacy.
As it says on the box, the DG834N is an ADSL2+ router, with four Ethernet ports and supports ADSL speeds of up to 24Mb/s. It comes with one ADSL filter in the box, but if you have more than one outlet you'll need to purchase third-party filters as Netgear don't sell them separately.
For added peace of mind, the Netgear features a double firewall -- involving Network Address Translation (NAT) to hide PCs and files from outside users, and a Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) firewall to deny outside requests for personal information -- plus all of the various wireless encryption options such as WPA2 - PSK.
Unlike the Apple Airport Extreme, the Netgear is unable to operate in both 5GHz and 2.4 GHz mode -- it's 2.4GHz only. This undoubtedly affects its maximum throughput -- especially in areas crowded with 2.4GHz devices like cordless phones and other routers.
Installation was relatively straightforward, as the supplied software led us quite successfully through the entire process. This was unlike its stablemate, the WNR854T, which simply quit two-thirds of the way through -- leaving us to fill out the security options via the Smart Wizard configurator.
As it happens, Netgear's Web-based Smart Wizard is logically set out with a menu along the left hand side and it can get as complex or as detailed as you like. Thankfully for first-timers most of the options -- including security -- are covered during set-up, so most people won't need to use it unless they change ISPs or need to alter their security options. There is also a helpful info bar on the RHS which explains most of the terms used, though it's not context sensitive.
As an ADSL modem, the DG834N is quite good. We used the router over a period of several months on an Internode test account, and though the exchange we used was only rated at 1.5Mb/s we never had a problem with the connection. Throughputs from local sites were consistently at 155 to 160 kB/s -- which is about the maximum you can expect with this connection type. If you live close to an exchange rated at ADSL2+ speeds we'd expect you would achieve close to the maximum of 24 Mb/s with this equipment.
We set the modem up for WPA2 Personal security, and used the IXUS's Q Check application to test the wireless throughput of the router. The speeds were down on other routers we've tested recently, with scores topping out at around 21 Mb/s, but we found that even at a distance of 30 metres this number didn't change too much. We look forward to the draft 2.0 update of this device as we found that applying a version of it to its brother -- the WNR854T -- not only increased the throughput by 30 percent but increased the strength of the signal as well.
At AU$400, this is an expensive router -- especially when you consider that the street price on ADSL modems with 802.11g is around AU$120. If you already have an ADSL2+ router there is no need to upgrade to this model, but you could consider the faster WNR854T instead.