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102 of 108 people found the following review helpful
Exceeded my wildest expectations
on December 27, 2010
having been in the computer business professionally for nearly a decade, and a hobbyist for twice that long, I've become very jaded about product performance claims. My rule of thumb is to take whatever is claimed on the box, and divide by two. But once in a while, even I am pleasantly surprised when a product does exactly what is promised. This dual band wireless N wifi adapter is one such product. I made this purchase so that I could stream 1080p movies, with DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1 audio from a NAS 12ft away from my WDTV Live, which is directly wired into my Netgear WNDR3700. What this means is that I needed a card capable of ~25Mbps sustained throughput, with burst throughput of somewhere around 60Mbps to eliminate stutter
I started this endeavor with the purchase of the D-Link DWA556, thinking mistakenly that it was a dual band card capable of 5Ghz. It was not. Nevertheless, I gave it a chance, as it's theoretically possible to reach ~60Mbps with wireless N, even on the 2.4Ghz. But alas, no matter how I tweaked my channels, I couldn't get anything more then 30Mbps, max out of that card and my router. Then I gave up on the DLink, and instead bought this card. If I could've gotten anything close to 60Mbps out of this thing, I would've been very happy. Man was I surprised. I have gotten a sustained throughput of about 112Mbps, with a max of 150Mbps, and a minimum never dropping below 90Mbps. I tested by copying a 16GB file from my NAS to a laptop hooked directly into the router via gigabit ethernet. The entire copy took 17 minutes and 14 seconds, for an average of 126Mbps. The second test was to copy the same file from the NAS to my Macbook pro, which is also on the 5Ghz network. That process averaged about 48Mbps. Not great, but not bad at all.
Needless to say, all my streaming problems disappeared. No more stuttering on the busy action sequences in Avatar. No more stuttering on the initial car chase sequence in Quantum of Solace either. All in all, I am very satisfied with this purchase. The installation was completely painless. Plugged the stick into my NAS, running windows 7, and the the system found drivers for it online, and installed everything without any intervention. You do not need the software CD or drivers from Netgear's website at all, if you have a modern OS like Windows 7. However be warned that Windows 7, out of the box, does not come with drivers for this card. In other words, you cannot rely on Windows 7 to recognize this wireles card during it's initial install on a clean system. For that, you will need the CD. But after the card is functional, you can simply grab the latest drivers from windows update.
My only complaint, if there is to be one, is that the range for the 5Ghz radio is not that great. As I mentioned earlier, my NAS is 12 ft away, and without direct line of sight of the router. And yet, the signal on the 5Hz radio, according to the Netgear software was already at 84%. The negotiated link speed was consistently around 270 to 300 Mbps. So performance wasn't a problem. But, when I moved the card to another machine in the master bedroom, which is about 100ft away, separated by 3 walls, the signal strength on the 5Ghz network has dropped to 23%. I didn't bother to test the throughput in this case. Most likely, streaming HD is out of the question, though general web browsing is most likely unaffected.
To be fair though, this could just be the inherent limitation of the 5Ghz network, as higher frequency transmissions do not refract well, and the signal strength is known to drop off rather dramatically as distance increases, particularly when obstacles are present (like walls). This card may in fact perform on par with the rest of the dual band wireless cards out there, or maybe does even a little better then average. I can't say, as I haven't tried any other cards. But from a practical stand point, if you want to stream HD content with this card, then keep it close to your router. To be fair, reception for the 2.4Ghz network from the master bedroom was no problem at all. Windows 7 shows full signal strength.
All in all, I have been very happy with this purchase, and would recommend this card to anyone without reservation.
There are actually two versions of this card: The WNDA3100v1, and WNDA3100v2. If you found this page, then you are looking at the v2, which is a great card. The V1, however, is complete crap, and should be avoided at all costs. Lost of dropped connections, and instability with certain routers.