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NETGEAR HD/Video 5GHz Wireless-N Networking Kit (WNHDEB111)

NETGEAR HD/Video 5GHz Wireless-N Networking Kit (WNHDEB111)

Note: this product has not been rated due to being an engineering sample

Streaming video products and gaming consoles will benefit from this newfangled wireless networking kit, which consists of two draft-n access points. It's not a typical networking kit though, as it uses the 5GHz spectrum to avoid interference from other cordless devices and neighbouring wireless networks.

The 5GHz spectrum has non-overlapping channels (13 of them), unlike the 2.4GHz spectrum, making it less congested, so it's a useful solution for neighbourhoods or office buildings with many nearby wireless networks. Because the two access points work in the 5GHz spectrum, they will only work with dual-band 802.11 draft-n adapters that are built into recent notebook computers. If plugged into an existing 802.11g-based router, that network will continue to serve any 802.11g devices, but if you don't already have a wireless network, it should be noted that the kit won't work with 802.11g-based notebooks.

The access points are setup by default to provide a secure connection via a push-button system. They have a pre-configured SSID and support Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), which, when the button on each of the units is pressed, automatically marries them up using WPA2-PSK encryption without the need for configuration pages to be visited.

Indeed, the two units connect to each other seamlessly once they are powered up and the one-touch security is invoked, to function as a bridge. One unit needs to be plugged into your existing router, using an Ethernet cable, while the other unit can be either wired up to your lounge room or bedroom devices. Each unit has two Ethernet ports and if your media player or console also have Ethernet connectivity, then this is the best and easiest method of connecting them, but they can also connect wirelessly if they support dual-band 802.11 draft-n.

Using the Ethernet ports, you won't have to play with any wireless networking settings for your gear (be it a media streamer or a gaming console – just tell the device that it belongs to a wired network) and it will be as if your gear is physically connected to your network. It's perfect for a Netgear Digital Entertainer HD unit, for example, and the speeds you achieve can be close to what you might get with a 10/100 Ethernet connection, too, depending on the distance and the interference in your environment.

During our tests, the 5GHz Networking Kit achieved a consistent transfer rate of 3.13MBps to a notebook computer over a distance of 20m and only with walls as obstacles to the signal. This rate was achieved due to the 802.11 draft-n protocol being employed, and we connected our notebook to the access point through its Ethernet port. The same transfer, using our existing 802.11g network over the same distance achieved a rate of 1.66MBps, so you can see that the kit really made a dramatic difference. Using only one access point (i.e not using the kit in bridge mode, but only using one of the two access points) to facilitate a standard 802.11 draft-n transfer, the rate achieved was 2.46MBps.

Over a prolonged test period, the kit was flawless when transmitting all sorts of video files (including high-definition WMV files and standard-definition XviD files) to a Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD receiver, and the best part was that it didn't chew up bandwidth on the existing 802.11g network, so other users could still access files off the server and maintain a fast Internet connection without affecting the EVA8000's performance.

Physically, the two access points don't have any protruding elements apart from their power and Ethernet connections. There are six silicone-type antennas located within the unit, and these can be automatically 'steered' into optimal positions. This way, you can't forget to plug in the antennas or set them up inefficiently.

Despite this kit being an engineering sample, we obtained reliably speedy results over a relatively long distance. We think it will be a very useful addition to any household that features compatible digital entertainment devices and gaming consoles, as the direct connection between them and the server that the kit facilitates, will do wonders for their performance.


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