To our surprise, the multitalented CG814M operates with very little fuss and frustration. Based on version 1.0 of CableLabs' Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS), the CG814M should work on most of the nation's cable networks. Still, we suggest you check with your cable provider before you plunk down any money. If you're particularly forward-looking, you can upgrade the CG814M to the DOCSIS 1.1 specification, which will streamline Internet radio and video by providing the equivalent of a direct data connection for these purposes. (For more information on DOCSIS, including a list of certified products, check out the CableLabs Web site.)
Try as we might, we couldn't detect any difference between the hardworking, multitalented CG814M and the three devices it replaced on our test network (a Motorola Surfboard cable modem, a Linksys router, and an Intel Wi-Fi access point), except that it helped us reclaim some desktop space and ditch a bunch of unsightly cables. The device can connect with up to 32 wireless computers and 253 wired ones with the right hardware. The package even comes with everything you need to create a complete home network: a Wi-Fi cable box, an AC adapter, network and USB cables, and an installation guide. The included CD-ROM contains electronic versions of the installation guide, as well as a 100-page manual and a nifty animated assistant that helps walk tenderfeet through setting up the device.
You can easily configure the CG814M via its HTML setup screens. In a bid to reduce setup anxiety, the configuration screens feature well-written explanations--which novices should read before clicking--in the right-hand margin. On the Wireless tab, you can enter the Wi-Fi network name or service set identifier (SSID), the WEP encryption settings, and the access-control list. The unit comes with the SSID set to Wireless and the WEP encryption disabled, but we recommend that you change these immediately to safeguard your network from passing hackers. The device supports 64- and 128-bit WEP encryption but not the more secure 152- or 256-bit protection found on the D-Link AirPlus DWL-900AP+.
With a built-in firewall, the CG814M performs stateful packet inspection to guard against denial-of-service attacks and to carry out port forwarding, blocking, and triggering to run special applications and programs. In addition, you can grant or deny clients access to your network based on MAC addresses. You can also filter content by blocking Web sites based on keywords or URLs, making this gateway perfect for families concerned about keeping kids away from questionable Web sites. And if you can't get your videoconferencing software or favorite online game to work, you can set up a DMZ to bypass these security precautions.
There are three shortcomings, however, that restrict this device to home use only. The CG814M can't work as a wireless bridge to pass along a Wi-Fi stream to an unconnected access point. It also doesn't show network statistics for tweaking settings, and you can't adjust radio details such as transmission power, beacon interval, RTS threshold, fragmentation length, and DTIM interval. A jack-of-all-trades and master of none, the Netgear CG814M wireless cable modem gateway lagged slightly behind other networking devices in both wired and wireless operation in CNET Labs' tests. With a Wi-Fi throughput of only 3.9Mbps, the CG814M failed to keep up with the Siemens SpeedStream 2624 wireless DSL/cable router, which delivered nearly 30 percent more bandwidth. As a wired router, it stayed ahead of the Belkin wireless cable/DSL gateway router but fell behind the HP wireless gateway hn200w with a rating of 84.3Mbps. The combo device had perfect compatibility with five different Wi-Fi radios and an average range of about 80 feet.
| Throughput tests |
Measured in Mbps (longer bars indicate better performance)
| Response time |
Measured in milliseconds (shorter bars indicate better performance)
| Range test |
Relative performance in typical office setting
For practical throughput tests, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot 4.3 software as its benchmark. For wireless testing, the clients and routers are set up to transmit at short ranges and at maximum signal strength. CNET Labs' response-time tests are also run with Chariot software using the TCP protocol. Response time measures how long it takes to send a request and receive a response over a network connection. Throughput and response time are probably the two most important indicators of user experience over a network. For more details on how we test networking devices, see the CNET Labs site.
The Netgear CG814M wireless cable modem gateway comes with a three-year warranty--much longer than most of the competition, with the exception of Intel and Belkin. The company's Web site hosts a well-thought-out, interactive configuration guide, which can help home networkers choose the right equipment. You can also find how-to videos and simply worded guides that show you exactly what to do to set up a home network. Although the company's Web site often loads slowly, it contains a good variety of support services, including software downloads, tips, and FAQs. You can also make a toll-free call to Netgear 24 hours a day or e-mail one of the company's technicians from the Web site.
Netgear's customer-support Web site.