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The Netgear DG834N is a wireless ADSL modem/router supporting draft-N (802.11n) wireless and 4-Ethernet ports. The router also works with ADSL2+ connections (although lacks annex-M support) and includes firewalling and some basic parental control functions.
The following are what is included within the box
- The router
- ADSL filter
- RJ11 cable for connecting the router to the filter
- Ethernet patch cable
- Mains power supply with 12V 1A DC output
- Bundle of paperwork, including a copy of the GNU Public License, upon which parts of the router's firmware are licensed
- Plastic stand
- Resource CD, containing a 100-page manual
The router is designed to stand upright on the included stand, giving space for ventilation at the top and bottom (where there are holes in the case). As is fashionable lately, the router is made of glossy white plastic with 8 LEDs on the front, from top to bottom:
- ADSL sync
- Internet(PPP) Session
- Activity on the 4 Ethernet ports
The back of the router is the usual fare and includes colour coded ports:
- RJ11 port for ADSL connection to phone line (grey)
- 4 10/100Mbps Ethernet ports (yellow)
- DC Power socket (black)
- Factory reset button
Unlike the majority of 802.11g routers, this router has the antennae inside the box so are not replaceable. The wireless card, from Broadcom, lives behind the metal shield and although it is removable it is difficult to actually get out. The more curious feature of the wireless card is that despite having connections for three, there are only two antennae connected to the card - most 802.11n routers are also MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) and can achieve greater range with 3 antennae. The card has a connection for a third antenna making this omission especially strange.
With the router reset to the defaults, it will issue IP addresses automatically using DHCP, so all that should be required is a network card (wired or wireless) to connect to the router and that it is set to obtain an IP address automatically.
A CD is included which should configure the router, but the router can also be set up through its web interface. The default IP address for the router is 192.168.0.1, so opening http://192.168.0.1 in a web browser will open the page - a username and password will then be required (the default is username: admin, password: password). These are helpfully written on the back of the router should you need to use the Factory Restore button. As shown in the screenshots, detailed help information is given on every configuration page in the router's web interface
There is a Smart Setup Wizard which attempts to guide through the process of setting up the ADSL connection.
The router attempts to work out what connection you have. This failed on a Be Pro ADSL2+ connection, with the same page disappearing and reappearing with no indication of progress for around 5 minutes, but should you have a BT based connection, it should work fine.
Should the automatic wizard not work, or you like to configure things manually, choose "No, I want To Configure The Router Myself" and it will lead to a settings page.
Be do not require a login and the IP address, subnet mask, gateway IP address, DNS server IP addresses are all given in the letter which came with the BeBox. The Test button at the bottom attempts to load the Netgear website - if this fails (as it did on Be) you still have some work to do.
In the case of Be, a different Multiplexing Mode (LLC-Based) and VCI (101) settings are required from those used by BT Wholesale (VC-Based and 38), so next stop is the ADSL Settings page.
After pushing the Apply button, the router PPP session light on the front of the router lights up, flickering to indicate activity on the Internet connection.
The router also gives attenuation and SNR margin statistics for the connection, giving attenuation values within a few decibels of those reported by the BeBox supplied (a Thompson Speedtouch 585v6) and connecting at a similar speed for the same target SNR margin.
With a Zen IPStream Max connection the automatic detection worked perfectly, requiring only a username and password for the ADSL connection and connecting slightly faster (by around 200kbps) than the Cisco 877 which was being used before.
The main feature of this router is its support for draft-n, which finally became IEEE-standard 802.11n in October 2009. 802.11 draft-n offers up to 270Mbps maximum throughput on this router. The wireless settings offered are simple, with some advice on maximising the wireless range given to the right along with notes on each of the options. As shown, the default wireless network name (SSID) is NETGEAR. This can easily be changed on the page as shown as well as disabling the wireless completely, or hiding the broadcast of the access point so you can only find it if you already know its SSID.
Selecting "g&b" limits the router's wireless to 54Mbps 802.11g, and changes the Security Options to include WEP and WPA-802.1x/WPA2-802.1x (which require a RADIUS authentication server).
In both cases, all that's required to secure your network is to enter a passphrase into the Network Key box, and hit apply. Make sure you keep a note of what you enter in here as this will be needed to be entered on each computer to allow access to the wireless network.
As usual, there are options to restrict the hardware (Media Access Control - MAC) addresses which are allowed to connect to the router. It's debatable whether this presents any useful security (versus strong encryption with a complicated key) compared to the added hassle when adding new wireless devices.
A common issue identified with this router is of the wireless network not working. Symptoms are that the wireless light is off and the router cannot not be found when searching for networks, despite the wireless network being enabled on the router. Netgear's forum suggest a fix of opening the router and reseating the wireless card. Doing this will invalidate the warranty, and the recommended option is to return the router for replacement but this could be a significant inconvenience if you cannot take it back to a shop and get a replacement there and then.
The port forwarding options are under the Firewall Rules item in the left hand menu. The first page shows any forwarding rules already configured and has buttons to add, edit, reorder and delete rules.
Clicking add leads to a page looking for the usual port forwarding details: service, action to perform, LAN (local) IP address to forward the traffic to, range of public (Internet) IPs to match against, and whether to note matches in the router's log.
The list is fairly comprehensive, but in the event the service isn't listed, there is an option under Services to add custom entries to, edit or delete from the list.
This is a bit convoluted compared to the more usual mechanism of just entering ports, protocol and destination IP address. On the other hand, it should be possible to forward the most common ports with no knowledge of the traffic type involved. One improvement which would have made the process even simpler would have been listing the IP addresses (and names, where appropriate) of connected machines so these can easily be identified.
The router also supports the now fairly standard Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), so if using software which supports this, no manual forwarding is required as UPnP will configure this for you. The configuration page on the router shows the ports which have been forwarded.
The router appears to be very stable, running for long periods of time with no indication of problems with a large amount of traffic (including torrents) without even feeling warm.
However, the router performs no Quality of Service whatsoever, and running a torrent at 120kB/s upload (with the connection capable of around 160kB/s) resulted in more variable latency. Over a period of an hour, latency to the CERN website was measured and with the DG834N, the average was 87.53ms with a standard deviation of 31.20ms versus 58.01ms with a standard deviation of 6.89ms with the BeBox (a Thompson Speedtouch 585v6).
To test throughput on the wireless connection, a Netgear WN111 USB wireless adapter and Intel 3945ABG wireless card were used. The Netgear adapter connected at 130Mbps (although it claims to be capable of 300Mbps in combination with this router) while the Intel is only capable of 54Mbps. A 700MB file was transferred using FTP and the transfer repeated 5 times to give an average.
|Adapter||Close by||Opposite end of house||Through a brick wall|
Like most routers, it is possible to access the router's configuration interface from the Internet. Access can be restricted to certain IP addresses, or opened to the whole Internet. The router doesn't use HTTPS though, so accessing the interface isn't encrypted and your password could be stolen if you use an untrustworthy network. To make remote access easier, the router can be set to keep a Dynamic DNS service (the router has the configuration for a single provider, www.dyndns.org) updated with your public IP address and give a memorable name for remote access.
The router can also filter websites, by keywords present on the page or by the site's domain. It is possible to operate the blocking according to a schedule set in a separate page or for the filtering to happen all the time. This allows you to select specific days or a time of day within which the filtering will occur. An exception can be set to allow a certain IP address on the network to bypass the filter, giving simple parental controls.
The router keeps a log of events such as traffic matching a firewall rule, port scans, connection status and so on. Separately, the log can be emailed on a schedule and immediate emails sent when the router detects a port scan, Denial of Service (DoS) attack or if a user attempts to access a blocked site.
The router does not, however, offer any monitoring of the traffic passed over the ADSL connection. The common way to do this would have been for the router to support SNMP and indeed some other routers in the Netgear DG834 line do support SNMP through a hidden configuration page. The best the DG834N has to offer is a count of packets sent and received through the Internet connection, which is utterly useless in the days of consoles downloading HD video and Internet connections with transfer limits.
The Netgear DG834N's main selling point is the draft-n wireless which provides faster speeds on the local network. Most users probably won't see a huge benefit from this unless they need to move files around locally. Broadband speeds are not currently approaching the speeds that 802.11n should offer. Wireless aside, it doesn't seem to bring any features that other routers don't offer at a lower price (and is missing some features those cheaper routers offer). It is possible to mitigate this by installing third-party firmware, but that shouldn't be necessary for a router at this price and would also invalidate the warranty.
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