Like many other top-end routers, the WNDR3800 has a USB 2.0 port for printers and external disks. The selection of supported peripherals can be limited in the USB port settings. If you need to connect several devices, you can use a USB hub. The router can provide access to multiple FAT32/NTFS/EXT2/EXT3/HFS+ partitions on external disks via Windows’ network environment or FTP. You can also download files via your web browser. FTP and HTTP access from the internet can be opened and you can change the port numbers if necessary.
There is a minimum of access control settings. The administrator is the only user that can be singled out and assigned special rights: for reading or writing. The resource name, device name and workgroup can be changed. External disks can be turned off safely from the router’s setup interface.
The following diagram shows the speed of working with the different file systems.
So, you can have a speed of 15 MB/s when accessing an EXT2/EXT3 partition on an external disk connected to the router. This is quite high for such a usage scenario. If you share your files via FTP, the speed is going to be even higher at 18 MB/s. The NTFS file system, popular among Windows users, is slower at writing, so you may want to avoid it. If your files are below 4 gigabytes, FAT32 is also an option.
The WNDR3800 supports Mac OS with its AFP protocol, so you can use Time Machine for data backups. The router manufacturer recommends HFS+ as the external disk’s file system for this usage.
Multimedia files stored on the external disk can be indexed by the DLNA server. It is enabled for all connected disks and supports the following file types: jpg, mp3, aac, m4a, wma, ogg, flac, mpg, avi, mp4, wmv, mkv. Its databases and log file are stored in the .ReadyDLNA folder in the partition’s root directory. Besides DLNA-compatible players, the multimedia content can be played on TiVo DVRs.
The USB Control Center utility, downloadable from Netgear’s website in Windows and Mac OS versions, has to be installed on your PC to enable network printing. The trouble of installing it is well compensated by its functionality: you can use the scanning feature of an all-in-one and learn the level of ink in your network printer. USB Control Center can manage the printing queue for multiple clients or enable exclusive mode for a certain client. It also has a scanning module.
One more feature available with Netgear’s top-end routers is their compatibility with the ReadyShare Cloud technology. This service provides access to external disks connected to the router from any internet-enabled device. The best thing about it is that you don’t have to change anything in your router settings. You only have to create a user account at https://readyshare.netgear.com and add your router to the service by entering your username and password. The service works even if the router has no static IP address.
The downside is that ReadShare Cloud requires special client software which is available for Windows, iOS and Android (the latter two versions are not free). After installing and launching it, you have to sign into the cloud to see the router and its network folders in your network environment. The data-transfer rate over the internet proved to be very low (60 KBps) notwithstanding the fast internet channels of our router and client device (20 Mbps). You have no control over this speed because traffic is redirected via the manufacturer’s external servers. You can share your resources with other registered users. The documentation says you can assign access rights but we couldn’t find such settings. Based on virtual network technologies from Leaf Networks, the service is going to be free until the end of 2012 and may become subscription-based afterwards (this is mentioned in small print on the product box).