Sunday, September 26, 2010

Netgear WNDR3700 and DD-WRT

- I've been using a Linksys wrt310n for the past two years. It has served me well. It run's DD-WRT and was easy to flash. It still works fine but I've been itching to upgrade to a simultaneous dual band wireless N router. Having just got uverse and a new macbook pro I felt it was time to upgrade the router.
- I was trying to decide between this model and the Linksys E3000. Both have very similar specs and are priced at $150. They both have DD-WRT support.
I was a bit tired of the Linksys flying saucer design which seems to trap a lot of heat. Also, I was interested in giving the atheros chipset a try instead of the usual broadcom based ones.
- If you look on the box label you can tell what revision the router is. I got an 01r18. I believe the latest one is r21. There is also a new red box vs the old blue/yellow box that is 02r1 which most people think is just a repackaged r21. I'm not sure how big of a difference the revision makes but I would recommend finding the latest one you can on the shelf. I picked up mine at frys, and r18 is all they had. Some say the revision is linked to quality control. Basically, if you get a good one that doesn't have any radio issues then you should probably hold on to it.
- I really like the look of this router. The vertical stand is nice too. Also, it has an on/off switch that so few routers have. There is also a button on the front to toggle wifi on/off.
- I flashed dd-wrt right out of the box. Just go to the router database and search on wndr3700 for the latest recommended images. It was a pretty painless process. Just follow the instructions in the wiki. It's kind of odd that you have to do a 30/30/30 reset twice back to back but I went ahead and did it following the instructions to the letter. I noticed this version of dd-wrt includes openvpn.
- Dual band is interesting. It's basically two complete wireless access points in one box. The 2.4ghz and 5ghz each has it's own set of settings like SSID and security. This wiki entry explains the wireless settings pretty well. For 2.4ghz I set it to NG mixed, channel auto, channel width turbo 40hz (channel bonding), and in advanced boosted tx power to maximum recommended of 22. On the 5ghz radio I made it N only, turbo 40hz, and tx power 24. I had to switch it off of mixed to NG mixed or N only and save settings before 40hz was available. You want the 40hz to get the maximum 300mbps link rate. Having simultaneous dual band is pretty important. You want the 2.4ghz for legacy g and n equipment like my iPhone 4 N is only 2.4. It's also good for guests. You want 5ghz for the latest N equipment like my MacBook Pros where the air waves are less crowded even though range is going to be shorter.
- I like how all the ports are gigabit not just on the LAN switch side but the WAN port too. Even with qos on and lots of traffic cpu stayed very very low at < 15% and most of the time it's even lower than that. I guess that atheros 680mhz cpu really helps. I noticed my old wrt310n would routinely get to over 50% on its 300mhz cpu. - Performance over wired seems fine with ample bandwidth all around including wan to lan (408Mbps according to this review). Wireless performance is pretty dependent on location of course.

The router is in my main computer room. With the macbook pro 15" mid 2010 next to it in the same room on windows 7 x64 bootcamp, wpa2, copying a large 4.5GB file using fastcopy and netpersec to determine the speed.
5ghz: 118 Mbps
2.4ghz: 64Mbps

In the master bedroom, two bedrooms down on the same floor:
5ghz: 72Mbps
2.4ghz: 40Mbps

Downstairs in the family room:
5ghz: 102Mbps
2.4ghz: 62Mbps

The best this router can do is around 120mbps which isn't too shabby. No router will ever actually do 300mbps no matter what the link speed says. Smallnetbuilders charts showing the fastest being around 92Mbps so I guess I'm doing pretty well.
- Temperature is very good and much cooler than my linksys. It was barely warm to the touch.
- I had no issues with the radios being really weak or the 2.4ghz dying after 2 hrs. It's been a few days now and both radios seem to work fine.
- I haven't tried the USB port yet. I really don't have a need for it since all my storage is shared off a pc that is on 24/7.

Recommended. The jump in price from dual band to simultaneous dual band is quite substantial (about $80 to $150) but I think it's worth it. I don't plan to upgrade routers that often and this top of the line one should last me many years.


Anonymous said...

Arogan - Just saw I could post an anon comment. I just picked up the WNDR3700 (02R4) and I love it! I'm not as savvy as you so I just use the installed OS and UI but this thing is so cool.

First I had a Linksys WRT54G v2 which I bought in like 1906.... Solid but I could not keep my NAT open for XBOX. I tried upgrading to the Linksys E3000 and failed (Bad WAN port) but I did not replace it with another E3000 because the UI was HORRIBLE. The Web Interface was the same as my 54G model and though the router was capable of more services the advanced features could not be configured with the Web interface. In order to configure the advanced features you used a provided configuration application but that wiped out all your Web interface changes.... WOW Cisco!!!

Based on my E3000 experience I decided I would try either a D-Link or Netgear router. Your review plus the fact that it "promised" DLNA capability sold me on trying the Netgear 3700.

Installation was pretty easy though I kinda made it harder than necessary by not shutting off my modem before connecting and powering up my Netgear (my mistake). Because of that the Netgear made the mistake of assuming I had a static IP from my service provider. The software instructed me on what to do to retry (power off modem, wait 2 mins, etc...).

Anyway the installation software prompted me for all the right basic configuration questions (SSID, wireless pswds, etc... - The E3000 configured some horrible SSID and password for you).

Right out of the box my two XBOX NAT's were both open (old Linksys allowed a moderate and strict) which made me very happy. No port forwarding or DMZ definitions. I assume its still as secure as my old Linksys and it has an enabled hard firewall... maybe not as secure though so I need to keep digging to verify.

By far the coolest thing was the fact the DLNA USB port worked! I plugged a USB drive in the back of the 3700 with some music and all my PC's saw it..... doubly cool was all my XBOX'es saw it.... It even allows you to open it up to the Internet which I have no plans on doing but you could.

The installed UI while visually ugly is much better than the Linksys giving descriptions of the parameters and better overall defaults. It did however fail (or I got impatient) on a language firmware update.

The one minor gripe would be Netgear is messing up their marketing. They are changing the 3700 models name to 37AV creating a lot of community confusion. From what I can tell though a 3700 with the latest firmware is a 37AV.

This success does lead to more cost... Now I have to upgrade all my switches to Gigabit... LOL

Anyway thanks again for your review..... worked out great for me.


ARogan said...

Thanks for posting your thoughts on the factory firmware. It does have some cool features like the DLNA server and the ready share usb stuff which you lose in dd-wrt (though technically you can add those features back in but it's a pretty involved process and I haven't bothered trying). Yeah, the wndr3700 has been working great for me so far. It's good to see maximum pc agrees with us. They recently did a roundup of high end routers and the wndr3700 won (got a 9 and kick ass).,1

Anonymous said...

ARogan - Long time bud - hope you are well. Just updated the router today - not sure when the firmware was available. Still think it rocks but I need to reboot it every so often because the XBOX can't talk to the DLNA server. Hoping the firmware upgrade helps. Hope to catch ya soon.

Hardware Version WNDR3700
Firmware Version V1.0.7.98NA
GUI Language Version V1.0.0.64

Anonymous said...

"There is also a button on the front to toggle wifi on/off."
I chose that router because of that feature but after installing dd-wrt, it looks it is not working any more. Do you experience the same problem ?

Mark_Uverse said...

I agree to your idea. ATT Uverse internet provides internet at high speed. You can relax and enjoy surfing the net without worrying about the various hiccups.