Netgear WNHDEB111 HD/Gaming 5GHz Wireless-N Networking Kit

They're big and quite ugly, but there's no doubting that Netgear's WNHDEB111 delivers in the 802.11n speed stakes — finally!


9.3
CNET Rating
9.0
User Rating

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Design
For AU$349 it's a fair bit of cash to outlay for wireless access points in this day and age, so Netgear's rather impossibly named WNHDEB111 (we dare you to try to remember that correctly five minutes after reading this review) Wireless-N Networking Kit has to work particularly hard to justify that kind of asking price. And clearly, the boffins at Netgear have come up with a couple of ideas to try to get you to forget how much money is missing from your wallet, in terms of delivering big.

The first way the WNHDEB111 delivers big is by offering not one, but two access points within the kit. They're functionally identical, but because the kit can work in either access point or bridge modes — via a simple physical switch on the rear of each unit — you can use the pair in concert to extend your wireless-N network range. Those of an economical bent could also buy one kit and split it with a friend.

The second "big" thing about the WNHDEB111 access points is that they're physically quite huge. They're designed to stand up vertically, which does reduce their overall footprint quite markedly, but still, at 225.5x172x39mm each, you could fit many smaller units — like Linksys' newer sleek WRT310N units — inside each WNHDEB111.

Given the all-black on-black with black trim of the WNHDEB111 units, we're torn as to whether Netgear's designers have been listening to too much Disaster Area, or if they've just watched too much 2001. The rear of each WNHDEB111 unit is functional and plain, with a simple on/off switch, two Ethernet ports (sadly 10/100 rather than Gigabit) and the switch to pick between operational modes.

Features
The WNHDEB111 kit's claim to fame is 802.11n compatibility. We've commented on the poor performance of 802.11n — relative to the inflated claims that far too many vendors give it — plenty of times before, but at least in the promises sense, the WNHDEB111 has the potential to deliver. Firstly, by offering two access points in the box, they can offer much better range coverage than a single point could theoretically deliver. Secondly, the WNHDEB111 points only work on the 5GHz band, which pretty much knocks out interference from every other Wi-Fi device, cordless phone and microwave oven you might have. At a technical level, 802.11a devices could still interfere (and the WNHDEB111 is 802.11a compatible, for what that's worth) — but when was the last time you saw an 802.11a network?

The other implication in utilising 5GHz exclusively is that, while you'll need to invest in 5GHz-capable network cards for anything you do want to connect to wirelessly (or use one of the two ports on the bridged unit), once you do that, you can append it to an existing 802.11g network with a minimum of fuss. Not all 802.11n equipment is 5GHz compatible, as we discovered trying to append an Eee PC 901 to the WNHDEB111's network — it simply couldn't see the network at all!

The WNHDEB111 supports WPA set-up, and Netgear's claim is that you should be able to set it up and connect everything simply. If the WNHDEB111 can perform as advertised, it could also be a replacement for technologies such as Homeplug, used in products such as Netcomm's NP200AV or Billion's BiPAC 2070.

Performance
If you're not fussed about things like SSIDs, and you've already got an existing router set-up, the WNHDEB111 is almost stupidly easy to install. You can quite literally just plug it into an existing router socket and you're away — and WPA2 security is even activated by default. We hit a minor snag in setting up the WNHDEB111, although it's one you shouldn't as long as you're careful. Rather than opt for a standard password, Netgear has put its security hat on, and the default password for the system is written on the set-up CD. It's just that, as ours was a review sample, the CD was missing, and with it, setting up the WNHDEB111 became that bit trickier. Not our fault, mind you, but something that's worth keeping in mind if you do buy one. Don't lose the WNHDEB111 CD, ever, or be prepared to fiddle around with cabled connections ferreting out the passphrase.

Adding the additional point is likewise a simple procedure, no more complicated than switching it to bridge mode and hitting the WPS button on both units. Netgear advises that this may take a couple of minutes to finalise, but in our testing we were up and running in a matter of seconds, every time.

We've had to modify our testing procedure for the WNHDEB111 slightly, due to the inclusion of two Access points. Where we'd normally be testing a single access point across a variety of areas, the WNHDEB111 has more flexibility than that, not to mention the bridging capability that enables you to wire clients directly, with Wi-Fi in the middle. As such, we've performed our normal test, but three times — once in a standard, single-point configuration (where it stacks up against other, similarly tested 802.11n equipment), then again with dual-point set-up, and then finally with dual-point set-up and a notebook wired into each bridging point. It is worth noting that this approach (as long as you can live with a notebook or other system near your router) does allow you to connect non-N devices into your N mesh and enjoy N-capable speeds.

Test One: Single Point

Distance from router Netgear WNHDEB111 Linksys WAG160N Billion BiPAC 7300N Conceptronic 300Mbps Linksys WRT160N
5m 84% 70% 75% 92% 80%
15m
(minor walls)
50% 53% 59% 62% 62%
15m
(multiple walls)
55% 48% 54% 60% 50%

Distance between PCs Netgear WNHDEB111 Linksys WAG160N Billion BiPAC 7300N Conceptronic 300Mbps Linksys WRT160N
2m, (no barriers) 18.4Mbps 19.8Mbps 21Mbps 15Mbps 4.8Mbps
20m
(multiple walls)
16.7Mbps 15.2Mbps 13.3Mbps 7.7Mbps 10.12Mbps

With a single point in place, the WNHDEB111 performs quite well, but predictably still on the slower and lower side of 802.11n's lofty claims. There's certainly not a speed improvement here that makes creating space for the WNHDEB111's hefty bridges worthwhile.

Test Two: Dual-Point

Distance from router Netgear WNHDEB111 Linksys WAG160N Billion BiPAC 7300N Conceptronic 300Mbps Linksys WRT160N
5m 87% 70% 75% 92% 80%
15m
(minor walls)
48% 53% 59% 62% 62%
15m
(multiple walls)
62% 48% 54% 60% 50%

Distance between PCs Netgear WNHDEB111 Linksys WAG160N Billion BiPAC 7300N Conceptronic 300Mbps Linksys WRT160N
2m, (no barriers) 16.3Mbps 19.8Mbps 21Mbps 15Mbps 4.8Mbps
20m
(multiple walls)
15.2Mbps 15.2Mbps 13.3Mbps 7.7Mbps 10.12Mbps

Two points made less of a difference in our test set-up than we might have predicted, with virtually identical performance.

Test Three: Single Point with wired connections

We ran no signal test for this particular test, as both ends of the connection were wired up; this simply tested the throughput between the unit acting as the access point, and the unit acting as the bridge. Given the length of the cable, it's roughly equivalent to our 2m test with other wireless units — albeit a whole lot less portable, of course.

Distance between PCs Netgear WNHDEB111 Linksys WAG160N Billion BiPAC 7300N Conceptronic 300Mbps Linksys WRT160N
2m, (no barriers) 56.6Mbps 19.8Mbps 21Mbps 15Mbps 4.88Mbps

It's here that we hit our really surprising real-world throughput figure, and it would suggest that the individual points are much better at communicating between themselves than using a presumably third-party chipset within a notebook or PC. It's a comfortable throughput for just about any application, including seamless streaming of HD video.

While the need to cable at both ends might seem limiting, it does make the WNHDEB111 a very worthwhile contender to hide behind, say, a plasma panel, and then run the connection to games consoles and media extenders, while your notebook systems utilise the wireless connection that comes with the kit.

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Ash posted a comment   

I'm thinking the same thing as Confused. Why does this review state such low speeds? How can you get only 16.3Mbps for wireless N from 2 metres away with no barriers? My friend and I linked a laptop to my WNDR3700 via wireless-N and got a couple of houses away down the street at about 100 Mbps.

 

Unlucky posted a comment   

The Good:Look shiny and new

The Bad:Doesn't live up to name

Set up approximately 10 meter's apart with 1 single brick wall as an obstacle the kit fails to play back HD content streamed to a PS3.

720p encodes stutter and stall and are just frustratingly sad.

Lucky I bought the unit cheap otherwise I'd be devastated.

funky_rabbits
9
Rating
 

funky_rabbits posted a review   

The Good:Looks stylish, fits in with most AV equipment.

The Bad:expensive.

This is a terrific gadget from Netgear which suited my needs & instantly solved all my problems with my network.

Relatively easy to install, I was up & running after 30 minutes - could have been quicker if I had actually read the 'quick start guide'.

It added wireless N capabilities to my existing network & extended the rang of my coverage.

It's a matter of plugging one of these units into your router (access point mode) & plug the other into a gaming console or another PC (bridge mode). Switch them both ON & voila, i'm connected!!

I was running a Netcomm NB6+4W from my Windows 7 media center PC & gaming/streaming to my Xbox360 (via microsoft wireless adapter). Problem with this setup was it would be lag free for gaming, however any media intensive activities ie:- streaming HDTV or watcing HD divx movies would cause severe pixelization & network congestion. This come cripple my wireless connection & bring it to its knees.

Since adding the Netgear WNHDEB111 kit, this extended my wireless range to a consistent 90-100% signal level through 3 concrete walls & 3 doors into my lounge room.

This Netgear product allows me to now surf the internet/watch youtube or stream videos one the PC, download large files & stream HD movies to my Xbox 360 simulanteously without a hiccup. My MCE wireless network tuning bar graph in MCE is now maxed out (which is great!) - it never ever got more then mid-way on my previous setup. No more bandwidth issues.

MCE's interface on XBOX runs faster & smoother now too.

Highly recommended gadget, great work Netgear, only beef with it is that it's a little on the pricey side.

 

confused posted a comment   

The Good:question about all the cnet reviews

The Bad:Mbps or MBps??

Why is all the reviews state such slow speeds for the wifi routers? my budget netgear bigpond wifi is 14Mbps over a weak G signal from 5m away. the linksys wrt160n shows considerably slower speeds than this. yet before I had this bigpond modem I had a tplink g router that I left at previous place and it would get 20Mbps easy, and yes I know how wifi works half duplex and has theoretical maximums of just below half.

Are all these reviews suppose to state Megabytes not Megabits??

It's really confusing if you are stating this way. 270Mbps connection get 20Mbps throughput. My home internet is 20Mbps and gets 20Mbps. A 100Mbps network might get 70Mbps. How can a 270Mbps network get 20Mbps......

Thanks

Torncoppa
9
Rating
 

Torncoppa posted a review   

The Good:Comparison availablity

The Bad:Not so- Include some more units of different makes

This review is pretty sound as a laman since these typical situations exist. Especially the multiple wall test. I have a thin metal wall which my D Link wirless pushes through. Even better when the tin door is open. I was surprised it worked at all with all the metal shielding. @.4 Gig Panasonic phone also pushes through it well so I recieve SKYPE and DID calls in the home. Now there is a heads up in relation to the 5G performance of this Netgear review in terms of frequency reliablilty. I would feel confident to purchase one of these units for that reason. My bricj walls and my tin walls dont stand a chance it seems.




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User Reviews / Comments  Netgear WNHDEB111 HD/Gaming 5GHz Wireless-N Networking Kit

  • Ash

    Ash

    "I'm thinking the same thing as Confused. Why does this review state such low speeds? How can you get only 16.3Mbps for wireless N from 2 metres away with no barriers? My friend and I linked a lapto..."

  • Unlucky

    Unlucky

    "Set up approximately 10 meter's apart with 1 single brick wall as an obstacle the kit fails to play back HD content streamed to a PS3.

    720p encodes stutter and stall and are just fru..."

  • funky_rabbits

    funky_rabbits

    Rating9

    "This is a terrific gadget from Netgear which suited my needs & instantly solved all my problems with my network.

    Relatively easy to install, I was up & running after 30 minutes - co..."

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