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Netgear WPN824 Router review: Netgear WPN824 Router

The Netgear RangeMax router is among the best-performing routers we've seen.

Xiao Ming Wu
4 min read
Netgear WPN824 RangeMax router

Editor's note: Due to testing issues, we have retested this product and made the necessary changes to the performance charts. We have not changed the overall Editor's rating.


Netgear WPN824 Router

The Good

Fast throughput; long range; compact design; seven internal antennas help counteract interference from cordless phones and neighboring networks.

The Bad

Twice the price of a standard Wi-Fi router; mediocre performance when used with legacy 802.11b gear.

The Bottom Line

The Netgear RangeMax router is among the best-performing routers we've seen.

Netgear's WPN824 RangeMax router is the latest in a growing number of wireless-networking devices to feature high-performance MIMO technology. But the Netgear RangeMax router differs from other MIMO routers we've seen, such as Belkin's Pre-N router and Linksys's SRX router, because it includes a new technology from Video54 that integrates more antennas into the unit and tucks them inside the unit's case. This gives the RangeMax router a more compact design and a sleeker look than its MIMO counterparts. All things considered, we think the RangeMax router is a good value, despite its high price, and it's well worth considering for those in the market for a device with excellent range and strong resistance to interference, such as that from cordless phones or neighboring networks. Our one caveat is that it doesn't perform so well with legacy 802.11b devices. If you have older Wi-Fi gear on your network, consider Belkin's Pre-N router.

The basic setup routine for the Netgear RangeMax router is a simple and straightforward process that takes only a few minutes. A CD that ships with the unit includes a setup wizard that automatically loads when you insert the disc into your computer's optical drive, then guides you through a short series of onscreen prompts. If you're an advanced user, you can bypass the wizard and connect directly to the RangeMax's browser-based configuration tool. A handy URL that is clearly listed on the printed setup guide points your computer's browser directly to the tool.

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Although you can't see it, the RangeMax router's most interesting feature is the MIMO technology on the unit's circuit board. Whereas Belkin and Linksys have opted for Airgo's MIMO solution, Netgear is the first major networking vendor to stake its bet on a new MIMO solution developed by Video54. Airgo's solution requires three external antennas, while the Video54 solution built into the Netgear unit includes seven internal antennas built right into the unit's circuit board. The unit's seven antennas help the router counteract the negative impact of interference by reconfiguring themselves on the fly to adjust to changing environmental conditions. If the signal of one of the transceiving antennas becomes weak, the unit automatically searches for a better signal from the other antennas and adjusts accordingly. Blue LEDs on the top of the unit switch on and off, telling you which antennas are transmitting at any given moment.

The router's browser-based configuration tool includes all the basics; it is host to a number of advanced networking options, including Dynamic DNS support, which helps you set up your own Web site; DMZ assignments, useful for playing games or teleconferencing over the Internet; and URL blocking and logging, which is nice if you want to keep tabs on sites accessed from your network. Security features include an integrated firewall and MAC address filtering, as well as WEP and WPA encryption.

CNET Labs maximum throughput tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

CNET Labs maximum throughput tests with mixed 802.11b/g and MIMO clients
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

CNET Labs long-range tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

CNET Labs ran the Netgear RangeMax router through its paces, and what they found was generally positive. Running just slightly ahead of Belkin's Pre-N router, Netgear's RangeMax broadened the ranks for the fastest routers we've seen to date when transferring data at close range. The RangeMax router also performed very well in CNET Labs' range tests, delivering 36.4Mbps at 200 feet, tying with Belkin's Pre-N unit. The Labs' mixed-mode tests unearthed the router's main performance weakness: when legacy 802.11b adapters join the network, the RangeMax router takes a performance hit, falling to a maximum throughput of just 23.3Mbps.

Netgear's RangeMax router comes with a perfunctory one-year warranty, which pales in comparison to the lifetime coverage you get with Belkin's Pre-N router. Toll-free phone support is available 24/7, but it's available for only 90 days from the date of purchase. Netgear recently gave its support Web site a much-needed makeover, but the site is still more difficult to use and offers fewer resources than other sites, such as those hosted by Linksys and D-Link. A detailed FAQ and user forum for the RangeMax router would be welcome additions. The router's lengthy 174-page reference manual in PDF offers plenty of useful information but lacks important basics, such as warranty specifics and contact information.


Netgear WPN824 Router

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Support 6