A few weeks ago, my trusty Motorola WR850G router started acting really goofy. It ran flawlessly for over three years at the condo, enduring power spikes and whatnot, and I figured between the move here to the house and a few of the storms we’ve had there might have been too much for it to handle.
No problem, though: my local Staples had a sale on networking equipment, so I picked up a Netgear WPN 824 router. What appealed to me was the fact that this router supposedly has a technology to provide a greater range, and considering the router is at one end of the house and I occasionally want to be wireless at the other end, this seemed to fit the bill.
First, the good news: the router’s range is very good and actually seems to work as advertised. Configuration was easy, as it’s been with most Netgear products I’ve owned (my first being a Netgear EN104 hub, my second an RT311 router, both solid performers).
Now, the bad news: evidently, Netgear has implemented some new firmware code that misbehaves with the Cisco VPN Client that many companies, including mine, use for employees’ remote access. The problem is that once the connection is established, regardless of whether it’s through either the router’s wired or wireless ports, it will randomly disconnect anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes into a session. There’s no warning and no explanation: it just drops the connection.
I checked on Netgear’s user forums, and I was not the only person with this problem. One of the moderators there helped another user through all sorts of troubleshooting, only to have it wind up with the recommendation to roll back to a previous version of firmware. The troublesome part of this is that Netgear acknowledged they had a problem and further admitted that they may not solve the issue in future releases of the firmware.
Pretty lousy customer service, if you ask me. Undaunted, I decided to exchange the WPN 824 for another router– this one, another Netgear product: the Netgear WGT 624. I bought this one because someone on the forums indicated that he did not have the VPN problem with this model. He must have been lucky, because I did run into the problem. And rolling back to a 1.0.x firmware version made the problem go away, but it bothered me that I’d have to leave it there, presumably unable to take advantage of any fixes or enhancements to future versions.
The halfway-good news here was that the range of the WGT 624 was pretty good, about the same as my original Motorola router.
That was the end of my Netgear adventure, and most likely the last Netgear product I’ll buy.
To solve my original need, I decided to go with what seems to be the crowd-pleaser: the Linksys WRT54g Router. They’ve sold millions of these things, so I figured I would give it a shot.
Evendently, Linksys has changed this model several times over the years. The version I got (version 8.0) had non-detachable antennae. According to the web sites I visited, it also has a lot less memory than earlier versions. That matters to people who wish to load other open-source firmware on the unit, but not necessarily to me.
Configuration was easy enough, but the initial problem with this unit was the fact that the wireless range was lousy. I mean, really lousy. The signal barely reached halfway into the room at the other end of the house where the Motorola and both Netgears made it.
Aside from this, the unit would just take itself off the network every so often. I was sitting at my PC, which was connected to the router by an Ethernet cable, and a warning came up from a Linksys monitor program that said “Your router lost its connection to the network.” Huh?? After a couple more occurences of this, plus a couple occasions where the router decided it didn’t want to talk to the Internet (and had to be power cycled to get its connection back) I decided to get rid of the Linksys and move on.
Enter the Buffalo WHR-HP-G54. Configuration was a snap, and the range is wonderful– better than the Motorola. I read dozens of positive reviews of this router on the internet, and I realized I should have considered this unit in the beginning. It’s been running for a week now with zero trouble.
One question which isn’t answered clearly by Buffalo or the places that sell this router is whether the unit operates better sitting flat or oriented vertically, as all the photos show. They tell you you can orient it horizontally, which is what I did. I can tell you the signal is great in this position.
I’ll post something here in the future if there’s a significant change that makes me change my mind, but suffice it to say I am very pleased with this router. And I’ve pretty much had it with Linksys and Netgear.