NETGEAR N600 (WNDR3800) Dual Band Open Platform Router Review

Some routers, like the WNR3500L, are very "hackable." However, what about the "rest of us?"

What if you're looking for a powerful router that can handle all the Internet accessing, videogame playing, and movie streaming you throw at it--and that is easy to use--plus being built on an open platform for DD-WRT, OpenWRT, and Tomato?

The new WNDR3800, the big brother to the WNDR3700, does all of that and more. 

What Makes the WNDR3800 Different?

The WNDR3800 is, simply put, a powerhouse of a router. It packs a punch with a 32-bit, 680 MHz processor, 16MB of flash memory, and 128MB of RAM--with peak speeds of up to 300 Mbps in each frequency band!

What does that really mean to you, anyway? Sure, it's powerful, but what separates it from all the others on the shelf?

Features and apps! Features that just work. I was very, very impressed while testing this router at how easy it truly was to modify settings and access abilities compared to previous router models. The graphical interface, once you log into the router's GUI, is also greatly enhanced. Read on to see how you can put these functions to work for you.

Extremely Easy, Pre-Configured Wireless Setup

The WNDR3800 is pre-configured for secure wireless connections right out of the box. This means, quite literally, that once you plug it in and connect it to the Internet, you can instantly access it with any Wi-Fi device with the included secure password. You don't even need a PC to install the router--you can do it right from your iPhone, for example.

Improved Graphical Interface

For those of us who consider ourselves "geeks," a complicated router interface can be a fun challenge, but for most people who don't do networking as a hobby, it's more of an annoyance.

The WNDR3800 puts a much nicer, more straightforward face on the internal interface of the router, giving you the information you need at-a-glance and guiding you through changes you may need to make.

NETGEAR Genie

If the thought of having to navigate to your router's interface through the browser gives you a headache, never fear--NETGEAR has unveiled their "Genie" application, which is free to use and install, and makes configuring your router easier than ever. Seriously, it just works great, and lives in your system tray for whenever you need it. (It's on Windows only for now, but a Mac client, iPhone app, and Android app are all on the way.)

With the NETGEAR Genie, you can do all of this directly via your desktop:

  • Perform a network speed test
  • See upload/download activity
  • See all wireless clients attached to your network (including thieving neighbors)
  • Set up a guest network for friends or family
  • Easily change the SSID (name) or password of your wireless network
  • Set up Live Parental Controls (more details here)
  • Set up traffic monitoring or metering
  • See a graphical map of all your network connected devices

ReadySHARE Cloud

The ReadySHARE Cloud is another feature I was incredibly impressed with in terms of how simple it was to set up--and how powerful it is.

All you really have to do is sign up for a free ReadySHARE Cloud account, sign in on your router with the credentials you chose, and pus a USB hard drive into the USB port on the back of the WNDR3800. After you do this, the contents of the drive will be available for you to access via the ReadySHARE website from any Internet connection, anywhere.

You can evem download iPhone, iPad, and Android based applications that will interface directly with ReadySHARE Cloud, allowing you to upload and download files from anywhere you have a mobile or Wi-Fi connection.

The beauty of this is that you now have your own personal file cloud, limited only by the size of your drive, that is not only kept private but eliminates the need for you to upload large amounts of (private) files to an external server--making ReadySHARE Cloud ideal for business use as well as personal. Plus, it's free for the next 1 1/2 years. (the only charge that comes into the mix are the mobile apps, but those are optional.) NETGEAR may charge a small annual fee after January 2013 for this service, but in my discussions with them, will be less than $4.99 per year--and that is also undecided.

ReadySHARE Printer

You didn't think the USB port on that router was done strutting its stuff, were you? Well, it's not. A printer can also be shared through the router, allowing you to print from any wired or wireless client in your network.

Once again, the WNDR3800 makes this really easy to do, but there are a few more steps involved. All I did was plug my printer into the USB port on the back, then go to the ReadySHARE tab in the router interface and select the printer option. All that does is redirect you to NETGEAR's ReadySHARE site and prompt you to download the USB connection utility (hence the extra step.)

Once the client is installed, though, it finds the connected printer like magic. In my case, all I had to do was click "connect" and Windows installed the drivers automatically. Upon doing this, it was available as a connected printer to my machine... easy as pie.

More good news is that it also works with multifunction printers. It uses a USB over IP version, which means there are no print server issues such as non-compatible printer drivers... ensuring a hassle-free experience.

ClearChannel Technology

NETGEAR has incorporated something called "ClearChannel" into the WNDR3800, which ensures that you will get the clearest possible channel for your WiFi connection. The problem exists when, especially in crowded neighborhoods, condo or apartment buildings, or commercial areas, the WiFi spectrum can get pretty crammed. All of that interference can slow down your connection, but the 3800 prevents this automatically. ClearChannel works in the background--when your speeds drop due to interference, it will immediately start sniffing out the clearest channel to move to, also instructing your connected devices to make the switch. All of this happens in just a few milliseconds.

In addition, you can also tweak this manually. Fire up the NETGEAR Genie on a device you have connected via WiFi, and click on the "Wireless" tab. You'll see the screen as shown above, which displays all the available wireless channels as well as how many networks are connected to each channel. This way, you can ensure that your network is on a channel with little to no traffic.

Other Features (Time Machine, miniDLNA, TiVo)

The WNDR3800 is host to several additional useful features that are not to be missed.

  1. TiVo support. The WNDR3800 can be used as an additional way to backup and play your TiVo recordings, using an attached USB drive.
  2. miniDLNA media streaming. This makes it super easy to stream music and videos to devices in your home that support the miniDLNA standard. It's featured on many game consoles, Blu-ray players, integrated TV's, and dedicated media streamers.
  3. Mac OS X Time Machine support. With an upcoming firmware update, you will also be able to use your USB connected drive as a Time Machine backup source. (It will first work with OS X 10.5 and 10.6, with upgrades for Lion coming later this year.) For more information on Time Machine, click here.

Open Platform & Firmwares

On top of all of this, the WNDR3800 is built upon an open platform foundation, which allows the hacker in all of us to tinker with the onboard firmware, and install popular third party versions such as OpenWRT, DD-WRT, and Tomato.

This, of course, is what MyOpenRouter is all about--so if you decide to give this a try on your WNDR3800, check out our downloads area and post your experiences on the forums.

Conclusions

We love the WNDR3800--it's a perfect blend of everything anybody could ever want in a router for the home. It's powerful and can stand up to the most demanding environment as well as being incredibly easy to use and flexible. Two thumbs up from the MyOpenRouter crew!

engine101
engine101's picture
This should not be labeled a

This should not be labeled a review. This is simply a preview (regurgitating known marketing fluff) to generate traffic to your site. When you can discuss real-world performance (throughput, reach, etc...) you can call it a review.

Peter Redmer
Peter Redmer's picture
You're right, engine101, this

You're right, engine101, this is much more of a feature review than a technical performance test, but that was actually my goal. What shakes this particular router different from its predecessor and other routers on the market are these "consumer friendly" features.

For the record, I tested all of these features myself, and all of the screenshots and reported experiences are my own. I do not consider this fluff but an honest report of what I experienced. I was truly impressed at how easy it all was and it's one of the best consumer routers I've used so far. (I'm also a big fan of the 3500L)

As for performance and throughput reviews, that could very well come in a future article, although that generally isn't our focus--the experts in our forums (many of which who have been doing networking/IT their whole lives, are programmers, etc) usually post detailed throughput reports of their own :)

 

Brandon C
Brandon C's picture
 

 

engine101 said: This should not be labeled a review. This is simply a preview (regurgitating known marketing fluff) to generate traffic to your site. When you can discuss real-world performance (throughput, reach, etc...) you can call it a review.

 

Since he actually had one in hand and did test the discussed features personally I would call it a review.I also liked the info on the USB port and how it worked for him.

But I too am interested in the specs, hardware layout, throughput, wireless performance, etc.  Right now amazon is showing that it is shipping within 1 to 2 months so I hope to see more info on it before it becomes publicly available.

Brandon C
Brandon C's picture
This new N600 (WNDR3800) is

This new N600 (WNDR3800) is looking better and better everyday. They just announce on Facebook that it was available and I saw they created an info video on it too.

More of a PR piece but just the same...

Click on the Router pic to watch.

chess
chess's picture
What is the difference

What is the difference between the WNDR3800 and the WNDR4500? The WNDR4500 doesn't show up on Netgear's website under the products section, but when I went to Fry's they had the WNDR4500 N900NTR.

ADK
ADK's picture
Any idea what build of DD-WRT

Any idea what build of DD-WRT will work with the WNDR3800?

MReptile
MReptile's picture
Any known issues regarding

Any known issues regarding wireless-connections?
Is it possible to unbrick it? (Want to test open-wrt and I'am a N00B)

CedarM
CedarM's picture
@ardje Sounds like you have

@ardje Sounds like you have plenty of experience with the WNDR3700 - but what about the WNDR3800? Are there any good reasons to buy the newer 3800 or should I stick to the more hacked/tested 3700? I do intend to use an open firmware and I had my eye on vlans.