I wrote this review to share my experience with the new Netgear WNDR3800 wireless router. I have been using a preproduction unit for several weeks. Functionally it is the same as the shipping units except that my unit has half the memory of the shipping units. The memory limitation of my unit would affect Time Machine support which I did not test.
Netgear AV Consultant
The new Netgear WNDR3800 router is in my opinion is the logical successor to the widely popular WNDR3700. The 3700 was a feature rich high performance dual band router with features aimed at the performance users and media users in the home networking space. The WNDR3800 takes all that was great about the 3700 and adds several new and innovative features as well as enhanced and updated functions of the WNDR3700. For me the WNDR3800 feature set sets a new bar on performance and capabilities for anyone looking for a high performance feature rich wireless dual band network router.
New Features in the WNDR3800
Clear Channel Technology
The 3800 adds new enterprise grade technology such as Clear Channel interference prevention technology. This new technology allows the router to automatically communicate with its wireless client's to instruct them to move to the clearest possible channel in the 2,4 g band to gain the maximum wireless performance in this increasingly crowded wireless wifi spectrum. The use of Clear Channel is a big step up in my opinion. The 2.4ghz band is very crowded. Every wifi device uses 2.4ghz. And many other wireless devices use this space as well. And more so if you live in an apartment or city area where you have many neighbors who have wireless networks. This is an ingenious solution to a complex problem. And the WNDR3800 is the only consumer / prosumer router on the market to offer it to my knowledge. Clear Channel works completely in the background. No settings to worry about. Nothing you need to do. Just use your devices as normal and the WNDR3800 takes care of the rest. It just works providing the clearest wireless connection possible based on your environment
Other new features over the WNDR3700 are the enhancements to the router's ReadyShare USB file sharing technology. This technology has been further developed to provide a true cloud based file sharing experience. The new technology is now called ReadyShare Cloud. This is a very useful aspect of the Netgear routers has been enhanced dramatically. Ready Share Cloud is a complete Cloud solution for users that want easy available access to all of their data be it locally or anywhere they have web access. In addition Netgear has a completely new design on the user interface providing a true Windows Explorer like experience that makes it feel the remote drive you are accessing is really a local drive. This is very unlike cloud experiences I have had including those from DropBox, SugarSync and other cloud based sharing systems. On top of that I have a 500gb drive connected to my 3800 so my limits of storage are so say the least large. And the WNDR3800 will accept larger drives so in essence you really will have all the shared storage you will need.
Additionally Netgear has enhanced Ready Share Cloud further by the development of both IOS and Android clients. This provides users with a complete mobile access point to their cloud based shared files. At this time there is no Mac client available but that will be forthcoming later in the year.
Both the IOS and Android clients offer a very seamless experience accessing your ReadyShare Cloud storage. When you log in using the user name and password you set up when you set up the 3800 ReadyShare Cloud you are taken to the top menu which will list the WNDR3800 (or whatever you may have changed the name to). You then just drill down the folder structure until you reach the appropriate folder or file you are looking for. The IOS and the Android apps operate very similarly with the only differences being inherent in the devices themselves.
For more information check out the video on Ready Share Cloud here www.netgear.com/readyshare
. Seeing it will really help understand it.
Netgear Genie and new UI
The user interfaces of all routers to date have been at best cryptic. I always thought Netgear had a better UI than any other I had seen but I still found myself stumbling around to change a setting or turn on a function. Additionally you really had no idea what was happening on your network unless you downloaded some third party app to track network traffic etc. There was nothing that provided a complete network dashboard and the ability to command and control what is happening on your network.
Well the addition of Netgear's new UI and the Netgear Genie solve this problem in a very easy to understand and highly functional new user interface. First is the login screen of the router. It itself is a highly informative login screen. It provides a quick snapshot of what is happening on your network. To the left of the dashboard are all the sections to controls you will use in setting up your router. It is all very logical and easy to use. I found this this router setup up to be a breeze.
The standalone Netgear Genie application takes this dashboard a step forward. It provides some of the same capability of the web based log in Genie to remotely manage some of the user functions of your router but adds a whole new level of management and control by clearly snapshotting all of the activity going on in your network real-time. This helps you understand what devices are attached, what devices are active, how much network activity is taking place and what you're up and download activity on your internet connect is. It is a very handy tool. One I am beginning to rely upon greatly.
Other enhancements to the WNDR3800 are the option of using its USB port for printer sharing as well. This does not prevent the use of the Ready Share Cloud but is an additional service available to the user. If using both a hard drive and printer you must add a USB hub to the WNDR3800 but other than that it is pretty straightforward to setup. In the usb setup menu are 3 options Basic (local use only), ReadyShare Cloud and ReadyShare Printer. Each selection takes you to the appropriate setup instructions and links that will get you going in minutes.
Using printer sharing requires the download of a small application that manages the usb connections. In my experience the printer sharing acts more like a switch in that only one computer can be connected to the printer at any one time. I am using a multifunction printer and what is nice is all the functions operate seamlessly on my wifi connected laptop. Something I could never do before. But given the fact these are single user printers Netgear had to build in multi user logic. The USB Control Center handles this by auto disconnecting a manually connected computer after a preset time. This allows for automatic selection when you want to print from other computers. If a printer is busy the USB Control Center sends a message to the other computer asking it to disconnect. It all works but as any of these solutions are work a rounds it will never be as seamless as a network connected multiuser printer. But for my purposes it gets the job done.
Apple Time Machine and TIVO Support
Other features of the WNDR3800 are Apple Time Machine backup support. This feature is not current active since with Apple's release of Lion Netgear had to go back and rework the code for this. Netgear claims that they will have the update for Time Machine by Q4 if not before. There will also be a limit to 300gb per backup. So keep that in mind as well.
The WNDR3800 also supports TIVO's. This will allow you to use your attached ReadyShare storage for TIVO recording storage. As I am not a TIVO user I can't comment. But those that are it is another plus.
While this is a carryover from the WNDR3700 the Video Mode option on the 5ghz band is a unique and important asset to these Netgear routers. Basically when you select this mode the router detects the type of data being passed through. When it detects video content it will throttle down the speed to provide the most consistent throughput which is what is needed for video. This is an important distinction. When I am passing data for a web page for example I don't mind if the download pauses for a second or two. I certainly will mind if it happens while watching video since my video will stop and freeze. With the use of the Video Mode and a Guest Network setting I have a video network in my home that is dedicated to when I am watching video on my laptop or iPad. This is a terrific and often unknown feature of these routers one I highly recommend for media consumers.
Summary and Experience
The WNDR3800 carries over the best of the WNDR3700 and adds a plethora of new and valuable features. Each user will certainly find a different level of priority on the feature set. For me as an example Ready Share Cloud and the Network Genie are at the top of my list. That follows with the Printer Sharing and the Video mode. Clear Channel I believe will be important buying decision for most but since I live in an suburban area with a lot space between houses congestion wasn't so much a problem. But managing my network with over 30 actives devices is.
The performance of the WNDR3800 has been excellent. I am not an engineer so I didn't do exhaustive networking tests. I just have been living with it for several weeks now. I have a large home network and use my network for passing a lot of HD media files. I do this both wired and wirelessly. The 3800 has worked great so far. My wireless devices connect quickly to the WNDR3800, signal strength is good and my coverage is excellent. With the added bonus of the extras like Ready Share Cloud, Genie and Printer Sharing I don't know what else I could ask for in a router. I believe anyone looking for a wireless router today would be hard pressed to do better than the WNDR3800. Frankly I don't know how you can do better than this. It is just that good.