Netgear WNDR4500 Dual-Band Wireless-N Router
Netgear is a major player in the high-performance wireless router market, and the company's offerings have seen much praise on this site. The WNDR4500 is the latest evolution of one of our favorite routers, and represents what very well could be the final iteration of Netgear's flagship 802.11n offering. Simply put, the WNDR4500 is the best "practical" wireless router for home or small office use, without paying extra for not-yet-mature technology.
When it comes to design, Netgear takes a more conservative approach. The WNDR4500 pairs a handsome clear base with the same basic no-nonsense design that has come to adorn Netgear's higher performing routers. Unlike other "WNDR" routers, however, the base is permanently attached, forcing the router to stand upright. The status lights are embedded within the clear base; while this gives off a cool effect, the lights may prove to be a distraction in a darkened room.
The WNDR4500 is especially well-suited for home and small business use. Aside from the four Gigabit Ethernet ports, the rear panel of the WNDR4500 also features a pair of USB ports. In this particular model, Netgear's ReadySHARE technology allows hard drive sharing and wireless printing. While sharing drives via ReadySHARE will not offer performance anywhere near what you get with a dedicated NAS, it works well for smaller files and occasional use. The WNDR4500 also supports guest access, which is great for protecting sensitive files and data.
Performance has always been a Netgear strong suit, and the WNDR4500 does not disappoint. This is a three-stream router - given a proper wireless client (three stream), the WNDR4500 handily trumps its competitors in 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz modes. Switching to two-stream mode drops throughput (predictably), but this is still one of the fastest wireless routers around. However, there is one peculiar trait that can affect performance. This router defaults to three-stream operation when it detects a potentially suitable client, which may cause reliability issues with devices that have only two antennas. In this case, simply setting the router to operate in two-stream mode will alleviate the issue.