The Netgear WNR854T RangeMax Next Gigabit router isn't a new product, but in our recent sweep of Draft N routers, we decided to take a look this Netgear unit that provides Gigabit Ethernet wired networking along with Draft 2.0 of the 802.11n wireless standard. In labs testing, the WNR854T proved itself to be a solid performer, finishing at or near the top of our three wireless throughput tests. Given the RangeMax name, however, we expected the signal to carry farther than it did. Still, its range is no worse than what we found on other Draft N routers. For basic home networking where advanced features are not required, the $130 Netgear RangeMax WRN854T offers a winning combination of easy setup and strong performance.
Unlike most wireless routers, the WNR854T bears a unique antenna-less design. As we saw on the Netgear WNR834B RangeMax router last year, the antennas are concealed inside a rather sleek, square, plastic case. It is a simple box with an array of network ports--four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN port--on the back and corresponding status LEDs on the front. It comes with a little detachable base to position it vertically.
The RangeMax Next WNR854T features an intuitive and responsive Web interface that makes configuring your home network quick and easy. For most cable and DSL services in the U.S., the router will likely work right away once plugged in--without you having to do anything. But if you want to customize a bit, naming your networking or adding encryption, for example, the setup wizard will walk you through a few simple, self-explanatory steps. We had a named, encrypted network up and running in less than 10 minutes. The router supports all available wireless security encryption standards, including WEP, WPA, and WPA2, and has a useful set of basic networking features such as IP address reservation, hardware firewall, and parental control via the Content Filtering feature. This feature lets you block certain types of services (chat, peer-to-peer sharing, certain Web sites, and so on) as well as limit the time a particular computer can be on the Internet. While these features aren't unique, we applaud Netgear for making them accessible and easy to set up and maintain.
The WNR854T lacks more advanced networking features, however. There's no option, for example, to set up a VPN or port reservation for gaming or other special applications, which you can do with the Trendnet TEW-633GR.
Unlike many routers, the Netgear WNR854T doesn't come with a USB port. This means it doesn't offer any USB-related features such as a print server or Windows Connect Now, which enables users to transfer the wireless encrypting setup from the router to other clients via a thumbdrive. The router also doesn't support Wi-Fi Protected Setup, another technology that simplifies the process of getting clients connected, either.
With the latest firmware update (version 1.4.23NA)--included in the box and also available at Netgear's site--that makes it compatible with Wi-Fi Certified 802.11n draft 2.0 standard, the WNR854T turned in some impressive results on CNET Labs' benchmarks. On our close range throughput test, it scored as much as 85.5 Mbps, among the best we've seen. (Though it's still nowhere close to the theoretical max 300Mbps of the .11n specification, we've yet to test a router that's come even close to that figure.) On our mixed mode test, where the router was set up to work with multiple devices of different wireless standards, the score was reduced but still an impressive 67.5 Mbps. On our long-range test, at 200 feet, the router was able to sustain a 26.87Mbps, which is on par with competing routers form Asus, D-Link, and SMC. During our testing process, the Netgear worked smoothly, and we didn't experience any reset during heavy load as we did with the D-Link DGL-4500 router.
The Netgear WNR854T's range failed to impress, though that has something to do with the lofty expectations we held given its RangeMax name. Its range turned out to be only average, no better and no worse than other high-end Draft N routers, including the DGL-4500. Generally speaking, we look for a range of 300 feet for Draft N routers, and in anecdotal testing, the Netgear router started to drop its signal at around 270 feet. It's necessary to note a wireless router's range depends a lot on its environment, and our test environment is not exactly range-friendly.
Netgear backs the RangeMax WRN854T with a standard one-year warranty. The support pages on Netgear's site are somewhat elusive (you have to scroll all the way down to find the Support link) but nonetheless offers lots of support information from troubleshooting and a knowledge base to firmware/driver/manual downloads.
|Throughput at 200 feet|
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