Netgear DGN2000 Disappoints

There’s a lesson to be learned here – just because something is easy to set up and works well out of the box, doesn’t mean it’s good. I’m talking about my new Netgear DGN2000 Wireless ADSL Router here. I bought it a month ago and having had no trouble setting it up and getting it working alongside my Apple Airport Extreme, I happily blogged that I’d recommend it for anyone looking for a good wireless router.

Netgear DGN2000

Netgear DGN2000

Fast forward four weeks and I take it all back! Now before I go any further it’s worth drawing an analogy – think of an ADSL router like you would a car. In this scenario, the wire that runs from your wall socket to the local exchange and beyond, and how your ISP has it set up is like the road. Now it’s a fact that cars and roads are different. A road full of potholes may still get you to where you want to go, but a rugged 4×4 may get you there while a sleek sports car won’t. Going back to the router, there are some that will deal with a less than perfect line than others, and in my case I don’t think the Netgear DGN2000, or at least the one I’ve got, is one of them.

Yesterday morning I lost my internet connection. All the lights on the router were doing what they normally do, including the one that shows I have an internet connection. Rebooting the router fixed the problem… for 60 seconds, before my internet connection dropped again. This is pretty much how it has been since, but I have learned a couple of things during this time.

Firstly, if I already have a connection to a site, then that connection persists even though any new connections to other sites will fail. So for example I can be streaming internet radio through iTunes or Snowtape and it keeps working fine, but I can’t browse to a web site. It’s almost as though DNS has died… but that leads me on to the second point. Changing anything on the router, even just clicking the ‘Apply’ button on a page without changing any settings, will restore the connection. So it’s not a DNS issue. Een just clicking on the ‘Test’ button on the Basic Settings page will re-establish my routers connection.

The tell tale signs are there in the routers own log:

Sun, 2009-07-19 08:10:25 - LCP down.
Sun, 2009-07-19 08:10:29 - Initialize LCP.
Sun, 2009-07-19 08:10:29 - LCP is allowed to come up.
Sun, 2009-07-19 08:10:33 - CHAP authentication success
Sun, 2009-07-19 08:10:58 - LCP down.
Sun, 2009-07-19 08:10:59 - Initialize LCP.
Sun, 2009-07-19 08:10:59 - LCP is allowed to come up.
Sun, 2009-07-19 08:11:03 - CHAP authentication success

As you can see, anywhere between 30-60 seconds after the connection is established, it drops. I do anything on the router and it reconnects for about 60 seconds before dropping again. Who knows, maybe the signal to noise ratio on my line has changed slightly in the last 24 hours and has pushed the router beyond some threshold making it unable to cope. Maybe in someone else’s house on a different line, this router would work perfectly? This is probably why you see so many mixed reviews of routers – indeed, if you look at the Amazon UK site you’ll see an even spread of people who say this router is great and those who say it’s rubbish.

Linksys WAG160N

Linksys WAG160N

For my part, well I work from home and a reliable connection is essential. What is really frustrating is that for the past four weeks it has worked perfectly, plus my VPN connection for work has been fine, the XBox 360 has worked fine with it, as has my Mac Mini and work laptop via their respective wireless connections. Perhaps the fault does lie with BT and the vagaries of the phone line, but I’d have a tough job proving it. Next step? Well I shall try a Linksys WAG160N router later today, and the Netgear shall go back to the supplier to be swapped for another one, and if that doesn’t work then it’s refund time.

All this leads me to conclude that getting a wireless ADSL router to work is 50% brand reliability and 50% luck, and in my case the latter just ran out with the Netgear. Let’s hope the Linksys is a ‘luckier’ router!

PS – In case you’re wondering, I have tried all the various tricks I can to keep this thing connected. That includes changing the MTU size from 1458 to either 1500 or 1400, as well as standing the router on its side to improve cooling, and even plugging the mains adapter into a different outlet, which in tech’ terms is really clutching at straws.