Netgear WNDR4500

While Netgear makes frustrating choices with set-up, and imposes ridiculous restarts when you apply settings, the sheer wireless performance of the WNDR4500 cannot be denied.


9.0
CNET Rating

View more from Netgear »

About The Author

CNET Editor

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.


It probably says something that the WNDR4500 is significantly bigger than Netgear's other routers, and still splits its power supply into a brick form that's bigger than some laptop power supplies.

This is the router that ticks every one of Netgear's marketing boxes — but will it hold up to the hype?

Specs at a glance

Firmware tested 1.0.0.70
ADSL2+ modem No
Annex M N/A
3G modem No
IPv6 Yes
Wireless protocols 802.11b/g/n
Dual band Simultaneous
Highest wireless security WPA2
WDS Yes
Ethernet ports 4x gigabit, 1x gigabit WAN
USB print sharing/storage Storage, printer
Accessories Ethernet cable, installation CD

Connections

The WNDR4500 is one from the growing field of routers that has gigabit WAN, meaning that should the National Broadband Network (NBN) come to your town, you'll be well positioned to take advantage of it. Four gigabit Ethernet ports are also available, as are a pair of USB ports, which, despite being blue, only support USB 2.0.

These USB ports allow storage and printers to be shared wirelessly, although there's no support for 3G modems or USB pass through. Just like the WNDR3700, Netgear can make the storage available over SMB, HTTP and FTP, or it can be made available through a DLNA server.

Netgear WNDR4500 rear

Power switch, power jack, gigabit WAN port, 4x gigabit Ethernet ports, 2x USB 2.0 ports.
(Credit: Netgear)

UI and features

Netgear's UI has been completely remade, in part to mimic its "Genie" software that it supplies for the desktop. Effort has gone into making things easier to read, in order to provide "at a glance" information, although graphics have been severely over-optimised and dithered over.

Netgear now places its help in a bar along the bottom — click it and it pops up, overlaying the settings screen. While the help is related contextually to the current screen, there are huge amounts of information here with only a tiny viewing box, resulting in a massive scroll bar.

The separation into "Basic" and "Advanced" settings is expected; however, Netgear hasn't really thought things through, providing an "Advanced Setup" section within the advanced tab. We can only assume that it's for advanced-advanced users. Similarly, we're at a lost as to why "Setup Wizard" is in the advanced section, or why you have to bounce between two different sections to access all of the wireless settings.

In a disturbing trend for Netgear, changing any settings requires a 20-second wait, as the entire router is rebooted. This is utterly mindless — if you change a wireless setting, all of your wired users get booted as a result. Whether it's a chipset or a UI issue, this is unacceptable.

Netgear DGND3700 UI

Netgear's new UI is okay, but badly organised. The 20-second wait to apply settings is also incredibly frustrating, and is even longer on lower-powered devices.
(Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

Being a top-of-the-line router, features are reasonable. From right within the interface, you can set the MAC address, for instance. Address reservation is in here, and, interestingly, you can control your upstream bandwidth — although not on a per-user level.

Guest networks can be set up on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, and if you really want to enforce internet times on your kids, then wireless availability can be scheduled.

Parental controls include keyword, URL and port blocking, and you can set these restrictions on a scheduled basis.

You can also record the amount of internet traffic through the router, if you wish, allowing you to disconnect the internet or make one of the lights on the router flash orange once the limit (MBs or hours) has been reached. Those on TB plans will be out of luck here; the limit only supports six digits, locking you to a maximum of 999,999MB. We'd love to see Netgear go one step further, and throttle connections based on a MAC address, or refuse internet access to certain MACs should they exceed a preset, per-MAC limit.

Genie, the Windows- or Mac-bound application to make setting up your network easier, is actually decent, and covers a good portion of configuration options. The network map in particular helps you see what's connected, and can assist in diagnosing issues. When you're not using it, Genie becomes a system-tray app, ready to help when you need it.

Performance

After analysing the spectrum with InSSIDer, an empty channel of either 1, 6 or 11 is chosen for 2.4GHz wireless testing. Usually, the router is restricted to the 20MHz band if the option is available.

We use iperf to determine throughput, running eight streams with a TCP window size of 1MB and an interval of one second. The test is run for five minutes in three different locations on two separate occasions. The locations are in the same room as the router: one floor down around spiral stairs and with concrete walls and floors, and two floors down under the same conditions.

The wireless throughput is tested using three chipsets (the Atheros AR5008X, Ralink RT2870 and Intel Ultimate-N 6300), and then all results are averaged.

2.4GHz throughput (in Mbps)

  • Linksys WAG320N
  • AVM Fritz!Box 7390
  • Netgear WNDR4500
  • Netgear DGND3700
  • 139.00107.5399.7065.97
    Location one (same room, no obstructions)
  • 114.3390.8064.6354.37
    Location two (one floor down, some obstructions)
  • 53.8344.9044.3035.27
    Location three (two floors down, some obstructions)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


The WNDR4500 mostly tops the 2.4GHz charts, only giving way to its sibling DGND3700 at the second measuring point.

5GHz throughput (in Mbps)

  • Linksys WAG320N
  • AVM Fritz!Box 7390
  • Netgear WNDR4500
  • Netgear DGND3700
  • 189.67151.33140.6793.97
    Location one (same room, no obstructions)
  • 135.50100.9793.1092.6
    Location two (one floor down, some obstructions)
  • 8.534.500.410
    Location three (two floors down, some obstructions)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


5GHz is impressive on the WNDR4500, with the Intel adapter really kicking up the scores. It's at the point where we may have to retire the older wireless adapters we test with in order to give fairer results to the new breed of fast, wireless routers.

Of note, the router managed to connect at 5GHz in the third location for two out of the three wireless adapters — a new best for the 5GHz range.

Warranty

Netgear covers the WNDR4500 with a two-year warranty; equal with Billion, and a decent period for such a product.

Conclusion

While Netgear makes frustrating choices with set-up, and imposes ridiculous restarts when you apply settings, the sheer wireless performance of the WNDR4500 cannot be denied.



Add Your Review 2


* Below fields optional


Post comment as
 

JohnnyW posted a comment   
Australia

To be completely honest, I have stopped reading sometimes, not just CNET but a lot of the "professionals" online. Not having a dig at anyone person, but honestly I used to read these sites religiously all the time, and follow there word etc.

So I went out to buy the apparently amazing N750 from Harvey Norman for $300 at the time, to replace my humble Dlink 2740B (3 antenaa).

Reason I wanted to change was I live right near the exchange now and thought I might as well get a great modem. That and also my place is very long, and has many walls, and so my reception from the router (my room) or kitchen where I dont have to sleep next to my router, to my alienware computer in the living room is very far. I would get 2 bars - 1 bar flicking between the 2.

So I bought this router, I set it up in a sec as I ma very good with networking a modem router, and what do you know.. it flicks between 0 and 1 bar... worse than the 2/3 year old D LINK that sells for $100.

Explain the tests all you want, to me it just screams slaes pitch whenever I read this garbage. I tried both and clearly, there real world difference is nearly none. I live in Sydney, North Shore so Im not near any major towers etc..

 

Craig Simms posted a reply   
Australia

No sales pitch at all. We test it, and write it up how we found it. You are welcome to disagree with the outcome.

But do understand that "real world" varies massively when it comes to wireless performance. In different environments, with different wireless adapters (if you have an older adapter, it won't be using the router to best advantage), routers will perform differently. The tests were also performed on the North Shore, but room configuration, building materials used and router position at my testing place will be completely different to your house.

Major towers shouldn't affect things regardless, they work on completely different frequencies.

I should also note that this model is not the N750, nor does it contain a modem. It's a pure router, the N900 WNDR4500, so I'd suggest you bought something different.

 

JohnnyW posted a reply   
Australia

Thanks for the reply.

What do you suggest, as a Modem/Router, as straight out-an-out the best/fastest/strongest signal you can get?

 

Yoda7 posted a comment   
Australia

Every other review of the WNDR4500 I have read has been quite critical compared to your "Editor's Choice".
The other reviews and forums indicate terrible wireless performance on either 2.4 or 5 GHz - inconsistently between individual routers as well. Excluding yours, one WNDR4500 performed terribly on the 2.4GHZ band while another was bad on the 5GHz band. So it is pot luck if you buy one, which is unacceptable to most buyers.
Compared to the DGND3700 and the WNDR3800, this router was quite bad.
The fact that the DGND3700's 2.4GHz performance one floor down is far better should have rung alarm bells. This is probably the most relevant point/distance in most user's premises.

If it has a terrible user interface and "The 20-second wait [reboot] to apply settings is also unforgivable" then it should not be worthy of "Editor's Choice". I can only assume the other routers you have tested have been truly dreadful.

A bit of proof reading of your article wouldn't go astray either. Take a look at the heading in the 5Ghz table.

 

Craig Simms posted a reply   
Australia

Thanks for the feedback.

We can only report on the unit that is front of us, with the particular firmware it's running on, in the environment it's running in. In this instance, the 4500 performed very well, across three separate wireless adapters on both bands. Mileage will of course vary where users use other wireless adapters, run different firmware, have different house configurations or have a problematic unit.

We've found over a long period of time that performance profiles of routers aren't necessarily linear; that is, they won't always be the very best in every location, or always come second or third. In this instance, the DGND3700 simply performed better in this location -- it isn't a case of alarm bells ringing, it's just better in that position. Nonetheless, the data is there if you're concerned and decide to make your own choice based off that.

The user interface isn't terrible, nor did I say that -- I simply raised the issues I had with the redesign. However yes, as a general rule router interfaces are poor.

I thought for a while before including the term "unforgivable", I can see now that it was too strong, and have adjusted accordingly.

All our articles are edited after submission; as humans though we are fallible, and sometimes mistakes slip through. The chart title has been corrected.




Sponsored Links
CNET's latest

User Reviews / Comments  Netgear WNDR4500

  • JohnnyW

    JohnnyW

    "To be completely honest, I have stopped reading sometimes, not just CNET but a lot of the "professionals" online. Not having a dig at anyone person, but honestly I used to read these sites religiou..."

  • Yoda7

    Yoda7

    "Every other review of the WNDR4500 I have read has been quite critical compared to your "Editor's Choice".
    The other reviews and forums indicate terrible wireless performance on either 2.4 or..."

CNET Speedtest

Recently Viewed Products