Although wireless networking is undoubtedly a great innovation, its Achilles heel is weak reception whenever a device is at a long distance from a router's antennae. Wireless 'notspots' are also common, areas well within range where performance drops for unexplainable reasons. This is an unavoidable aspect of the laws of physics, and the only way to extend an SSID to cover a larger area is with wireless extenders such as the WN3000RP Universal Wi-Fi Range Extender. Go to Group test: what's the best wireless router?
It's a small box that plugs directly into a wall socket (although it doesn't support powerline networking) with an antenna on each side and four status LEDs at the front. The Netgear WN3000RP has a 100Mbps ethernet port at the side, as well as buttons to reset the router and disable its wireless signal, and a hard reset button. See all: broadband advice.
The Netgear WN3000RP works only on the 2.4GHz wireless frequency, supporting 802.11n as well as older 802.11g and b devices.
There's no software to install. The easiest way to set up the Netgear WN3000RP is by pressing its Wireless Protected Setup (WPS) button, along with one on your router, which automatically copies your SSID name and security details across.
Alternatively, you can manually configure it. When first turned on, it creates a wireless network called Netgear_EXT. When you connect to this with a laptop, a status configuration page appears, allowing you to connect the WN3000RP to your existing wireless network and enter its security key. Once you've done this, the Netgear_EXT network disappears, and you're left with two SSIDs: your original network, and another with the same name but with _EXT appended to the end.
Correctly positioning it is more difficult. The extender has to be within range of an existing wireless network, and its range must overlap with your existing one. An LED at the front of the Netgear WN3000RP provides a visual cue to its signal strength, by lighting up red, amber or green.
Netgear WN3000RP: performance tests
We positioned the Netgear WN3000RP within 15m of our router behind a thick wall, so the status LED was amber. We then tested it with a laptop positioned close by.
At this range, a file transfer using our original wireless network came down at 4.4MB/sec. When we switched to using the wireless network emitted by the WN3000RP, the transfer rate dropped to 2.6MB/sec.
We then tested again, approximately 10m from the WN3000RP. Here, the file transferred at 2MB/sec, but the client couldn't even connect to our main wireless network. The relatively small decrease in performance is a pleasing result, so we ran a third test.
We moved the WN3000RP closer to the router, so the status light appeared green. At this range, the original wireless network managed a transfer rate of 8.9MB/sec while the WN3000RP was reduced to 4.9MB/sec.
At 15m away from the WN3000RP, we measured a transfer rate of 4.1MB/sec, again, only showing a small drop in performance, even though we were now 20m away from the main router, positioned outside the building.
From our results, it's clear that using a wireless extender such as the WN3000RP will not produce the same results as using your router's original wireless network. This is unavoidable, due to the overhead created by network packets having to go through multiple wireless networks. However, the small performance drop when testing the WN3000RP at long range is an excellent result.