there were such a thing as a router beauty contest, then Netgear's DG834G would win hands-down. The company's familiar ‘platinum’ case may have been around for a few years now, but it still looks cool enough not to look out of place in a lounge. It looks much the same as its non-Wi-Fi predecessors, the DG814 and DG834, but with the addition of a single 2dBi non-removable antenna at one end.
In common with many of its rivals, the DG834G no longer has the luxury of a power switch. But it does have the usual status LEDs on the front, for ADSL sync, wireless LAN activity and a link light for each of its four 10/100Mbps switched Ethernet ports.
The DG834G has a comprehensive feature set that’s hard to fault. Its security features are an example of this thoroughness: you get a decent firewall with Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) & Intrusion Control, Denial of Service (DoS) and IPSec/Virtual Private Network (VPN) pass-through.
But then so do plenty of other multi-function routers that the DG834G goes head to head with. It does have one unique selling point, though: Netgear’s latest router has a faster processor and additional flash memory so that it can accept firmware updates for ADSL 2 (12Mbps downstream) and ADSL 2+ (24Mbps), two upcoming ADSL broadband standards. This is a nice feature to have, although by the time we see these proposed standards turned in to reality, the DG834G is likely to be history.
Getting online with the DG834G is a stress-free experience, thanks to its Smart Wizard. To get connected you run this wizard, which can automatically detect your basic ADSL and network settings. This can take a minute or two, but all you need do is enter your username and password and that’s it, the wizard takes care of the rest. In common with its peers, the DG834G is Web-configured -- a job that's made easier by its well-designed, tri-pane user interface. Most routers have so-so UIs, but the DG834G’s stands out for the attractive, clear and easy to follow layout. The ever-present help pane on the right-hand side provides assistance when you’re stumped for the right setting to choose. Paper documentation isn’t fulsome, but you do get a resource CD-ROM that includes animated instructions, the Install Assistant.
The DG834G’s feature list matches the best on the market and feature for feature it has pretty much everything you might need. The only question-mark about it concerns the firmware. When originally launched, the DG834G lacked Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security, but firmware update v1.03 corrected that -- you now get a choice of PSK or 802.1x authentication. However, that upgrade brought with it a few bugs, prompting a raft of complaints on user forums and newsgroups, with issues concerning MSN Messenger (of all things) plus the loss of the scheduler for content filtering being caused by the latest update. Sometimes the v1.03 upgrade would actually cause the router to become non-responsive.
The problems caused by the firmware update must have been significant, because Netgear has gone to the trouble of providing a firmware recovery utility specifically for DG834/Gs that have been rendered unusable by the upgrade. Hopefully, the current firmware release, v1.04.01, nails all the outstanding bugs.