January 05, 2011, 1:55 PM — Netgear has announced a lineup of broadband routers and adapters designed primarily to facilitate high-def multimedia streaming and the ever-problematic issue of setup for nontechnical customers. Drawing on the latest Wi-Fi and HomePlug AV powerline technologies, these products exemplify the home networking industry's efforts to woo home users rather than their tradition business clientele.
For example, the Netgear N750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router (WNDR4000) -- the company's new top-of-the-line Wi-Fi offering -- promises theoretical throughput of 450 megabits per second, the highest yet for a Wi-Fi router (although other firms are also announcing 450 mbps routers). The N750 surpasses the also-announced N600 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router Premium Edition (WNDR3800), which tops out at a theoretical maximum of 300 mbps.
But the WNDR3800 is itself a refresh of the company's previous dual-band champ, the WNDR3700. The difference? The WNDR3800 boasts a few new consumer-focused features such as technology for streaming media remotely from an attached USB drive, all-in one printer support, and a new "Genie" interface intended to help nontechnical users (all available in the WNDR4000 as well). These dual-band routers all support simultaneous 2.4ghz and 5ghz 802.11n networks: The former will work with legacy 802.11b/g/n devices -- in other words, most notebooks older than a year or two as well as most Wi-Fi enabled handhelds.
The 5ghz network, however, can be highly useful in crowded environments since it has more non-overlapping channels and therefore is less subject to interference from neighboring networks. However it can only work with Wi-Fi adapters that also support 5ghz operations (namely, any 802.11a adapter or other 802.11n/5ghz gear). Rounding out Netgear's N600 line is a similar router with a built-in ADSL modem, the DGND3700.
If your Wi-Fi router isn't providing the coverage you need, you can beef it up with the Netgear Universal Wi-Fi Range Extender (WN3000RP). Range extenders aren't new, but Netgear's is at least small and compact. You plug it into an electrical outlet that's within your router's range of coverage (but probably toward the outer edge of it), and it boosts the signal. The WN3000RP also has an Ethernet port that allows it to function as a bridge for connecting network devices that don't support Wi-Fi: Simply plug an Ethernet cable into the WN3000RP at one end, and the device's Ethernet port at the other; then plug the WN3000RP into an outlet.