As opposed to the previous generation of wireless equipment, the support of 802.11n per se doesn’t mean much anymore. Today’s wireless product can work in one frequency band (2.4 GHz) or both at once (2.4 and 5 GHz). Its peak bandwidth can be 150 or 300 or 450 Mbps. While the slowest variant with 2.4 GHz support is reserved for entry-level products, a modern top-end router has to work in both frequency bands and to have as many as three antennas for 3T3R mode. That’s what the latest 802.11n solution from Netgear is like. In our earlier review of the company’s WNDR3800 we talked about significant changes in its integrated software, and the new WNDR4500 has something interesting to offer in this respect, too.
Package and Accessories
The manufacturer has tried to introduce some color coding into its product nomenclature. Red was the color of the WNDR3800 while the WNDR4500 makes use of deep blue because it is positioned as an Ultimate Performance rather than just High Performance product. Considering that products with the next-generation wireless standard 802.11ac have already been announced, we just wonder what words will be found to describe their positioning.
The box is designed just like any other, with photos of the device, key product features and specifications on its sides. We don’t find any extra accessories inside (although a compact wireless adapter would come in handy). Besides the router, the box contains a power adapter with cord, a Gigabit Ethernet cable, an installation guide, a printed GNU license, and some promo materials.
The power adapter is huge. Its output power is as high as 60 watts, comparable to notebook power adapters. It’s hard to imagine what a router might need so much power for. There’s no CD with software inside the box but indeed it’s easier to download the latest versions of software and documentation right from the internet. You even have to do that with the WNDR4500 if you need some of the ReadySHARE features.
If you take a look at product photos available on the Web, the router won’t seem much different from its predecessors. Indeed, the WNDR4500 has retained all the key features of the 3000 series but has become larger. With the integrated stand for upright positioning, its dimensions are 8.1 x 17.3 x 26 centimeters. Without the stand, the case is about 3.5 centimeters thick. Like earlier routers from Netgear, this one has built-in antennas and looks quite well despite its large size. It’s rather odd that the stand cannot be detached to install the router horizontally on a desk or wall-mount it. The only reason we can think of is that the manufacturer wants to ensure proper ventilation. There are vent grids in the top and bottom panels of the case for that.
The case is made of dark and glossy plastic. There is an additional translucent plate on the bottom that transforms into the stand. The back panel is the single matte surface here.
Here are the indicators and buttons available on the front panel (from top to bottom): WPS button and indicator, Wi-Fi On/Off switch, indicators of status, internet connection, Wi-Fi, wired ports and two USB ports. Interestingly, the indicators are multicolored and highlight the logotypes on the translucent part of the stand. They do not blink much in consistency with the restrained style of the device in general. On the back panel we can see two USB 2.0 ports with provocatively blue-colored connectors, four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, a Gigabit Ethernet WAN port, a reset button, a power connector and a power switch.
Like its predecessors, the WNDR4500 has individual factory settings for the default names and passwords of its wireless networks to prevent inexperienced users from deploying an insecure WLAN. You can read this information on the stickers around the router’s case. If you lose the stickers, you can just reset the router to its factory defaults and run the integrated initial setup wizard.
So, the only problem about the exterior design of the WNDR4500 is that you may find it difficult to keep its glossy surfaces clean. Besides, it can only be installed upright, which may be inconvenient for some users.