Netgear's Dual-Band WNDR3700 Router Is Fast, Reliable
At a Glance
Netgear N600 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router (WNDR3700)
This concurrent dual-band router has excellent performance and hassle-free media sharing, but a sometimes puzzling user experience.
Netgear's 4-port gigabit, simultaneous dual-band WNDR3700 Wi-Fi router proved a joy to use. It was stable and glitch-free, with easy media serving. However, bliss only commenced after setup and configuration.
The WNDR3700 offers none of the hand-holding that the Cisco Linksys E4200 provides. You must browse to 192.168.0.1 to access Netgear's HTML setup pages to configure the unit. That's fine by me; I don't believe in steering users away from learning what they need to know about their router with misleadingly simple setup routines. My gripes--minor ones to be sure--lie elsewhere.
While some of the setup and configuration will leave you scratching your head, in action the WNDR3700 is a thing of beauty. The Wireless Protected Setup (WPS)--invoked via a button on the front of the unit-- worked great. Both the 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz networks had good range, and streaming multimedia including 1080p video was flawless (at least with a good signal when streaming wirelessly).
The UPnP media server popped up in Windows Media Player's list immediately, with all the media on the drive in the WNDR3700's USB port already sorted and available for playback. And you can access files via the unit's ReadyShare network file serving by simply typing \\readyshare in the Windows Explorer address bar. You may restrict access to certain devices and create network folders.
Though I never needed to do anything more than enable the Wireless MulitMedia (WMM) for the two networks to get smooth media streaming performance, the WNDR3700 also lets you define QoS rules for VoIP. Other features include port forwarding and triggering, dynamic DNS support, comprehensive and granular parental/access controls, and UPnP support (for configuring the router and firewall remotely--not media serving). There are also guest networks for both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands.
Where did I find the gripes? For example, the setup application opened the online PDF documentation in Internet Explorer instead of my default browser, Firefox, or my Foxit PDF reader. I thought that practice had ended years ago. In addition, the user's guide resided only online at Netgear.com. The CD setup guide contains enough troubleshooting information to solve most issues, however, it's amazing that the bulk of the documentation for a key piece of your link to the Internet is unavailable without an Internet connection.
Also, while the WNDR3700's HTML interface is generally easy to navigate and use, there are oddities. For instance, there didn't seem to be an easy way to tell the router not to look for an Internet connection and simply function as a switch. Even though the WNDR3700 had an Internet connection available via another router, it complained that it didn't when I tried to search for a firmware upgrade.
However, the WNDR3700 is an excellent product once configured, and I found there's no better performing small or home office-class (SOHO) Wi-Fi router available. Still, the interface and setup experience need some work.