Review Netgear 3700 dual band WiFi router
I have been testing the Netgear WNDR 3700 router for almost 2 weeks now and this is one of the high end Simultaneous Dual-band WiFi router from Netgear that is sold in India, I never get too much excited based on the spec sheets unless I see the real performance of the device in day-to-day usage hence I did a lot of test with this router and lets find out how this router preforms in the real world.
This Netgear WNDR 3700 router has all the features that you normally find on high end routers like Gigabit ports (WAN + 4 Lan ports) Simultaneous dual band, it also has one USB port and can make attached storage DLNA compilable so that you can stream to network attached devices like PS3, Xbox and media player, also you can set not one but 2 Guest networks on each band if required, If you want to know more about the various features that can be found on a WiFi routers read this article.
Actually the version of the router I got is the version 2 also called as WNDR3700v2 as this router was originally launched in late 2009 this v2 started appearing in the market in 2011 and there is no difference in the exterior of the device but some changes have been made internally so when you buy this router v2 performance is slightly differs from the original WNDR3700 but it does not matter as if you are in the market to purchase this router you will only get the v2 now.
The first that I took notice is that this is a big router when the stand is attached and it is in the vertical position it stand at 23 inches which is quite big for a router.
The build quality of the router is pretty good the top portion of the router is housed in glossy plastic with the Netgear logo embossed frankly it look nice, on the front of the router Netgear has provide us with a lot of leds lights and by just glancing at the same you can have a pretty good idea what is happening with your network and the router.
Apart from all the Led lights that light up displaying all the activity with your router, it also has two physical buttons on the front the first one is for WiFi and with this button you can switch on/off WiFi radio of this router it’s a nice touch but it switches on or off both the 2.4 Ghz and the 5Ghz Wifi band it would have been nice if Netgear would have provided individual buttons for each WiFi band, the other button is for WPS setup.
Moving towards the back we have one USB 2.0 port, one WAN port and below that 4 Ethernet ports for your wired devices or computer all the ports Ethernet & WAN are Gigabit ports (1000 Mbps) right below the last Ethernet port is the power adapter socket and below that a physical on/off button which again is a nice touch.
Tech Specs: Specs do not matter with a router it’s performance that ultimately counts but for geeks here are the specs for this router.
Processor: 680Mhz Atheros ARM processor (Powerful processor for consumer grade router)
WiFi: Simultaneously Dual band on 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz band dual N 300Mbps
WiFi Antennas: 8 internal
RAM: 64 MB
Flash: 8 MB
I have also made an unboxing video of this Netgear 3700 router on my youtube channel.
WiFi options under admin interface of 3700v2
The admin interface for this router is typical Netgear type but now in 2011 it looks old but gets the job done, under the basic WiFi settings you get to set options for both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz band under 2.4Ghz you have the b/g/n bands enabled by default and you can see the Mode to 54 Mbps, 130 Mbps and 300 Mbps but not setting for selecting 20Mhz or 40 Mhz you cannot even set the WiFi mode to just say N or G which is kind of disappointing under the 5Ghz the options are similar you can also set the SSID for both the bands via this interface, a tip if you want the best throughput select the security option to WPA2 AES another good thing is that WEP security option is on longer found.
Guest Network: The router supports not one but 2 guest network one of 2.4Ghz and one on 5Ghz so in total you can run 4 Wifi networks simultaneously if you want, 2 primary and 2 guest network you have the option to isolate the guest network from your primary network or you can allow access if required but there is no option to limit bandwidth to a certain limit on the guest network, also there is no option to set a particular channel for Guest Network.
Also you cannot set for example your primary WiFi network to say 130Mbps and your Guest network to 300Mbps if you would have set your Primary WiFi network to say 54Mbps your Guest network would automatically be set to 54Mbps this is not a problem with Netgear but with most WiFi router and I would like manufactures to provide a bit more control and options for the guest network.
Router and testing zones: As this router is dual band hence supporting the normal 2.4Ghz WiFi band and also the 5Ghz band, I have divided both the test for each band, also too make the testing standard I have divided the apartment in which these test were done into these Zones.
Zone A: 4-5 feet from the router, same room no blockage direct line of sight to the WiFi router
Zone B: Living area 23 feet from router, here the media player, TV, PS3 etc is located all these devices are connected via WiFi, there is brick wall in-between this area and the router no line of sight to the router.
Zone C: 33 feet from the router and there are 2 brick wall in-between this area and the router, no line of sight to the router.
Zone D: 50 feet from the router and there are two brick wall and one thick wooden door between this area and the router and no line of sight to the router.
The testing of this router is done in an apartment which is in a populated urban area in the heart of the city hence at any given time I get about 7-10 WiFi network can be found where the router is placed, so by testing the router in such a area I try to simulate real-world performance that you might get with a router if you are living in an urban apartment.
Testing Method: For testing WiFi performance a 13″ Macbook Air 2010 model was used the 2.4 Ghz 130 Mbps and under 5 Ghz 130 Mbps and 300 Mbps and the Macbook Air was running Mac OS Lion, as the Macbook Air did not support speeds of 300 Mbps on the 2.4 Ghz band a Netgear WNA3100 USB WiFi dongle was used for 2.4 Ghz 300 Mbps testing under Windows XP, the test were done while transferring files to a NAS that supports gigabit port connected to the Netgear 3700 router on the Gigabit ethernet port.
All the testing done on this Netgear WDNR3700v2 router was done with the official firmware version 188.8.131.52 that was the latest firmware at the time of testing Aug 2011 for this router, all WiFi testing was done with WPA2 using AES encryption.
WiFi throughput by Netgear 3700 in Mbps
Those of you who like the numbers given in the above chart is the WiFi throughput in Mbps for the Netgear 3700 router under both 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz band.
WiFi performance under 2.4 Ghz: The performance of the router was decent under the 2.4Ghz 130 Mbps and the 300 Mbps, I did not have problems with general browsing and streaming online videos in all the Zones, In the Zone A and B as expected full signal was achieved the signal was even decent and strong in the Zone C where I could play youtube videos even at 720p generally in this zone where some router tend to drop a few bars but this Netgear router did manage to give a decent throughput with full signal, at times the signal strength went down to 4 bars from the full 5 but with general internet usage and streaming youtube videos even on the iPad it was not a problem but in Zone D which is kind of a problem and a tricky location for almost all routers the signal strength as expected was low but basic browsing was possible but streaming media like youtube at even 480p was a bit glitchy.
I also did some gaming test with the PS3 using the built in WiFi on the PS3 which uses the 2.4 Ghz band and I did not face any lag issues due to the router.
WiFi performance under 5 Ghz: The WiFi performance and overall throughput was very good under 5 Ghz band as indicated by the chart results I was able to get the WiFi signal in the Zone A, B and C, in Zone C the signal started to drop a but but still in the 5 GHz 300 Mbps it was able to beat the 2.4 Ghz band but as expected the range of 5 Ghz is limited and it just could not reach the Zone D which is to be expected, if you plan on streaming a lot of HD content or for that matter do transfer a lot of files via WiFi then the 5 Ghz provides impressive performance if those devices are not very far away from the router.
One thing interesting I noted is that when I setup the router first I had set my region to Asia and Both in 2.4 GHz and 5 Ghz I noticed that the range was not that I was expecting particularly in Zone C and D but once I changed my Region to United States the signal strength increased and I was getting better signal in Zone C and Zone D which were having patchy reception earlier, I did some look-up regarding this behavior and found out that it is due to signal strength restrictions in particular regions and particularly if you set to USA / Canada the restrictions are less hence you getting a boost in your WiFi signal so if you are not getting the WiFi range try changing the Region that is under Setup / Wireless Setting and see if that helps.
Wired LAN to Wired LAN throughput In this test I transferred a 800 MB file from one computer to another using LAN both computers were having gigabit Ethernet ports and were connected directly to the Netgear 3700 gigabit (1000 Mbps) ports and I observed speeds of around 475 Mbps which is again pretty good.
WAN Internet Performance The performance of the WAN port (connection to the internet) was great and routing my internet connection via the router did not add any lag, my internet connection is not the fastest it’s just 15Mbps and I was able to reach that speeds via the router via wired computers and even on the WiFi network, so this router does not add any noticeable lag or slows down your internet connection the WAN port is also gigabit so even if you have a 100 Mbps internet connection you should be good.
USB port and transfer speed The Netgear 3700 router has one USB 2.0 port at the back and you can attach portable HDD or USB thumb drives to the same and they can then be accessed over your network they work great with both Mac and PC’s and hence you can use them like a NAS drive where you can centrally store common data that you would like to share with all your computers, Netgear likes to call this feature Readyshare, the router supports various file formats like NTFS, FAT 16/32 Ext 2 and Ext 3 but I tested it with a drive using FAT 32 and for write speeds I was getting around 5.1 MB/sec and a read speed of 11.8 MB/sec which according to me is decent enough for a USB port of a router also you can password protect a folder but only assign admin password for the same but you cannot create more user accounts.
The Netgear router can also act as a DLNA server for attached HDD or pen drives to the USB port and I tested this and it worked without issue I was able to stream videos to my WDTV and PS3 and it immediately found the Media Server for the WNDR3700. Using the admin interface you can enable or disable this feature also you can give a custom name to your Media server if you wanted.
Some Missing features: Though the 3700 has a USB port at the back and you can attach storage devices like HDD or pen drives but this router does not have any built in download manager or torrent client (so that files can continue to download even when your PC is switched off) which is kind of sad as other competing products in this range provide this option also you cannot attach 3G datacards to this router.
Power Consumption: I have also started to measure the power consumption of devices I test and this router is pretty green in that department it consumes around 5.2 Watts When its switched on with WiFi and no ethernet devices attached.
If WiFi is switched off using the on / off button given on the front of the router it consumes about 4 Watts so in a typical usage pattern when Wifi is switched on and one computer is attached via ethernet it would consume about 5.5 watts of power.
1) Multiple WiFi guest network setup on each 2.4 Ghz and 5 GHz band.
2) USB port works great on both PC’s and Mac’s
3) Good throughput and decent range for 5 Ghz band.
4) Impressive wired LAN to LAN transfer speeds.
5) Physical On / Off switch for WiFi
6) Can make any external storage device attached to its USB port DLNA compliant for easily serving media.
7) Supports IPv6 so this router is future proof.
8 ) Easy to use Parental controls great if you have kids using the Live Parental Controls.
1) 2.4 Ghz range is good but throughput could have been better.
2) No Built in Torrent / download manger.
3) No support for 3G datacards.
Overall I would give this router 8 / 10 and the street pricing for this Netgear WNDR 3700 router in India is around Rs 7,250/-