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Netgear RangeMax 240 Wireless Router (WPNT834)
Netgear's Airgo-based RangeMax 240 topped our medium-range performance tests and came a close second in the long-range shootout. The RangeMax 240 also sports excellent router features and has the best Web-based configuration tool of the bunch, thanks in no small part to the ever-present and very thorough context-sensitive help.
Installation using the included CD and the Web-based SmartWizard was straightforward and without incident. The process leads you through the cable connections that vendors generally recommend for setup, basic configuration, and then security. We had an equally good experience with the adapter card, as the setup wizard offered to help configure the first connection after installing the drivers and Wireless Assistant connection utility. While the utility could confuse a first-time user, it provides lots of practical information about your connection, such as traffic graphs and statistics.
Designwise, we really like the unit's mod white plastic case with glowing iconic indicator lights that let you check the router status from afar. The RangeMax 240 also has a label on the bottom detailing the functions of all the ports and lights, as well as the default IP address and log-in information you need for browser-based configuration after a router reset--data we wish all vendors would make so handy.
The one design flaw is the model's lack of wall-mount holes, although you can orient the router horizontally or vertically on a desk or other flat surface.
Other nitpicks concern the product's lack of QoS support (Netgear says it will come soon in a firmware update) and the failure of the router firmware's "check for updates" feature to find a firmware update that was available on Netgear's Web site. (To be fair, no router in this review successfully located and installed firmware updates--we had to get all updates manually from support sites.) Overall, however, the RangeMax 240 has the best combination of performance, features, design, and usability here. Its only major drawback is that it will never be upgradable to the 802.11n standard.
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