Setup and Functionality
The WNDR3800 comes with new firmware from the Netgear Genie series that boasts a revised user interface and a few new features. There is a web interface for setting the router up. It is available in over 20 languages and has an integrated context help system. Each page footer contains the latter’s search field together with links to documentation and online resources. The router can be managed via the internet, but this is not secure since the connection cannot be encrypted.
The interface is available in two versions: Basic for beginners and Advanced for experienced users. More setup options and more detailed monitoring data can be accessed in the second mode.
The home page of the Basic version of the interface shows you the current status of the device: internet and Wi-Fi connection status, connected devices, status of features like parental control, shared disk access and guest wireless network. Each item leads to the related setup page or info table (e.g. a list of clients with connection type, IP and MAC addresses and name). The Basic setup options being part of the Advanced ones, let’s switch to the latter right away.
The first page of the Advanced mode offers you general information about the router such as its firmware version, MAC and IP addresses of the LAN and WAN ports, Wi-Fi status and guest wireless networks. There is a button to reboot the device remotely and detailed information about the operation mode of its ports and interfaces, including network statistics.
The WNDR3800 can connect to the internet using a static or dynamic IP address or any of the three popular technologies: PPPoE, PPTP and L2TP. When setting up your internet connection, you specify the IP and MAC address of the router’s WAN port, enter your ISP credentials and choose a connection mode (always on, by demand or manual). If you’ve selected the manual mode, you have to enter the router’s setup interface and press an appropriate button any time you want to enable your VPN connection. The router doesn’t disconnect from the provider’s LAN in PPTP and L2TP mode. You can additionally enable the integrated DynDNS client, specify static routes and allow multicast traffic from the internet.
Multiple IPv6 connection methods are supported as well, including automatic setup, a VPN tunnel, static addresses and PPPoE.
The WNDR3800 can keep track of your web traffic and connection uptime. Perhaps not a very necessary feature in our time of flat-rate tariffs, yet it lets you know how much data you’ve downloaded and uploaded. And if you’ve got a charge tariff, you can make the router warn you with an indicator about your nearing the limit on your free monthly traffic.
The wireless modules work independently and can differ in their settings. For example, you can set the 2.4GHz module up in 802.11g mode for legacy devices and establish a full-speed 802.11n network on the 5GHz module. You choose the operation mode by specifying its top speed: 54, 130 or 300 Mbps. Your wireless network can be open or secured with WEP, WPA or WPA2 (using a passphrase or an authentication server). WEP is only available for 802.11a and g. Additionally, you can hide the network name, enable isolation of wireless clients (so that they could not communicate with each other), choose a wireless channel to use, reduce the transmitting power of the radio modules, define a schedule for the Wi-Fi network to work by, impose MAC filters for client devices, or disable the radio modules altogether.
Besides the two main networks, you can deploy two guest ones which differ in names and security settings. By default, guest network users can only access the internet and other guests, but you can allow them to access your local network if necessary.
One of the new features of this firmware version is the Clear Channel Selector which automatically changes channel numbers to ensure maximum efficiency in a heavily used frequency band. You can tune the sensitivity of the selector algorithm.
WPS technology can help you quickly and easily connect new wireless devices to your network. The password negotiation procedure can be started by pressing the button of the router case or via the setup interface. PIN codes are supported.
The WDS feature, which is designed to expand your Wi-Fi coverage when using multiple access points, is not very practical as it can only work at 54 Mbps speeds.
The LAN settings are standard enough. You can specify the router’s own IP address and subnet, enable the built-in DHCP server (and define fixed MAC-IP correlations for it), choose a client for DMZ, and translate ports for your LAN machines to be accessed from the internet (you fill in a standard list of external and internal port correlations and specify a client address and translation mode). UPnP support can help make it simpler for compatible applications to work with the router. There is a special table showing you what client devices have used this technology.
Several traffic control options are implemented in the WNDR3800. There is a standard prioritization feature called WMM for wireless networks. It can help you improve the quality of video streaming and other bandwidth-sensitive applications. The exclusive Video Network feature for the 5GHz frequency band serves the same purpose but is not detailed in the product documentation.
The QoS feature has a better description so we can tell you that it allows you to assign one of four levels of priority to certain types of traffic. You specify traffic by means of a port number (application), physical LAN port or a client MAC address. We have doubts about the practical usefulness of this feature, though. If you’ve got a high-speed internet channel, you may find it easier to set up your traffic-generating client applications rather than reduce the overall internet access speed on the router.
Network address translation, a firewall and an antivirus are the standard features of modern routers that provide a satisfactory security level but you can’t have too much protection. So, the WNDR3800, like many other devices, has a built-in filter for URL keywords and can block remote services by port numbers for all or some of your LAN devices. You can make these features active during certain time intervals by means of a schedule. The clock is set up automatically. You only have to specify your time zone.
If you want to control what web resources your children can access, you may do so through category-based Parental Control filters. This feature relies on the OpenDNS service which verifies each DNS request against its database. The solution is versatile as it works not only for PCs but also for any router-connected device including phones, tablets and game consoles. The service is free but shows ads when you try to connect to blocked websites. An experienced user is going to easily bypass this protection, but it should suffice for most home applications. It offers flexible settings. You can enter rules for local devices, redefine the status of domain names, specify an operation schedule, add user accounts to be excluded from filtering (only when the client software is installed on a PC). The only downside is that there is no log file that would show attempts to violate the rules.
It’s simpler with the other services: the router keeps a log file for system events (like the admin’s entering the setup interface) and security violations (filters being triggered on, attacks from the outside). The admin can receive email notifications about them.
A standard selection of housekeeping options is available: changing the admin password, updating firmware, managing the device configuration. The WNDR3800 allows restoring the admin password without resetting the rest of the setup options via a system of questions and answers.
The new firmware seems to be a good development of the earlier versions. It is going to be friendly to inexperienced users, yet also offers flexible options for in-depth setup.