NetGear WNHDEB111 HD Gaming Wireless N Networking Kit review: NetGear WNHDEB111 HD Gaming Wireless N Networking Kit
Editors' note: As the NetGear WNHDEB111 HD Gaming Wireless N Networking Kit is a gaming networking accessory, we didn't put it through the same testing process we use for wireless routers.
While home wireless products continue to invade the marketplace, the demand for high-speed wireless performance increases. At this point, standard 802.11n (also known as Wireless-N) routers might not cut it anymore, especially in the world of HD video streaming and online gaming.
This is because most of these devices use the 2.4GHz frequency that's shared with the legacy 802.11b/g routers as well as with other home devices such as Bluetooth headsets, printers, and cordless phones. With the proliferation of wireless devices, the 2.4GHz band is cluttered and networking gear may suffer speed degradation because of signal interference.
While the interference depends on the area you are in and the number of devices present, moving network gear to the less-occupied 5GHz band is a sure way to gain better performance for HD video streaming. This is where the $100 Netgear HD/Gaming Wireless-N Networking Kit comes into play. The kit lets you quickly add the 5GHz Wireless-N capability to your existing router and even lets you bridge your wireless connection to two Ethernet-ready devices..
First, we should point out that the kit is not for everyone. For most applications where high-speed wireless performance is a necessity, a standard Wireless-N router may suffice. However, who need a system that can bridge or repeat a Wireless-N connection to wired networking devices, especially for HD video streaming and online gaming purposes, should consider the Netgear Kit.
The Netgear kit comes with two identical 5GHz Wireless-N units (model WNHDEB111 HD), their respective power supplies, a setup disc, and two five-foot Ethernet cables. Each unit can serve as an access point or a wireless bridge--there's a switch on the back that changes the role of the device. In access point mode, the unit broadcasts wireless signal and lets other devices connect to the network; however, while in bridge mode, it transmits a data signal only to the devices connected via the Ethernet ports on the second device. Unless you already have a 5GHz Wireless-N router, such as the Netgear WNDR3700 or the Linksys WRT610N , one of the units must be used in the AP mode before the second one can be used in the bridge mode. If you already have a 5GHz Wireless-N router, you can use both of the units as bridges.
To use a unit in access point mode, you'll attach an existing router to the device, flip the corresponding switch on the unit to "AP" and have a 5GHz Wireless-N network. If you want to customize your setup, such as change the name of the network or setup encryption, you can use Netgear's software to access the device's internal configuration Web page. We found this similar to other Netgear routers, which are self-explanatory and easy to use.
Each unit comes with a stand that lets it to stand vertically, reducing its footprint. This is nice as they are quite bulky, about the size of a regular Netgear RangeMax router. On the front of each unit is a Wi-Fi Protected Setup button for setting up home Wi-Fi security. Wi-Fi Protected Setup is a fast way to connect wireless device and spare you from manually typing the encryption key.
In our tests with using one unit as an access point, we were happy to see a big jump in speed compared with that of 2.4GHz wireless routers. Note that other than the devices connected to the bridge unit of the kit, your existing wireless clients must support the 5GHz band to benefit from the newly added 5GHz signal.
In testing the Wireless-N Networking Kit as a bridge, we were again impressed with how convenient such a setup can be especially if you're a fan of HD video streaming. For example, we used our WD TV Live and compared the streaming quality with a standard 2.4GHz Wireless-N connection from our source computer with that of the quality when using the Wireless-N bridge. The difference in picture quality was immediately noticeable. Not only did our streaming begin quicker, but also the feed was much more reliable than with our standard 2.4GHz Wireless-N connection. We should note that all of this was accomplished with a wireless bridge that covered two floors in an apartment complex. When we pushed the device to three floors, there was a significant loss in quality.
It was more of the same when we attached our network storage drive to the wireless bridge--our WD TV Live accessed files quicker and streamed our HD content very well. When we switched over to wireless online gaming (through one floor), we could not detect a difference between our Xbox 360 experience with the bridge and if it was hardwired via Ethernet to a router.
Generally, it's recommended that you keep the bridge within 70 feet from the access point to get the best results.
Overall, we're happy with the performance of the Wireless-N networking devices, though we wish we could have more than just two Ethernet ports in back (you can add a hub if you want more ports). As we mentioned, the kit is not for everyone, but those who'd probably take advantage of such hardware would most likely need the additional ports.
If you want to bring a fast wireless signal to your HD media streamer or game consoles, you'll like the Netgear Wireless-N Kit. We enjoyed the performance we got without having to run Ethernet cables to gain it.