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Netgear DG834G ADSL Modem / Wireless Router Review

This review of the Netgear DG834G is really a follow on from our previous review of the non-wireless Netgear DG834. The big difference in the two models is that the DG834G has a built in 802.11g wireless interface, which is obvious from the presence of the wireless antenna. Both units run the same firmware and offer the same features, so rather than repeat ourselves, this review will concentrate on the wireless configuration and performance aspects of the Netgear DG834G router.

Netgear has been releasing many versions of firmware for its routers, the one used in this assessment of the DG834G is version 1.05.00. To summarise the routers features:

Configuration of the DG834G

The set-up for this router is identical to the non-wireless model. The configuration to get the unit connected to an ADSL line can be carried out using either the wireless or wired connections. Most importantly, in common with other wireless routers, once running you can use any combination of wireless or wired connections. A common misapprehension is that you must leave one computer connected via Ethernet, this is not necessary, though having the option is useful in case you mess up the security settings.

The wireless of the DG834G is enabled by default when the router is shipped, with a default SSID of NETGEAR and is running in mixed mode (i.e. Support for both 802.11g and 802.11b networks). While this works out of the box, it is the least secure set-up possible, in that anyone with a computer and wireless network card within range of your router will be able to connect and use the Internet for free, but perhaps most importantly they would have access to the computers on your home network. We will now cover some of the security options available. Which ones will work best for you are very much down to the version of operating system and what wireless network card you are using.

In an ideal world you want to be running in WPA-PSK mode, with wireless isolation on and broadcast of SSID turned off.

Setting up WPA protection

Wi-Fi Protected Access commonly called WPA, has two main modes, WPA-PSK (Pre-Shared Key) which is what most home networks will use, and WPA-802.1x which uses a Radius server for the authentication - something that home users will simply not have. When you select the desired Security Option in the Netgears web configuration, it usefully shows the appropriate fields for you to alter. In the case of WPA-PSK there is only one field, the Network Key, which can be between 8 and 64 characters long. As with other passwords we recommend going for something that is a mixture of letters and digits and avoid obvious things like your houses address, family name etc.

WPA is a bit limited in its support, since currently only Windows XP has it, and that requires updates to be downloaded from Microsoft website here. A further limiting factor is that not all wireless network cards support WPA yet. We have used a Netgear WAG511 in this review. Windows XP supports several different standards for the security keys (AES, TKIP and WEP), but the Netgear router makes it simple by only supporting the one, TKIP. To configure our WAG511 to work with the Netgear settings we have should have the set-up shown below on our wireless network card properties.

The network key is exactly the same as what we entered in the Network key box on the routers web configuration. As the PC does not display the actual text entering the value correctly can take a couple of goes with long and complex keys. If you do lock yourself out of the router and do not have a way of connecting via Ethernet then the only way to get back into the router is to press the reset button and reconfigure the router again (this can be made simpler if before playing with wireless security you back up the settings of the router to a computer).

If you have got the key correct, then your computer should get issued in IP address and be able to access the router. There is no simple "your key is wrong" message in Windows, the Wireless Network Connection Status window will show you as Connected even if you get the security settings wrong. The only indication that something is wrong is the lack of an IP address.

Setting up WEP encryption

WEP is currently the most common wireless encryption, and while the 64bit version can be cracked, it is still a lot better than nothing. The 128-bit level of encryption is certainly secure enough for home users.

Two levels of WEP encyption exist. 64-bit encryption uses 10 hexadecimal digits. A hexadecimal digit is A-F and 0-9. The 64-bit encryption is relatively secure, but can be broken if someone has the time to do it. So it will suffice for most home LANs, but 128-bit is recommended just in case you have a hacker living across the street. 128-bit encryption uses more digits to make it harder to crack the key, 26 digits in fact, which can make typing it in correctly much harder. The upside is that a key this long is difficult to break, though not totally impossible. Whilst the router has space for four keys you only need to use one. Their is space for four keys, so you can store four preset ones, and then easily alter the key used by your network at anytime.

The settings in Windows XP for WEP are shown above, the network key was a1b2c3d4e5 as shown in the Netgear screenshot. It is often best to use an easily typed key when initially setting up any of the security options, and switch to a more complex one once you know your network cards and router are working. The set-up for 128-bit WEP is the same, just your key should be 26 hexadecimal (0..9, A..F) characters long, and helpfully the Netgear expands the size of the key fields appropriately when 128-bit is selected.

Other wireless security/set-up options

The router offers some other ways of helping to secure your network. The simplest of these is the ability to turn off the wireless side of the router totally. Hiding the SSID can help to keep the very casual passerby out of your network, though some people have found that some wireless network cards do not work very well if the SSID is hidden - the downside to hiding the SSID is that you need to manually specify it on any of the machines you want to actually connect to the network.

Wireless Isolation is a fairly rare feature on home based routers. When switched on, it stops two computers on the wireless network from seeing each other, but still allows you to see computers on the wired network. An option to isolate the wireless users from the wired network also would be welcome.

Perhaps the most useful extra wireless option is the ability to set-up an access control list. This is simply a list of machines that you have defined as being allowed to access the Internet.

The DG834G makes the access control set-up as simple as possible, by displaying which MAC addresses it can see. The MAC address is a unique identifier that all network devices are given. It can be found either by using the list of available Wireless stations as shown above, or from your computer by using the ipconfig /all command in a DOS command prompt window as shown below.


The Netgear DG834G has had a chequered performance history, it has had numerous firmware upgrades but none seem to have vastly improved the wireless throughput which is lower than many other units on the market as shown below.

Wireless Performance Measurements

Wireless device

Time for 229MB file copy (seconds)

Average transfer rate (Mega bits per second)

Belkin F5D7630UK4A



BT Voyager 2000



Buffalo WLI-CD-G54



Linksys WAG-54G



Linksys WRT54G



Netgear DG834G



U.S.Robotics 9106



The other main performance aspect that concerns people with wireless router hardware is the range of the kit, in the past we have measured the ability for reviewed hardware to work at a set of increasing distances in a mixture of indoors and outdoors environments. We have decided on a simpler and hopefully more subjective approach by using the signal meter of the wireless card in a Compaq IPAQ. The routers are placed in the same location and same orientation to increase reproducibility, and rather than measuring across open ground we are measuring through a number of brick walls.

Wireless router percentage of detectable signal


1st Wall

2nd Wall

4th Wall

Belkin F5D7630UK4A




BT 1250 (2Wire)




Linksys WAG-54G




Linksys WRT54G




Netgear DG834G




U.S Robotics 9106




Wall 1 comprises double brick construction with bathroom tiles

Wall 2 comprises of double brick construction with kitchen tiles

Wall 4 is the next measurable point, due to an old coal bunker between walls 3 and 4.

The total distance between the first and last measuring point is around 6m and shows the problems that can exist in a brick building when using wireless. Therefore the common advice of locating the wireless router centrally is very important if you want good coverage.

After the DG834Gs poor showing in the throughput stakes it was nice to see it manage to get a usable signal through four walls. The version 1.05 firmware is also much more stable, with the wireless side of the router running for 4 or 5 days without it dropping. Some other units do manage longer, but even when the Netgear did drop the signal it would reconnect automatically.

The non-wireless performance is on a par with the other kit tested, online gaming works fine with stable latency, and downloads fly along as one would expect. If you stress the router heavily it can become a bit sluggish to respond. Peer to peer applications like Bit Torrent may cause problems for others sharing the connection, though at least it does keep working unlike some that will just grind to a halt under heavy loads. Online gaming with the latest firmware is fine, the latency is low and stable, some earlier versions of the firmware did have higher than usual latency though.

One nice addition with the latest firmware in this router is that the ADSL attenuation and noise margin figures are available on the statistics page. The line attenuation is possibly reading about 2-3dB lower than would normally be expected on the test line, so that should be bourne in mind when using the figures. This variation in the attenuation figures between routers means you should not really use your own router figures to predict your ability to receive 1Mbps and 2Mbps services. The key numbers to watch really are the noise margins which should stay reasonably static, if you see these varying by 10dB or more then you may have a poor connection, or a source of interference locally.

If you are unfortunate and have a line that has high attenuation and low noise margins, the DG834 family is at least very quick at reconnecting if the ADSL signal drops, taking around 30 seconds to reconnect and authenticate you again. Some units can take upto a couple of minutes to do this, for example the USR 9106 with its 2.1 firmware.


The big question really is, is it worth the money? Well looking at the pricing in the online stores which is around £99 with a bundled 802.11G wireless card, the unit offers great value for money, and now many of the vices of the earlier models are fixed it is quite a nice device to use. The DG834G lacks the advanced functionality of units like the Vigor 2600G, but offers more features than say the U.S.Robotics 9106. It will work with a block of static IPs from the ISP, but people are reporting unexpected behaviour from the firewall, another area the Vigor 2600G wins.

This review has been done over a very extended period of time, around six months, and has seen numerous firmware upgrades. None of these appear to have solved all problems for all people, which is a shame. The review unit does appear stable, but there are reports of others finding different versions of firmware more stable. Interestingly this is not just linked to the Netgear units, long term stability appears to be something that a lot of 802.11g kit has yet to fully resolve.

Prices: £85 (Street price - August 2004) - Netgear DG834G
£46 (Street price - August 2004) - Netgear WAG511 Dual Band Wireless CardBus Card
Prices listed are excluding postage and VAT.


Where to Buy: See our DSL Hardware FAQ

Andrew Ferguson

The contents of this review should not be relied upon in making a purchasing decision - You should always discuss your requirements with your service provider and hardware supplier.