Netgear DG834PN 108 Mbps RangeMax ADSL Modem Wireless Router review

Setting up an ADSL broadband connection is easy enough, just plug the modem thingy into the socket and your PC into the thingy and it all works. However, you’ll soon want the benefits of a wireless network so you can play a deathmatch with your mate whilst both sitting on your respective toilets (speak for yourself, Ed). So you plug a wireless router thingy into the modem thingy. Which is fine, until you decide you’d like to use your wireless laptop in the garden as well and need to plug a third range extending thingy in to the thingy in the thingy.

Ancient IT proverb says: the less thingy’s the less stress. Which is where the warm and cuddly named DG834PN comes in, as it’s all three thingy’s in one fashionable iPod-white box. A compact 220x152x25mm box at that, and one with no antennae sticking out. Which begs the question how does it work then? And that’s the clever bit because there are no less than six internal smart antennas, which constantly adapt to your needs at any time, and any place, to provide the strongest signal from a possible 60 different antenna configurations. All of which means that your broadband connection can travel further throughout the house. In theory. Which of course brings us to the "in practice" bit.

While we were unable to get anywhere near the claimed 500% more wireless range than a standard 802.11g system, that will always vary depending upon where the router is sitting, what the walls between it and your laptop are made of and how many it has to go through and so on. It really does become a piece of string question. There’s an easy answer to it if you don’t invest in the matching RangeMax adaptors for the computers you want to connect to the network though, and that’s zero. We found absolutely no increase in range unless we used the special adaptors (WPN511 for the PC Card version), and they cost an additional £39.50 each. Make the investment and the difference is staggering. Corners of the house that were broadband free before became accessible, as did the bottom of the garden whereas the signal would evaporate halfway down before. With our labcoats on we measured the overall increase in range at 275%, which is really rather impressive - more so considering the signal was rock solid and stable as well.

Perhaps most importantly of all, setup and configuration continues to follow the Netgear tradition of being a walk in the park - well a walk in your web browser actually. You talk to the device through a simple browser-based interface, and essentially let the wizards guide you through everything including making your wireless network super-secure using the latest WPA-PSK protection. Whereas the older WEP (wired equivalent privacy) standard was better than nothing, it was a close call. WPA-PSK (Wi-Fi Protected Access - Pre Shared Key) is at the cutting edge of wireless security. The protection doesn’t stop there though, as the router has a built in firewall to help keep hackers away from your PC as well (although you should still use a software firewall as well).

Verdict

By far and away the best single box ADSL wireless network solution we've tested, use it with the recommended adaptors and you'll be amazed at just how far your broadband connection can reach.