The Netgear WGT624 108Mbps wireless firewall router comes with all the hardware and software you'll need to set up your network. In addition to the router, the product package contains an AC power adapter, a rubber stand, an Ethernet cable, a printed installation guide, and a CD containing a comprehensive reference manual.
We like the compact design of the WGT624. The router's rubber stand and built-in mounting bracket on the bottom panel help you position the device for optimum range. The LEDs on the front of the unit let you monitor data passing across the WGT624's Ethernet and wireless interfaces. Plug the router in, connect it via the Ethernet cable to your broadband modem, and you've installed the WGT624 hardware.
The network installation is a little less straightforward, and the printed guide may leave some in the lurch. The guide asks you to manually reconfigure the network settings of each computer if necessary, then it refers you to an online resource to learn how to do this. In contrast, the Dell Wireless 2300 and the Microsoft MN-700 include software that automatically configures the network settings for the router and any connected computers, making these instruments better suited for those new to networking. After you connect the WGT624 to your local network, the router's browser-based Smart Wizard automatically detects the type of Internet service you have and directs you through the rest of the installation.
The Netgear WGT624 108Mbps wireless firewall router has a good feature set that meets the needs of both advanced users and those with little or no networking experience. The WGT624's browser-based configuration tool is easy to navigate and offers features tailored for family networking. The tool is password-protected and includes a content-filtering section that gives you control over the types of sites your computers can access, letting you restrict access based on keywords, service types, IP addresses, and times of day. The WGT624 also displays detailed logs of the Web sites that your computers have accessed or attempted to access, which lets you police the types of traffic passing through your network.
The router includes two different types of firewalls: network address translation (NAT), which hides your computers' IP addresses behind the router's IP address, and stateful packet inspection (SPI), which checks individual data packets to make sure they are part of a legitimate connection. Together, these firewalls provide strong security against most attacks originating from the Internet. The WGT624 also supports WEP and the stronger WPA encryption scheme.
We wish that the WGT624 supported wireless distribution system (WDS). Limited range is a problem for many home networking environments, and WDS makes it easy to expand your coverage area by simply adding a repeater, such as the Buffalo WLA-G54C, to rooms where your signal is weak.
The WGT624 has other performance enhancers under the hood that make it especially well suited for streaming media. Portions of the 802.11e draft specification are built into the router's firmware. These new features ensure that streaming media applications, such as the voice and video links in a teleconference, aren't interrupted by a simple file transfer. This means that you can participate in the teleconference over your wireless connection and download data from the Internet without suffering degradation in the audio or video quality of the links.
The most noteworthy feature of the Netgear WGT624 108Mbps wireless firewall router is its inclusion of Super G Technology (link is a PDF file), which boosts the router's speed to nearly twice the tempo of standard 802.11g devices'. A recent firmware upgrade allows the router to switch dynamically to support standard 802.11g and 802.11b devices when they enter the network. CNET Labs tested the router's throughput with various adapters concurrently, and the results are impressive. The WGT624 ran circles around the U.S. Robotics USR8054. Better yet, the Netgear router delivered fantastic range in our indoor tests, providing stable connections as far as 225 feet away.
CNET Labs maximum throughput tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Note: Throughput in Mbps.|
CNET Labs throughput tests with mixed b/g clients (Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Note: Throughput in Mbps.|
The secret to the WGT624's fast speeds lies in its support of double-channel bonding, which tricks the transmitter and the receiver into accepting two wireless channels as a single channel. The downside to this type of channel allocation is that it requires a bigger swath of the spectrum, which means that your router is more likely to interfere with other 2.4GHz devices, such as neighboring networks and cordless phones.
Netgear backs the WGT624 108Mbps wireless firewall router with a meager one-year warranty, along with toll-free, 24/7 phone support good for the lifetime of the product. The WGT624's reference manual, the installation guide, the free firmware upgrades, and a list of related FAQs are available online. Netgear also offers a free animated networking tutorial called Mentor that you access through the company's Technical Support page. Mentor features onscreen demonstrations for changing network settings in Windows, using Outlook on your network, and browsing with Internet Explorer.
Netgear also offers its Premium Support package through DecisionOne. The package includes support for non-Netgear devices, many software applications, security, and general networking issues. At $28.95 per incident and $1.99 per minute, however, the service is too pricey to be worth it.