Pros: Good option for upgrading old DSL modem-&-router. Don't need technical expertise to install.
Cons: Could tip-over with many cables plugged-in. If Wireless speed drops, change channel to correct.
Recently, I wished for faster DSL, and a modem which didn't need rebooting on a daily basis. My kids kept begging: "Faster Internet Please, Mom!" I disliked our wireless router, with its limited capacity for multiple wireless devices. Our number of wireless devices increased, plus we have a wireless network for sharing files and my Epson Stylus printer. Our internet connection became erratic and slow. My old Actiontec GT701 (DSL modem) and Netgear WGR614 (wireless router) screamed for an upgrade. So, I headed to nerd nirvana and purchased this new combo DSL modem and router: Netgear DGN3500-100NAS.
Since I'm not a computer technician, I was nervous with the prospect of dismantling the old system and installing this one myself. But I took the plunge anyway. This is Netgear's mid-range modem-router. It's labeled "Work & Play" and offers wi-fi speeds up to 300 Mbps (megabits per second). That's quicker than N150 models, but less powerful than dual-band routers. In other words, this is great for surfing, email, chat, wireless printing, simultaneous downloads, voice and music and online gaming. But the range isn't optimal for larger homes with multiple floors and HD video streaming.
INSTALLATION ~ PIECE OF CAKE!
Installing Netgear DGN3500 was easier than I ever dreamed possible. It was almost like a genie materialized and granted my wish! All it required was following step-by-step instructions. As a precaution, I kept my old modem and router in place (but powered off) in case I encountered a problem during installation. The yellow "Read Me First" flyer suggested I call my Internet provider and obtain my DSL user name and password. I'm glad I did this, because I needed that to login to my DSL provider during installation. In case you've got CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) the phone call is easy, once you get through to technical support. I got my info and was ready to go!
I removed the unit and cables and read the instructions several times. Everything you need is included: power cord, telephone cable, Ethernet cable, stand and splitter. Clear illustrations show how to:
1) connect the device to your wall outlet;
2) connect the device to your DSL line splitter using the telephone cable;
3) connect the device to your computer's Ethernet port using the Ethernet cable.
Setup literally took about 15 minutes from start to finish. To begin, insert the startup DVD; the setup program walks you through the entire process. It's like having a network administrator at your side! First, connect your router as described, and turn it on. Then, the program checks that everything is connected properly. If anything is amiss, it suggests what's wrong. I had forgotten to turn off my old modem and router, so once I shut them down, the self-check passed and moved me to the network setup phase. At first, I kept the default network login, but you could change it if desired. Finally, Setup Genie connected me to the internet and requested my DSL login. By that time, all the green lights on the device were lit up properly. My browser started up and brought me to the "Congratulations ~ You have a live internet connection" page on the Netgear website. Yeah!
You can access the Internet directly by connecting your computer to one of the four Ethernet ports. Or, access your DSL via wireless. Once the wireless icon is available, just login to Wi-fi with the wireless login and password provided. You can also create a wireless network for printer sharing and parental controls. The DGN3500 includes a USB port, which allows you to connect a USB device like a hard drive or flash drive and access it via the wireless network. I haven't tried that yet, but I think it will be useful.
MODEM PERFORMANCE & WIRELESS NETWORK RANGE
Immediately after installation, I observed that Mozilla Firefox booted up all my tabs in less than 30 seconds. Surfing the Internet is now speedier and error free. I no longer experience failures connecting to websites. However, the router speed does drop down occasionally to 78 Mbps, but I disconnect and reconnect at a higher speed.
My new DSL connection and wireless network properties are as follows:
Speed: My benchmark DSL speeds with CenturyLink are: 1.36 Mbps (download) and .65 Mbps (upload). This test is available at: http://denver.speedtest.qwest.net/
My laptop connects to my new WiFi network at 130 Mbps (high) to 65.0 Mbps (low). I assume that my wi-fi connect speed is partially determined by my computer's WiFi connection. Wi-fi speed occasionally drops down, as I will discuss later. For those who are not accustomed to thinking in megabits (vs. megabytes) a simple conversion is possible. 130 Mbps is approx. 16.25 Megabytes per second. That's more than double my previous speed of 54 Mbps. I noticed my wireless connection sometimes decreases to 78 Mbps (9.75 Megabytes per second). I'm not sure why, but if I disconnect and reconnect, that solves the problem. We have a full house of internet users, and none of the devices timed out or had trouble accessing the internet.
Using a new Gigabit LAN card I installed on my old Gateway, my network connection speed via Ethernet cable is 1.0 Gbps (Gigabits per second). Also, I was surprised that after setting up the new LAN Connection, all my file and printer sharing worked perfectly. If I could install this, with my self-taught skills, almost anyone could!
Note: Ultimately, your DSL connection speed will never exceed your Internet plan, and your wireless network speed depends on your computer's wireless and netowork card capabilities. At least, that's how it appears to me, a non-techie.
Choose the location of your new modem-router carefully. Using a longer telephone cable to access DSL may degrade your Internet access speed. You might need to stabilize the device (with tape, for example), because it's relatively light and could tip over with multiple cables plugged in.
UPDATED: I was having issues with my notebook dropping down connection speed over wireless. It would drop to 78 Mbps or even 58. I was able to fix the problem by changing the channel to a different one than my neighbors. Apparently, it's possible for other networks to interfere with your home network, so experimenting with different channels can solve problems with range or dropped speeds.
Signal Quality: 5 bars out of 5
Range: I have a fairly open floor plan, with an upstairs and basement. I can access the internet via my iPod on both the upper floor and basement, so the range is adequate for my home.
File download: 160 KB/sec ~ File upload: 99.8 KB/sec.
Managing the DGN3500: You can login to your network online to change the connection properties. For example, you can change the default channel and provider specific settings. I decided to rename my network, so I followed the directions to access the website and was able to accomplish this. A network administrator would probably understand all the possibilities this website offers; but for now, I can only do simple maintenance.
Be aware: if you change your network login, you will need to reconnect using your connection utility! Always keep the Ethernet cable handy, in case you need to access the modem-router through a direct connection.
My new DSL connection and wireless transmission is nearly triple my old modem and router's speed. I'm a happy camper, because I pay for High Speed DSL from Century Link (formerly Qwest), and now I will not need to upgrade my connection. And, if I ever upgrade to the next connection speed, this modem-router should be compatible. Although it cost me $130, over the long run, it's an inexpensive solution to maximize my CenturyLink Connect Silver package.
Overall: This new device in my home office was such a pleasure to setup and use, so I'm very pleased with my purchase. And, I learned a lot about wireless networks, ethernet and DSL in the process. I will certainly update if anything about my internet or wi-fi performance changes!
Keyword tags: netgear, wireless, router, dsl, modem, upgrade, review