NETGEAR WNDR4500 (N900) Wireless-N Dual Band Router Review

Are you the type that always goes for the best? The hypothetical GT Turbo, all chromed out model of virtually any product you buy, because nothing less will do? Then the WNDR4500 is probably a good choice, being that it's being heralded as one of the fastest consumer routers available. Indeed, Maximum PC declares it "the fastest router we've ever tested."

However, does it live up to the hype? Is it really worth it? My answer is definitely yes for those demanding the ultimate in speed, and a "maybe" for average use, depending on the individual setup.

Setting up the WNDR4500

As with many of the newer NETGEAR routers, I found the setup of this router to be extremely easy. It's designed to be set up vertically, and is certainly a beefy router in terms of size. It feels pretty solid, especially compared to earlier products such as the WNR3500L.

NETGEAR gives you a "standard" Wi-Fi hotspot and password that can be used for the initial setup, and the Genie software makes it simple to navigate through the basic settings.

NETGEAR Genie

Rather than the clunky, confusing interfaces of old, the WNDR4500 comes with NETGEAR Genie, which--in layman's terms--is a much better looking interface plus an optional desktop client that allows you to control the router without logging into a browser.

You can do a lot with the desktop app, too--just like with the WNDR3800 and other supported routers:

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

WNDR4500 Performance Features

The WNDR4500 has a number of under-the-hood improvements that, admittedly, the "average" user may not notice or even be aware of. However, they greatly contribute to the overall speed and stability of this networking wunderkind.

3 Wireless Streams for Each Band: As you may know, the WNDR4500 supports both 2.4 gHz and 5.0 gHz wireless bands--and as such, it's backwards compatible with older devices as well as bringing the best speeds to newer Wireless-N devices.

In addition to being dual band, each radio has three separate streams. This is where the "N900" moniker comes from: 450 mb/s per radio, 150 mb/s from each stream, on two bands--simultaneously. Plus, it can intelligently use each stream independently depending on the number of devices connected, ensuring the best throughput for each.

More Powerful Signal Amplifiers: The signal amplifiers in the WNDR4500 have been increased from 24 dbm in the WNDR3800 to 29 dbm--a 17% improvement numbers-wise, but could translate to significantly better range in the real world. I personally experienced this even in a small condo--I can get signal on my phone all the way out into the parking lot, which is between two walls plus another whole unit and the front of the building, then inside my car. My WNR3500L couldn't have hoped to do that.

Is the WNDR4500 Right For You?

 

It depends. The plus side of the WNDR4500 is that it is truly the best in terms of signal strength and available wireless throughput. Those things, along with security and stability, tend to be the most important things to me in a wireless router.

Plus, I use a multitude of devices in the home (two tablets, two smartphones, two desktops, four laptops, a Nintendo 3DS, a PS3, a Nintendo Wii, a Chumby, an XBOX 360, an NTV200, two Pogoplugs, a ReadyNAS Duo, and various other devices) so maximizing the speed among my network clients is paramount--which the WNDR4500 specializes in.

In other words, if you're looking for a no-nonsense, best-in-class router for speed and stability with a simple feature set, look no further than the WNDR4500 (but be prepared to shell out a little more for it.) It's also ideal for those with very large houses, or for those who have difficulty getting signal in certain areas of the home.

However, the WNDR4500 also lacks some features that are present in the WNDR3800, such as Time Machine and ReadyShare Cloud support. If you're looking to utilize those features, and don't have aggressive speed or range needs, then the 3800 is probably a better choice. (Note that the WNDR4500 does have USB and printer sharing support.)

Detailed Speed & Range Tests, Plus More Research

I can almost physically hear the networking nuts, engineers, and experts crying out "WE WANT DATA." While I love wireless routers, I won't attempt to best the definitive experts in testing out there.

So, for some hard data, check out the following resources--several of which provide detailed tests of the WNDR4500 and their results:

Smallnetbuilder Review of the WNDR4500

Comparison of the WNDR4500 and WNDR3800 by Bob Silver, NETGEAR AV Consultant

PC Magazine WNDR4500 Review

MaximumPC WNDR4500 Review

NETGEAR Official Product Page

buddee
buddee's picture
For the record, This unit

For the record, This unit only has 2 radios with 3 streams per radio. In the review above, this statement : "3 Wireless Radios for Each Band: As you may know, the WNDR4500 supports both 2.4 gHz and 5.0 gHz wireless bands--and as such, it's backwards compatible with older devices as well as bringing the best speeds to newer Wireless-N devices.

In addition to being dual band, each band possess 3 radios. This is where the "N900" moniker comes from: 450 mb/s, 150 mb/s from each radio, on two bands--simultaneously. Plus, it can intelligently use each radio independently depending on the number of devices connected, ensuring the best throughput for each."

Is misleading, its 2 Radios (1x 2.4Ghz and 1x 5Ghz radio), and 3x150Mbps streams for each of the radios. DD-WRT port is also in the works. Enjoy.

Peter Redmer
Peter Redmer's picture
Hi buddee, thanks for

Hi buddee, thanks for pointing this out. I made the appropriate corrections to the article.

Plus, I'm excited to hear that a DD-WRT port is in the works. Could you post any more info? Maybe a link or an idea on a release date? :)

 

buddee
buddee's picture
I have no idea on when it

I have no idea on when it will be, mainly what i know is that eko got a donated unit and that support was added from the dd-wrt svn timeline, so it looks to be a work in progress..

http://svn.dd-wrt.com/changeset/17967

John L. Galt
John L. Galt's picture
I just bought this router,

I just bought this router, and coincidentally before I read your review.

All I can say is ... It's friggin awesome! This thing is a beast, both in size and in speed.

I'm still finishing everything up, and I hope to see DD-WRT soon, but I'll have some interesting speeds to report from my BIONIC in the next couple of days....

Kong
Kong's picture
I don't like the specs of the

I don't like the specs of the WNDR4500. Compared to the WNDR3800 is only comes with a 600Mhz (680Mhz WNDR3800) CPU and therefore will be slower when accessing usb connected drives.

It is a bit faster if it comes to wireless 450Mbps(2,4Ghz) + 450Mbps (5Ghz) compared to 300+300 for the WNDR3800, but it requires compatible wireless cards most users will only have cards that max out at 300Mbps.

And the price for all of this is, that the router consumes a lot of power.

The 4500 comes with a 12V 5 A power supply, as far as I know the WNDR3800 only needs a 12V 1A power supply. Even if the 4500 needs only 50% of this output, it would consume 30W. The WNR3500L for example needs around 4,5W.

Besides that the WNDR4500 is a broadcom unit and will require closed source binary drivers. Thus it will be difficult to release absolutely stable firmwares that make everyone happy.

 

zoomlink
zoomlink's picture
@Kong

@Kong

Since I have been living in a Broadcom bubble, pardon what some might consider an ignorant question.

If I went and purchased a WNDR3800, will your DD-WRT KingKong Mod builds work on it?

Kong
Kong's picture
zoomlink said: @Kong Since I

zoomlink said: @Kong Since I have been living in a Broadcom bubble, pardon what some might consider an ignorant question. If I went and purchased a WNDR3800, will your DD-WRT KingKong Mod builds work on it?

The broadcom builds would not work with it, but once I have a Atheros router to test with I just have to update my scripts in order to build for Atheros target.

 

I just searched a bit around for usb speed benchmarks with the Atheros SOC and as I estimated it delivers around 14MB/s compared to the 6,5MB/s the broadcom SOC in the WNR3500L or RT-N16 achieves.

 

zoomlink
zoomlink's picture
So crank an Atheros SOC

So crank an Atheros SOC KingKong Build out and let's give it a run and see what happens... :)

StanM
StanM's picture
Avoid this router like the

Avoid this router like the plague. Took hours, with the help of tech support to even get this router connected to my laptops. When I tried to connect my printer, could not do it. Contacted NetGear "Gearhead" support. After 4 or more hours the tech gave up. Never got the wireless printer connected. The tech tried to connect with ethernet and usd. Niether one worked. The router also keeps dropping signals for my computer and roku. It is being returned. Very disappointing. I bought NetGear because of the excellent router it was replacing and the excellent support. The router is supposed to come with 90 days tech support, but trying to get anyone is impossible. Only because I subscribe to gearhead services was I able to get any help.

CeeBee
CeeBee's picture
Just purchased this router

Just purchased this router yesterday and have already spent 15+ hours trying to resolve a firmware issue. Right out of the box, the power light kept on flashing which meant it was a faulty firmware. Called up support and after 4-5 technicians and 3 escalations the solution was to return the product!!! So much so for quality and support from Netgear! Finally got someone who was semi-knowledgeable was able to flash the firmware. Funny thing is that the Firmware download page for the R4500 (N900) gave a 404!
Overall a very frustrating experience to what should have been a very straight forward install. Cheaper products have proven to be much better in quality and user experience. Granted this router boasts of fantastic speeds but not worth the trouble.

Stan7777
Stan7777's picture
This router works well,

This router works well, however it has a major drawback for people who want to control internet access over Wifi for their kids:

The default firmware only offers basic scheduling - for a list of devices you can only specify a single time frame to block internet and apply that to the days you want.

If for example over weekends, you want to grant longer internet access times than during school days, you cannot program these in advance. You have to log into the router and manually change the time range. The Netgear Live Parental controls also do not allow you to do this. It only does content filtering and does not block internet access.

So I loaded the DD-WRT Firmware which has great granular scheduling. However I lose throughput and the ability to use the Netgear Live Parental Controls with DD-WRT Firmware.