Netgear Universal WiFi Range Extender (WN3000RP) Review
Steve Withers looks at a way of ensuring your wireless network covers your entire home
With the ubiquitous nature of wireless networks in our homes and the profusion of wireless devices in almost every room, the range of your wireless router is becoming more and more important. Of course the range will depend on a number of factors, the router itself, the position of the router in your home and the size and construction of your house. However, try as we might, there always seems to be some part of the house where the wireless signal is weaker or non-existent and we all know how annoying that is. Luckily there are a number of extenders available that allow you to increase the range of your router and bring useable WiFi to every corner of your home. One such range extender is Netgear’s WN3000RP, which despite its rather bland name does offer reasonable specifications and a discrete design. So let’s find a suitable ‘dead zone’ and try it out...
The WN3000RP Range Extender is one of those useful products that does exactly what it claims to and allows you to extend the range of your existing router to cover areas of your home where the reception is poor or non-existent. The unit is made of solid white plastic and the design is reasonably attractive, with the extender being small enough to appear relatively discrete. However the position of the plug near the top of the unit is a strange choice as it precludes using the extender with wall sockets that are close to the floor.
The positioning of the extender is important because it needs to cover an area of poor or no signal but it also needs to be able to receive the signal from your router in order to boost it. The WN3000RP doesn’t really offer much help in this regard so it is largely a matter of trial and error. However, once you have found a suitable location and a convenient wall socket, the actual setup is very straightforward. If your router supports WPS, then you can use Netgear’s Push ‘N’ Connect feature and just press the WPS button on the extender and the WPS button on the router and the two devices will automatically connect. If this isn’t an option there is Netgear’s web-based SmartWizard, which takes a little longer but does offer some useful status pages and firmware upgrade options.
The WN3000RP will repeat 2.4 GHz signals from 802.11 b/g/n routers or gateways and Netgear’s claims that the WN3000RP is universal appear to be valid because we had no problems connecting it to our equipment, none of which is made by Netgear. We also had no issues connecting any of our WiFi devices to the extended wireless network, nor did we have any problems connecting an Ethernet device to the Ethernet port on the WN3000RP. We found the network to be reasonably fast and robust, with connection speeds in excess of 150 Mbps, although if you use the Ethernet port, you will be limited to 100 Mbps. Ultimately, the WN3000RP Range Extender is simple to setup and easy to use, delivering an effective wireless network to even the most inaccessible parts of your house.
Styling and Design
The WN3000RP Range Extender follows the same aesthetic as many other Netgear products with a solid construction made of hardened white plastic. Around the edges there are ventilation grilles and on either side there are antennas which, when in their down position, make the whole unit look very reminiscent of the robot icon used by Android. Of course for best performance the antennas should be pointing up. The plug is positioned at the top of the unit which seems a strange choice as it precludes using the extender with sockets that are close to the floor - it would have made more sense to put the plug at the bottom. On the right hand side of the unit there is an on/off button, a WPS button, a 10/100 Ethernet port for a wired connection to an Ethernet device if necessary. There is also a pin hole for performing a factory reset.
On the front of the unit there are four LED lights, the first of which indicates a wireless connection. The second LED lights up when the extender is connected to a PC, the third LED illuminates when the unit is on and the fourth LED indicates the link rate. The link rate indicates the quality of the connection between the extender and the router with green indicating the best connection, amber a workable one and red a poor one. If the light is off then there is no connection at all between the extender and router.
The WN3000RP Range Extender is, as the name suggests, designed to deliver a wireless connection in areas of your home where your existing router struggles to deliver an acceptable signal. Obviously the ideal place to position the extender is in a wall socket that sits between the router and the device with which you’re trying to connect. Once you’ve chosen the best wall socket to use, to setup the extender you plug it in and wait one minute until the status LED turns green. Once the unit is powered up, you need to connect the extender to your existing WiFi network and to do this you have two options.
This easiest way is using Netgear’s Push ‘N’ Connect feature which connects the extender to any router that supports WPS (WiFi Protected Setup). You just press the WPS button on the extender and, within two minutes, press the WPS button on your wireless router. The extender should automatically connect to your router and the link rate LED on the extender will light up. The extender’s wireless network name (SSID) will change to that of your router but with ‘_EXT’ at the end of the name. To connect additional WiFi devices to your new extender network you just use the same network security password as you use with your existing router.
If you can’t use WPS then you will need to use the wireless network manager on your computer, tablet or smartphone to find and connect to the NETGEAR_EXT (SSID) wireless network. After a connection is established, the computer to extender LED turns green and you can now connect the extender to your existing wireless network. To do this, open a web browser window on your computer and the browser should take you to Netgear’s excellent on-screen setup guide - SmartWizard. This guide will take you through selecting the WiFi network, entering the security password, choosing the name of your new extender network and connecting your wireless devices to your new extender network. There are also pages that show you the status of your device, the attached devices, the wireless settings and some advanced settings.
We set up the WN3000RP Range Extender at a point equidistant between our router and a part of our home environment where wireless reception is at its weakest. Sadly, since this home environment is a small cottage rather than a palatial mansion, there aren’t any real ‘dead zones’ but for the purposes of these tests we used the furthest point from the router. Where you actually place the extender can involve some trial and error as you want to find a spot where your existing router’s range is beginning to wane but you still need enough of a signal for the extender to boost. You will also of course need to choose a spot where there is a convenient wall socket that you can plug the extender into. It is also worth pointing out that if you can still get a reasonable signal from your router then you shouldn’t use an extender because the speed of the direct connection will almost certainly be faster than the extended network.
We setup the extender using both methods and whilst the WPS approach is clearly faster, neither was difficult and we quite liked the SmartWizard status pages. Netgear’s claims that the WN3000RP is universal appear to be valid because we had no problems connecting it to our equipment, none of which is made by Netgear. In terms of it specifications, the WN3000RP will repeat 2.4 GHz signals from 802.11 b/g/n routers or gateways and connect to devices with 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz wireless adapters or Ethernet adapters. The WN3000RP includes a 10/100 Ethernet ports as well as WiFi Protected Access (WPA/WPA2-PSK) and WEP. It is also compatible with Windows, Mac OS and Linux operating systems and the SmartWizard web-based user interface is compatible with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. We had no problems connecting any of our WiFi devices to the extended wireless network, nor did we have any problems connecting an Ethernet device to the Ethernet port on the WN3000RP. We found the network to be effective and robust, with connection speeds in excess of 150 Mbps, although if you use the Ethernet port, you will be limited to 100 Mbps.
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Universal WiFi Range Extender
Suggested price: £50
Reviewed 6th June, 2012 by Stephen Withers
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