One of the most important pieces of hardware in anyone's network is probably the router, that box that sits between your devices and the modem, making sure outgoing packets leave your network quickly and incoming packets are correctly forwarded to their destination devices.
In most home networks the router will play many different roles: it will be a firewall at the edge of the network, or a wireless access point, or even media and backup storage. The router will also be the switch in many networks.
Yet, routers are sometimes the last thing many home users think about when investing in their networks. I've seen examples of people complaining about their broadband access having speeds half of those the ISP says could be achieved, only to find out their very cheap router lack the processing capacity to receive and forward the large number of packets.
In this age of Ultra Fast Broadband coming to New Zealand, it's important people realise their ISP supplied router might not be the top performer they'd expect. For example when my provider invited me to run a DOCSIS3 (cable) trial, with speeds of 100 Mbps they asked me if I had a fast enough router - even a gigabit WAN port if possible.
NETGEAR sent me their latest NETGEAR Wireless Extreme WNDRMACv2 router for review. I had quite a few routers for testing around here and almost all failed the performance test I impose to these little boxes, but the NETGEAR Wireless Extreme WNDRMACv2 router is one of the very few that passed the test with no problems.
Basically my test involves downloading 25 to 30 legal torrents (video content available from vodo.net), on a 100 Mbps connection. When you configure your torrent client to no connection limits we are talking about up to 600 or more simultaneous connections. Most routers I tested would slow down to a crawl under this condition, some completely unresponsive. The NETGEAR Wireless Extreme WNDRMACv2 passed the test.
In addition to this processing capacity, the NETGEAR Wireless Extreme WNDRMACv2 router is full of features too. For example not only its four LAN ports are gigabit capable, the WAN port is as well, great for those very fast Internet connections. Wireless comes in two 8021.11 a/b/g/n flavours (2.4GHz and 5GHz) that can be active at the same time, WPS configuration to easily pair WiFi clients and a USB port supporting external hard drives or printers.
Wireless performance seems good, even without external aerials. I had no problems connecting 802.11 b or n devices, including laptops and smartphones, even through a couple of layers of walls between the home office and our other rooms.
The external storage configuration allows you to create users and assign rights to each one depending on the network folder being offered. Data can be accessed via HTTP, FTP or SMB. Both FTP and HTTP are optionally available to access from the Internet as well.
The NETGEAR Wireless Extreme WNDRMACv2 can be used to stream digital media content (even in HD) from external storage, act as a printer server, or even as a Time Machine backup.
Users can easily find their way around to implement security, including parental controls, blocking sites based on URL or keywords, plus all the WiFi security options we would expect - such as encryption and MAC access lists. The router also supports wireless guest networks, where users can connect to the Internet but are automatically blocked from accessing other computers in the network.
Also part of its software is the Traffic Counter, a page where you can at a glance see how many megabytes were used within a period and even select actions based on a threshold you establish, including flashing a LED announcing this event, or cutting off Internet access altogether.
Under the device a label shows all the important information we need at hand: default SSDI and WiFi password, URL for configuration access, network addresses for access to shared digital content and a key to understanding each of the icons in the front panel.
All in all a very interesting device for high demand home networks with lots of traffic, and with IPv6 support a future-proof router too.