Wireless networking at 10/100 speeds, with range to match.
It's long been known that advertised data transfer rates of 54Mb/s for 802.11g and 120Mb/s are only attainable in non-real-world laboratory conditions. But even with this in mind, a jump from 120Mb/s to 240Mb/s caught our eye.
Netgear's Rangemax 240 looks smart enough to grace the most stylish home (unlike Belkin's utilitarian stylings) and thankfully isn't infested with multitudinous blinking lights like previous Netgear models. It's worth labouring that there's no ADSL modem, so you'll need to attach one via the Ethernet WAN port.
It has all the standard security features we expect these days, like NAT routing, a hardware firewall, WEP and WPA. Corporates will also appreciate WPA2 and parents will like the keyword blocking. Setting up via the web interface is simple thanks to the layout and side-bar help instructions. There's a wizard to take you through connecting to the Internet and the manual options are easily accessible.
It's worth flicking through these, not just to add WPA (simple password protection at a negligible performance hit) to just hit the 'Auto' button when choosing a channel. Our model started off on the same channel as a neighbouring network which hamstrung performance.
We torture-tested it alongside our previously A-Listed Belkin MIMO router in an environment busy with other wireless networks, by transferring 100MB of small files next to the router, then 25m away, and finally at an extreme distance 50m away at the end of the garden. We tested with WPA, using PC card adapters (Netgear's costs $159) and using the standard 802.11g connection in an Acer TravelMate notebook.
Up close the Netgear managed 16Mb/s which was significantly faster than the Belkin. This dropped to 9.7Mb/s when at the other end of the house but dropped noticeably to 2.5Mb/s when at the end of the garden - part of MIMO's speed comes from bouncing multiple signals off walls and in the garden such acceleration doesn't exist.
The Belkin fared well up until 50m away when the supplied adapter was only capable of web browsing. However, it maintained a standard 802.11g connection better at this range, managing 2.3Mb/s. At this range the Netgear 240 managed 2.5Mb/s with the adapter and 2.9Mb/s under straight 802.11g giving a clear edge to the new contender at extreme range.
While we did register slightly faster speeds with previous models from Netgear and Linksys (April 2006, page 48) these suffered less interference. You theoretically could transfer DVDs wirelessly using the 240 but only if there are no neighbouring networks.
240Mb/s should match 10/100 Ethernet but this managed 26Mb/s. For now, though, we're happy that this is the fastest wireless router with the best range you can buy and the premium is minor. The only caveat is that 802.11n-ready routers will appear in the next few months and it'll be worth buying into the new 802.11g-succeeding standard.
This Review appeared in the July, 2006 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
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