Can the Netgear N900 deliver a performance to match its looks?
IntroductionWhen we reviewed the N750 wireless router from TP-Link, we found a competent if rather unattractive performer. Now we have the N900 from Netgear which offers a slightly higher level of performance and a much more attractive package. There's a price premium, of course, but the N900 wireless dual band router or, to use its less generic model number, the WNDR4500, offers an impressive level of specification. The N900 includes dual bands, with 2.4GHz capable of speeds of up to 450Mbps and 5GHz capable of speeds up to 450Mbps. Since the two can run simultaneously, the N900 can theoretically deliver a total of 900Mbps, which explains the name. The N900 also includes two USB ports to easily share printers, files or media, five gigabit Ethernet ports, WPS setup and an improved range. So that sounds like more than enough for even the most tech dependent of households, let's see how it performs.
Design and ConnectionsThe N900 certainly scores high marks in the looks department, with a sleek gloss black body constructed from plastic but watch out for the finger prints. The main body is supported vertically by an acrylic stand that gives the impression that the router is suspended in mid-air. The overall fit and finish is very good but the unit is quite big, measuring 258 x 173 x 81mm and weighing 680g. However thanks to the vertical styling, discreetly positioning the N900 shouldn't be too hard.
Along one edge there are a series of LED indicators which show that the unit is on, that the radios are broadcasting, the status of the four Ethernet ports, the status of the two USB ports and the status of the broadband connection itself. There are also two buttons, one to turn the WiFi off (handy for those only making use of the wired connections) and one for the WiFi Protected Setup (WPS).
Along the other edge are all the connections, starting at the top with the two USB 2.0 ports, beneath them are the four gigabit (10/1000Mbps) LAN ports and then the gigabit (10/1000Mbps) WAN port for connecting your modem to the router. Finally there is the socket for the power adapter and the main on/off button. The unit uses a large brick style adapter but it is positioned half way along the cable so it shouldn’t be too hard to tuck it away somewhere.
SetupThe setup of the N900 was very straightforward, it comes with a pre-defined SSID and password, the details of which are provided with the unit. This means that all you need to do is connect the router to a laptop, tablet or phone, then log into its configuration page and enter your own settings. Thanks to Netgear's excellent Genie software this is also a breeze as it will attempt to auto-detect your Internet connection, which means all you have to do to get online is enter your ISP username and password details. It only takes a few minutes for the router to be completely set up, and you will be presented with a rundown of your settings once it's done. Unlike other setup software, which can be a bit text heavy and thus rather daunting to any tech neophytes, Netgear's Genie provides a simple dashboard control format to setup, configure, monitor and repair your home network.
Whilst you can obviously access Genie from your computer, there is also an app version available for both iOS and Android, making it easy to install the router from a tablet or smartphone. The home page offers an icon driven user interface that, as well as taking you through the setup process using a smart connection wizard, also includes a number of other choices. The Internet option allows you to monitor and repair internet connectivity issues for both wired and wireless connections. WiFi Connection allows you to view or change the wireless settings on the router. The Network Map allows you to view network devices connected to your network, whilst the Parental Controls allow you to protect devices in your network from inappropriate content. Finally, the ReadySHARE feature allows you to access the contents of a USB storage device connected to the router.
The intuitive and clearly laid out graphical displays will not only take you through the setup process but also allow you to view attached hardware, block devices, stream media from all DLNA compatible devices and update the software if necessary. There are some more detailed and text heavy pages available for those of a more advanced nature and if you wish to delve deeper there are controls for QoS settings, dynamic DNS, DLNA compatibility and port forwarding, so it can be setup for remote access. One strange idiosyncrasy is that the N900 defaults the 2.4GHz band to 217Mps instead of the full 450Mps, however this is easy to change thanks to Genie.
FeaturesThe N900 offers a truly impressive list of features, starting with the dual band capabilities that offer simultaneous 2.4GHz 450Mbps and 5GHz 450Mbps, giving a total available bandwidth of 900Mbps. Thanks to the use of simultaneous dual-band technology, the N900 can avoid interference ensuring top WiFi speeds and reliable connections. The improved wireless range helps deliver better connections for larger homes and those with multiple connected devices. Simple tasks such as e-mail or web browsing can be handled by the 2.4GHz band at 450Mbps and more latency sensitive tasks such as online gaming or HD video streaming can be simultaneously processed over the 5GHz band, also at 450Mbps. To deliver this kind of performance, Netgear have included two radios in the N900, along with six internal antennas to boost the range.
The N900 also includes high-speed Ethernet connections, including a gigabit (10/1000Mbps) WAN port and four gigabit (10/1000Mbps) LAN ports. In addition, there are two multi-functional USB 2.0 ports allowing you to share flash storage, printers or media players over your home network. The N900 also supports IP QoS (Quality of Service), allowing optimum utilization of bandwidth and offering bandwidth control over congestion, preventing bandwidth abuse. In this way, users of a small network receive committed and specific bandwidth, preventing non-critical applications from degrading network performance. The N900 is compatible with Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) and by simply pressing the WPS button on the router, it automatically establishes a WPA2 secure connection, which is more secure when than WEP encryptions. Not only is this faster than normal security setups but more convenient because you don't need to remember a password.
PerformanceIn terms of performance, the N900 certainly proved itself more than capable and should be able to meet the needs of even the most demanding of households. We found that at a distance of about two metres the N900 managed to deliver speeds of around 9MBps for the 2.4GHx band and an impressive 25MBps for the 5GHz band, although this performance dropped to around 5MBps and 12MBps respectively at about 10metres. This does show the advantage of having a 5GHz band, especially over larger distances. However it also shows how beneficial a 5GHz band can be over short distances, with a noticeable improvement when trying to copy large files over our network. All of these measured performance speeds are enough to reliably stream HD content and the addition of dual band will be very useful for those households that stream content to a number of devices.
We were able to replicate these speeds multiple times, so the N900 would appear to be a reliable unit and we found it could maintain these performance figures with both bands transferring data simultaneously, which makes multiple HD network streams a viable proposition as long as your NAS or Internet connection can maintain the pace. We also had no problems with the router, despite using it extensively for various networking activities and have a number of devices connected. We ran multiple laptops, tablets, phones and other devices without experiencing any issues. We were also able to run a USB hard drive off the router and made use of its built-in ReadyShare functionality. When we plugged drives into the back of the router, they showed up on our network without any problems and file transfers off a connected USB drive averaged around 4MBps.
- Dual band capability
- Excellent performance
- Impressive connections
- Great features
Netgear N900 (WNDR4500) Wireless Router Review
The Netgear N900 certainly comes in an attractive package, with a sleek gloss black body that is supported vertically on a clear plastic stand, giving the impression it is suspended in mid-air. Along one edge there are LED indicators and along the other is an excellent set of connections, including two USB 2.0 ports, a 10/1000Mbps WAN port and four 10/1000Mbps LAN ports. Setup is very straightforward, thanks to Netgear's Genie, which uses a good combination of graphics and text to provide explanations and offer an excellent level of control and flexibility.
The N900 has an impressive list of features, starting with the dual band capabilities that offer simultaneous 2.4GHz 450Mbps and 5GHz 450Mbps, giving a total available bandwidth of 900Mbps. The N900 also includes high speed Ethernet connections, including a 10/1000Mbps WAN port and four 10/1000Mbps LAN ports, as well as two multi-functional USB 2.0 ports capable of sharing flash storage, printers, FTP servers and media players. The N900 also supports IP QoS (Quality of Service), as well as being compatible with Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) for quick setup simply by pressing the WPS button on the router and automatically establishing a WPA2 secure connection.
In terms of performance, the N900 proved itself to be a very capable and is more than able to meet the demands of even the most connected of households. We measured speeds of around 9MBps and 25MBps when transferring files using the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands respectively, although this performance dropped to around 5MBps and 12MBps at distances over 10m. These speeds are enough to reliably stream HD content and we found the N900 could maintain these performance figures with both bands transferring data simultaneously.
The Netgear N900 (WNDR4500) is an excellent wireless router that offers dual band capability, a wide range of features and flawless performance, all at an attractive price. If you're looking for a new wireless router an you aren't bothered about buying a 802.11ac router, we definitely recommend that you consider the N900.
Ease of Use9
Value for Money9
Our Review Ethos
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