PROS / A broadband usage meter monitors traffic volume.
CONS / Their free technical support expires after 90 days.
VERDICT / The Netgear N150 Wireless Router sports a full complement of features, minus VPN support.
One of the wireless routers that humbly aspires to affordably equip households is the feature-rich Netgear N150. Instead of implementing dual-stream wireless n, which has a theoretical speed of 300Mbps, the product is available for a lower price point because it uses a chip set that supports the single-stream wireless specification at a theoretical speed of 150Mbps. Wireless n at 150Mbps is still at least three times faster than the previous 802.11g Wi-Fi standard. The N150 uses Fast Ethernet ports: one for the internet connection and four to attach PCs and other client devices to the local area network connected to the home wireless router. If your internet service provider allocates download limits and charges more beyond a certain threshold, the N150 will keep you within budget because it includes a broadband usage meter.
With regard to security features, this Netgear provides double firewall protection: Network Address Translation (NAT) and Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI). NAT hides the PCs on a local area network behind a single network IP address. SPI detects incoming data packets with signatures that betray a malicious source.
Double protection also extends to encryption methods: WEP and WPA/WPA2. WEP is Wired Equivalent Privacy, an encryption scheme that WPA/WPA2 supersedes. WPA/WPA2 is Wi-Fi Protected Access, which hackers have not been able to bring down. WEP is provided in order to protect previous Wi-Fi generation clients that connect with 802.11n. WPA/WPA2 protects current-generation Wi-Fi client devices when they communicate via the wireless router. The firewall can also defeat denial-of-service attacks, a particularly nasty type of hack intended to disable internet service using a variety of nefarious tactics.
Parental controls are substantial. By using a Domain Name System (a directory of internet addresses), parents can block up to 50 categories of content. Parents can manage the settings even when they are away from home by using a browser interface. Another level of control allows parents to restrict access according to time of day.
Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) secures connections for client devices with a push of a button. Administration of settings is through a web interface. Installation is facilitated by an installation CD.
Netgear includes a one-year warranty and 90 days of technical support via telephone and email. The website hosts discussion forums, a knowledge base, firmware and driver software.
If parental controls are important, or if you have an internet service provider that charges extra for bandwidth beyond a specific allocation, then the Netgear N150 is something to consider.