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Wireless Reviews

Genie

My favorite new feature on the WNDR3800 is NETGEAR Genie. NETGEAR Genie is a downloadable standalone application that allows you manage, monitor and repair your network. Of course, the Genie standalone program has a very similar look and feel as NETGEAR's new browser UI . They are both also referred to as "Genie", so it's easy to get confused. The Windows version is fully-released and there is a beta version for Mac OS 10.6 and higher.

While you can't configure all of the advanced options using Genie, you can configure the most common features that you'll likely use. NETGEAR is gradually rolling out Genie support for their existing routers, but since the WNDR3800 is a new router, all of Genie's features are functional.

Figure 14 shows the Genie application's home screen. I like the direct searchable support link on the Genie home page. Since many of the menu items duplicate functions found in the browser-based interface, I'll just touch on a few unique features.

NETGEAR Genie home page

Figure 14: NETGEAR Genie home page

Internet

The Internet icon shows your current internet connection status. If you click on the icon, you'll see a graph of the internet traffic for your current computer. Figure 15 shows the internet traffic on my computer while I was watching a Netflix video.

Internet traffic volume monitor

Figure 15: Internet traffic volume monitor

Wi-Fi connection

This icon shows your current Wi-Fi connection (if any) and the relative signal strength. If you click on this icon, three additional tabs are available. Figure 16 shows the number of wireless networks discovered on each channel. If you hover your mouse over one of the bars, the names of the wireless networks appear. The Connect WiFi tab shows nearby networks and allows you to connect. Guest Access takes you to the guest access configuration page.

There are five networks on channel 11

Figure 16: There are five networks on channel 11

Router Settings

When you click on this icon, you are prompted to log into the router with the admin password. Five tabs let you configure wireless settings, ReadyShare, Guess Access, view the Traffic Meter (similar to Figure 13), and update the router firmware. Note: it's a known issue that Genie can only configure the 2.4 GHz wireless settings on a dual band router.

Network Map

I really like this feature. Genie analyzes your network and displays a map of the devices. It also makes a guess as to what type of device it is. You have the option of naming the device something other than its network name or IP address, and you can choose select a host type. Changing the host type changes the icon.

Figure 17 shows the network map of my home network. I have more devices than will fit onto a single page, so the map continues on a second page. The map shows Wi-Fi and wired connections but also shows devices that are no longer connected.

Genie network map

Figure 17: Genie network map

Parental Controls

This icon gives you the same functions as the Live Parental Control Management utility I covered earlier.

ReadyShare

This icon gives you the same functions as the ReadySHARE function in the web UI.

Network Support

This menu provides access to three tabs: FAQs; Tools (basic tools such as ping, trace router, DNS Lookup and Computer profile); and Support (links to downloads, forums, register your product and premium support).

Feedback

A form to provide feedback to NETGEAR.

Closing Thoughts

Even though the WNDR3800 falls in NETGEAR's "high" (vs. "ultimate") performance category, it is currently the most fully-featured router in their product line. The WNDR3800 has a number of features that either differentiate it from its competition and from other NETGEAR products.

I've covered most of these items already. But to summarize briefly, here are a few bullet points:

  1. NETGEAR genie - a new user interface found both in the web UI and as a standalone application
  2. CD-less installation
  3. Live Parental Controls powered by Open DNS - it's free but ad supported.
  4. Clear Channel selector - automatically and dynamically chooses the best wireless operating channel to ensure minimal interference and optimal performance.
  5. ReadySHARE Cloud - your own personal cloud storage - for free
  6. ReadySHARE Print - Share your USB printer by plugging it into your router
  7. DLNA server with Tivo support
  8. Dedicated 5GHz video mode
  9. Internet traffic meter

As with many new products, the Windows platform is fully supported, but MacOS support hasn't been fully implemented yet. For the MacOS platform, there's a ReadySHARE printer client and a beta version of Genie. Still under development, but scheduled for release fairly soon is client support for remote access via ReadySHARE as well as a bypass account utility for Live Parental Controls.

There is MacOS Time Machine support for the WNDR3800, but currently there's only for 10.5 and 10.6. Time Machine support for 10.7 (Lion) should be available via a firmware upgrade "in a couple of weeks".

Note that I pass these "futures" along for your information, but not as guarantees. Vendors have many priorities, which often change. So when and if these features appear is entirely undetermined.

Open source fans will appreciate that there's already WNDR3800 support from DD-WRT, Open-WRT and Tomato. I don't know what features are included in the open source distributions. But it's hard to imagine that they have support for all of the WNDR3800's premium features.

My bottom line is that if you're in the market for a full-featured dual band router, the premium features on the WNDR3800 make it well worth considering. Be sure to read Tim's review to see if the performance is as good as the feature set.

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