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.

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