Netgear picks another draft 11n dance partner

Netgear today decided to spread its bets in the draft 802.11n WLAN competition with a slight change to its product line-up.

The company added a "B" designation to the WNR834 router and WN511 notebook adapter, replacing those products that were in last week’s announcement and indicating the use of Broadcom’s "Intensi-fi" chipset. Buffalo Technology also today announced a Broadcom-based draft-11n product line.

Netgear said both the RangeMax NEXT Wireless Router with 10/100 Switch (WNR834B) and Wireless Notebook Adapter (WN511B) are "immediately available", but a search of on-line retailers came up empty. Estimated retail prices have been set at about $180 and $130, respectively, for the router and card.

This amounts to a 40% price premium for the "Gigabit Edition" router, but no premium for Netgear’s "Gigabit Edition" notebook card. Pricing for the products introduced today, however, is exactly the same as those set by Buffalo for its "Nfiniti" router and notebook card.

Both "Gigabit Edition" products that were announced last week are based on Marvell "TopDog" draft-11n chipsets.

Netgear’s broad MIMO product line could present a difficult challenge for both the company and consumers given the confusing array of speeds and pricing. The new introductions also beg the question of when Netgear’s RangeMax 240 line that is based on Airgo’s third generation silicon will be retired. The RangeMax 240 began shipments only a few months ago, but is not draft 11n compliant since it is Airgo’s assertion that draft 11n products are premature.

The mixed chipset product line also will give Netgear the additional challenges of keeping its Marvell and Broadcom-based products interoperable as the draft 11n standard evolves and keeping Netgear’s marketing message consistent with those of its competiting draft 11n chipset vendors. As one example, the web page for the Marvell-based WNR854T "Gigabit Edition" router claims that it "interoperates at 300Mbps with other products with TopDog". But the Broadcom-based WNR834B’s page states that it "interoperates at 270Mbps with other products powered with InteNsi-fi". It may be left as an exercise for the customer to determine what speeds will be achieved when mixing clients between the two lines.

Fasten your seatbelts, folks. It’s going to be an interesting, but bumpy ride.

Related article :
Review : Netgear WPNT834 RangeMax 240 Wireless Router

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