Pros: Works well in multi-story dwellings; strong signal; instantly secure
Cons: For me, the little "legs" were a bit tricky to attach, otherwise none
When I purchased my first wireless router in the spring of 2010, I knew that I was not getting a top-of-the-line product; the Belkin F5D7231-4 was inexpensive ($29.99) and not exactly a heavyweight champion of performance, especially in the areas of transfer rates and connectivity in a multi-story dwelling.
As I wrote back in June of 2010, “When I have connected to the Internet on my laptop, there is a noticeable lag at first and the signal strength is three bars on the WLAN Adviser dsplay, but I do not find that too alarming or offputting. I have been able to log on to Epinions and Facebook without issues, and my Windows Live Messenger sends and receives instant messages fairly quickly.
“In short, if you are cash strapped but want to avoid being limited to hitching wireless rides on other people's routers or lug your laptop to places that offer free Wi-Fi Internet access, the Belkin F5D7231-4 is the best way to go. It may not have all the bells and whistles of a more powerful router, but you'll get connected.”
While what I wrote back then was a fair assessment of that particular product, I must also point out that even though the Belkin F5D7231-4 router is a good little router for the short term, it’s best to think of it as a “stopgap measure” until you can afford to get something with more power and better performance.
I ought to know, because several weeks ago my once-trusty router began to fail. First, it would drop my wireless connection at odd intervals as though another, more powerful signal were jamming it momentarily. Then it began knocking me offline more frequently and for long periods (up to five minutes at a time). Finally, on a Saturday afternoon in early September of 2012, the router simply stopped working.
Now, had my trusty eMachines LCD monitor not stopped working in November of 2011, I could have logged on to my Compaq Presario desktop and purchased another router at Amazon; however, I kept on putting off the purchase of a new monitor thinking that I really didn’t need to do so on a timely basis – bad judgment on my part – so I could not use my desktop either to get on the Internet.
Ironically, this proved to be a good thing (in a twisted way) because it forced me to go to a nearby Best Buy to purchase both a monitor and a router.
It ended up being a good – if rather expensive – thing because when I am at a store such as Best Buy I can ask for advice from an employee instead of blindly going for the least expensive product on the shelves. And not wanting to repeat my somewhat sad experience with my first router, that’s exactly what I did: asked for advice from a Best Buy electronics salesperson.
A Best Buy salesperson named Eddie – who apparently is responsible for the section where the routers are on display – asked me what my price range was (preferably $70-80) and whether I live in a single-story or a multi-level dwelling (my house has two floors).
“Oh, okay,” Eddie said. “I have a good router that will fit your budget and perform well in a two-story house.” And with that, he led me to the shelf where the Netgear routers were located. Pointing to the package which contained a Netgear N600 Wireless Dual Band Router, he added, “This one’s very good for what you want to spend; it has a strong signal, is very secure and very economical, too.”
N600 Wireless Dual Band Router (WNDR3400v2)
Smart Wizard™ installation CD
Power adapter, localized to country of sale
Live Parental Controls with flexible and customizable filter settings
Simultaneous Dual Band—runs both 2.4 and 5GHz bands at the same time
ReadySHARE® USB—Wirelessly share a USB hard drive with Macs and PCs
Multiple SSID guest networks (separate security and access restrictions)
Broadband usage meter measures Internet usage
Power and Wi-Fi on/off buttons
Lifetime Warranty (For full warranty details go to www.netgear.com/lifetimewarranty.
Limited to hardware only for as long as the original buyer owns the product. External power supply excluded.)
Broadband (cable, DSL) Internet service and modem with Ethernet connection
2.4 or 5.0 GHz 802.11a/b/g/n specification wireless adapter or an Ethernet adapter and cable for each computer
Microsoft® Windows® 7, Vista®, XP, 2000, Mac OS®, UNIX®, or Linux®
Microsoft® Internet Explorer® 5.0, Firefox® 2.0 or Safari 1.4 or higher
IEEE® 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 GHz
IEEE 802.11 a/n 5.0 GHz
Five (5) 10/100 (1 WAN and 4 LAN) Ethernet ports with auto-sensing technology
530 MHz powerful MIPS 32-bit processor
Memory: 8 MB flash and 64 MB RAM
Five (5) (1 WAN, 4 LAN) Fast Ethernet ports
Advanced Quality of Service (QoS)
Supports Wireless Multimedia (WMM) based QoS
Wi-Fi Protected Access® (WPA/WPA2—PSK) and WEP
Double firewall protection (SPI and NAT firewall)
Denial-of-service (DoS) attack prevention
Ease of Use
NETGEAR Genie™—Easy dashboard control to manage, monitor, and repair home networks
Push ‘N’ Connect using Wi-Fi Protected Setup® (WPS)1
Dimensions: 223 x 153 x 31 mm (8.8 x 6.0 x 1.2 in)
Weight: 0.5 kg (1.2 lb)
NETGEAR Green Features
Power On/Off Button
Wireless On/Off Button
80% Recycled Packaging
CEC (California Efficiency)
My Take: After hooking up my new Hewlett-Packard monitor and making sure that my PC still worked (it had not been used in 10 months, after all), I then turned everything off, disconnected the Belkin router (which unfortunately entailed a bit of untangling some wires which had created a “spaghetti ball” under my desk). This was followed by taking a look at the setup guide, which informed me that:
(a) I had to assemble the Netgear 600’s stand.
(b) I had to hook up the router to my PC’s Ethernet cable and my DSL modem.
(c) Once all the connections were done and I turned on the computer, I had to input a preselected password and product ID name; I could change either one if I so wished, but if something went wrong, Netgear would not honor the router’s warranty.
Though the latter two steps were relatively easy to do, the setting up of the stand was not. I have a few dexterity issues and it took me several tries until I pressed the “legs” of the stand into the correct slots on the smartphone-shaped and –sized router. On one attempt, one of the little stand components sprang out of place and flew halfway across the living room (I assembled the router downstairs because the carpet there is beige and the router parts are mostly black in color).
Once the cables and external power connections were complete, I turned on my Presario desktop again. The computer recognized the Netgear router almost immediately and a setup “wizard” appeared on my monitor’s screen.
First, it asked me to register the product online; the wizard automatically took me to the Netgear website and I registered my N600 router in less than five minutes. The wizard also advised me to remember my router’s Network Name and the unique SSID password; this is where Netgear strongly cautioned me to not change the factory-set security settings.
The Netgear setup – even taking into account the issue with the little legs – took me less than 10 minutes, and so far the N600 has performed well over the past two weeks. Unlike the Belkin’s maximum three-bar signal strength readings, the N600 consistently sends out a four-bar signal and has – so far, anyway – not dropped my Internet connection.
The Netgear N600 also works well with my Samsung smartphone and my BD-D5500 Blu-ray player, which need a Wi-Fi network to connect to the Internet. Of course, to be able to access my Local Access Network using those devices, I need to log in using the network name and password. Other than that, accessing the Internet via my cell phone or activating certain BD-Live features on Blu-ray discs is easy.
I don’t have any USB memory “sticks” or flash drives, but the Netgear N600 allows users to connect USB storage devices to their networks. The router also permits easy sharing of both multimedia and data files, and has fast read/write speeds for large files.