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Netgear N600 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router (WNDR3800)

3 Stars
Netgear WNDR3800

The Netgear N600 WNDR3800 is a dual-band, gigabit wireless router that adds a strong set of new features to the critically-acclaimed WNDR3700. The “premium” in the description, refers to ReadyShare Print, ReadyShare Cloud, ClearChannel selector, dedicated video mode, Time Machine compatibility, and extended TiVo storage capability. I tested the WNDR3800 to see if the premium features were worth the upgrade from the WNDR3700.

PROS

  • Dual-band support (2.4GHz & 5GHz)
  • Easy setup
  • Simple interface
  • Good throughput and range

CONS

  • Connection problems with Android devices
  • Only one USB port
  • Time Machine function not supported in Lion (Mac OS 10.7)

Included in the box of the WNDR3800 is a yellow Ethernet cable, power adapter, a stand, and the router.

WNDR3800 box

DESIGN
The WNDR3800 is an average-sized router which can be placed horizontally or vertically, with the included stand. The glossy plastic looks sharp when clean, but it attracts a lot of dust. The front of the router has the usual array of indicator lights for ports, wireless bands and power. It also has a button to turn off Wi-Fi and a WPS button to use with devices that support WPS.

WNDR3800 front

The back of the WNDR3800 has four gigabit Ethernet ports, a WAN port, power switch, power plug, and a single USB 2.0 port.

WNDR3800 back

The dimensions of the router are exactly the same as the WNDR3700. They look nearly identical except for the red front plate. Netgear also placed the stand on the opposite side of the router so that when you’re trying to read it, you have to tilt your head to the right.

Netgear WNDR3800 vertical

At the bottom of the router, you’ll find a pinhole reset switch and the default SSID and network password/key.

WNDR3800 bottom

SETUP
Initial setup of the WNDR3800 is very easy. Once you have a wired computer connected to one of its gigabit ports, your default browser will display the network names for both bands and the wireless key. You then have the choice to register the router with the serial number pre-filled. At that point, the Netgear Genie application automatically downloads. You can elect to use the easy-to-use software application, or just use the web interface to customize your router settings. The web interface is fairly intuitive and separates regular and advanced settings by tabs.

WNDR3800 GUI

After logging in to the router’s web interface, I got a message that a new version of the firmware was available, so I updated it right away (v1.0.0.38).

FEATURES
The extra features set the WNDR3800 apart from the non-premium, WNDR3700. Being able to use the USB 2.0 port as a way to share your printer, access files from anywhere, perform Time Machine backups (for Macs), and TiVo support, are nice features, if you can take advantage of them.

The TiVo support is limited to accessing media on connected USB drives. You can view JPGs, listen to MP3s, and watch mpeg1/mpeg2 videos. The description is a little confusing, as it sounds like you can somehow use a USB drive connected to the WNDR3800 as a way to extend TiVo storage (i.e. recording capacity).

ReadySHARE Cloud is a cool service that turns the WNDR3800 and a connected USB drive into a personal cloud storage device. You first sign up for a free account on Netgear’s ReadyShare site, then register your router. You can then access and share your files via the ReadySHARE site. You can also download software to enable VPN-like access to your files via your operating system. The account and service has been free up to now, but starting in January of 2013, Netgear will begin charging a fee. Netgear has hinted that the fee might be $5, but it’s unclear whether it’s a one-time fee, monthly, or annually. Of course, if you only need to access the files from within your own network, setting up the drive for ReadySHARE Access is pretty much just plug and play.

For Mac Users, having a networked Time Machine backup drive is a great way to keep one or more Macs backed up. The WNDR3800 supports Time Machine backups, but it doesn’t support Lion (Mac OS 10.7). That’s a pretty significant drawback for what otherwise is a great feature.

PERFORMANCE
I tested performance in and around my home, which I believe more closely resembles a typical environment, rather than a sterile lab environment sans interference. Network throughput at 15, 30, and 50 feet, were pretty good on both bands, though not nearly as solid as the newer, high-performance WNDR4500. ReadySHARE access performance was also just OK. I was able to stream audio and video from the connected USB hard drive, but encoding large multimedia files directly to the drive sometimes failed. I didn’t have that problem with the WNDR4500.

Netgear WNDR3800 throughput

Network connections were solid on the WNDR3800 and I didn’t experience any drops on my computers. However, I had difficulties with Android smartphones. A Samsung Galaxy Nexus Android smartphone would lose its Internet connection on the 5GHz band and an HTC Incredible 2 had the same problem on the 2.4GHz band. The Android phones were still connected to the router, but their Internet connections mysteriously disappeared when the phones went into standby mode. When I’d wake the phones up, their connections to the Internet would return and my notifications, like email, IMs, Twitter, etc., would come flooding in all at once. This occurred on two different WNDR3800 test routers.

CONCLUSION
The WNDR3800 is the premium version of the WNDR3700, but the new features might not appeal to everyone. Plus, its Time Machine function really needs to support Lion as we’re about to head into Mountain Lion territory any day now and the function will then be two major versions behind.

The WNDR3800’s performance was good and connectivity was solid, except for the strange issues with Android devices. Hopefully, future firmware updates will take care of the issue. I usually recommend Netgear routers without reservation, but if you’ve got Android devices, you might want to avoid getting the WNDR3800 for now. Instead, check out the WNDR4500 or the brand spanking new, R6300.

Available from Amazon.com.

* Review unit provided by Netgear

  1. Gene Montemore
    November 5th, 2012 at 08:13 | #1

    @Ed Rhee
    Netgear sent me a replacement last week & the disconnects immediately continued so I don’t think hardware is the issue. It’s been 3 days with no disconnects so far, which is telling me I most likely fixed the problem – either the 5ghz band or the Xoom’s wi-fi sleep setting.

    After leaving my current settings as is for a couple more days, assuming no disconnects, I’m going to switch the 5ghz back on and see how it reacts. If everything is fine, I’m going to assume the only other change is/was the culprit – the Xoom’s wi-fi sleep setting.

  2. Ed Rhee
    November 4th, 2012 at 23:08 | #2

    @Gene Montemore
    I agree that it’s very odd behavior. How long have you had the WNDR3800? I don’t suppose you’re still within the return/exchange period from the retailer you purchased it from, are you? Even if shutting down the 5GHz band works out for you, you’ll be missing out on the advantages of a dual band router. If possible, I might suggest replacing the router with another model. I don’t know if troubleshooting it further would really be worth the frustration.

    If you can’t return it, I’d personally take a look at DD-WRT as a possible solution. I don’t know if the WNDR3800 is officially supported yet, but it might be worth taking a look.

  3. Gene Montemore
    November 2nd, 2012 at 22:28 | #3

    The wndr3800 would disconnect all of my wireless devices, with the exception of my Xoom. (my S2, wife’s W7 laptop, iPad and iPhone). I don’t know why the Xoom stayed connected, but it did. So I would log in to the router through the Xoom, change the channel and click “apply” to re-connect. I was doing this several times per day.

    I went through all of the troubleshooting you suggested with Netgear, who sent me a replacement wndr3800. The replacement unit disconnected within a few hours. I then found out about the Android issue, which is really weird.

    To test out the Android theory, all I did was sit in front of my wife’s laptop while it was disconnected and woke my Xoom from sleep. The laptop and my S2 immediately reconnected.

    Halfway through today, I shut down the 5ghz connection on the router and set my Xoom and S2 to 2.4ghz only wifi, and placed the Xoom on “never” to stay connected to wifi during sleep.

    It only been about 8-10 hours, but no disconnects so far. So freaking strange.

  4. Ed Rhee
    November 2nd, 2012 at 16:15 | #4

    @Gene Montemore
    Can you detail the scenario a bit more? The problems I had were only with Android devices. My TiVo adapter and computers connected and stayed connected. I couldn’t pinpoint a specific cause for the Android connection problems. Other than making sure you’re on the current firmware version, I’d recommend trying a reset of the router. Make a backup of your configuration, reset the router, then load your configuration back in and see if that helps. You could also try running the router (temporarily) without security enabled to see if that has any impact. Let me know how it goes.

    Ed

  5. Gene Montemore
    November 2nd, 2012 at 10:37 | #5

    Hi Ed, I stumbled upon this review while looking for solutions for my Android devices *supposedly* causing drops in my wndr3800’s wifi. All devices will lose connection. Wondering what settings in my S2 and Xoom may be causing this?

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