Netgear‘s N600 is a plain-looking combination + and cable router, only livened up with a blue stripe surrounding the status lights. It’s a no-nonsense exterior that hides an impressive specification – 2.4 and 5GHz bands and comprehensive support for network storage and guest networks.
There’s nothing fancy about the router’s setup process, either. A double-sided A4 sheet in the box tells you simply to plug the router in to the ADSL line and type the setup address into your browser. You’ll then be confronted with Netgear’s setup interface, which lists the router’s configuration pages in a column on the left and comprehensive, well-written help for each option on the right.
The clear options and help make it easy to find options such as port forwarding, QoS and the DMZ, but dig a bit deeper and you find some useful advanced features. Plugging a USB hard disk or flash drive into the router’s front or rear USB ports lets you mount it as a local shared hard disk or set it up to be accessed over the internet via FTP or HTTPS. The wireless page lets you enable one or more of up to 10 separate networks: primary 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, along with up to four guest networks for each, all with their own WPA or WPA2 passwords – but to connect at any speed faster than 54Mbit/s 802.11g you’ll need to use WPA2-AES encryption.
The guest networks are a useful way to let others use your home network for internet access while stopping them from accessing computers on your network, and you can define different levels of access for each. We were worried initially that having so many networks running concurrently would slow down the wireless connection, but turning on every 2.4 and 5GHz network didn’t make an appreciable speed difference to our 10m ‘Far’ test.