Editor's note: Due to testing issues, we have retested this product and made the necessary changes to the performance charts. We have not changed the overall Editor's rating.
Netgear's WPN824 RangeMax router is the latest in a growing number of wireless-networking devices to feature high-performance MIMO technology. But the Netgear RangeMax router differs from other MIMO routers we've seen, such as Belkin's Pre-N router and Linksys's SRX router, because it includes a new technology from Video54 that integrates more antennas into the unit and tucks them inside the unit's case. This gives the RangeMax router a more compact design and a sleeker look than its MIMO counterparts. All things considered, we think the RangeMax router is a good value, despite its high price, and it's well worth considering for those in the market for a device with excellent range and strong resistance to interference, such as that from cordless phones or neighboring networks. Our one caveat is that it doesn't perform so well with legacy 802.11b devices. If you have older Wi-Fi gear on your network, consider Belkin's Pre-N router.
The basic setup routine for the Netgear RangeMax router is a simple and straightforward process that takes only a few minutes. A CD that ships with the unit includes a setup wizard that automatically loads when you insert the disc into your computer's optical drive, then guides you through a short series of onscreen prompts. If you're an advanced user, you can bypass the wizard and connect directly to the RangeMax's browser-based configuration tool. A handy URL that is clearly listed on the printed setup guide points your computer's browser directly to the tool.
Although you can't see it, the RangeMax router's most interesting feature is the MIMO technology on the unit's circuit board. Whereas Belkin and Linksys have opted for Airgo's MIMO solution, Netgear is the first major networking vendor to stake its bet on a new MIMO solution developed by Video54. Airgo's solution requires three external antennas, while the Video54 solution built into the Netgear unit includes seven internal antennas built right into the unit's circuit board. The unit's seven antennas help the router counteract the negative impact of interference by reconfiguring themselves on the fly to adjust to changing environmental conditions. If the signal of one of the transceiving antennas becomes weak, the unit automatically searches for a better signal from the other antennas and adjusts accordingly. Blue LEDs on the top of the unit switch on and off, telling you which antennas are transmitting at any given moment.