NEATGEAR N300 Wireless USB Adapter (WNA3100)

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Tivon
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Joined: 04/26/2002
Posts: 1878

Run away! Two simple words that I wish someone would have told me weeks ago while standing in Wal-Mart with money to burn. I had grand ideas to write a kickass review about my HTPC build that I've made with older parts and ended up tossing in the towel for now after this network adapter. Lucky for me I was able to get a refund after the 15 day computer hardware return policy, thanks Wal-Mart! Funny enough the returns lady said they had alot of problems with Belkin, and then I said Netgear? And she repeated Belkin. Glad she told me that news because that's all Wal-Mart’s sells is Belkin and Netgear wireless adapters at my local store.

As much as I'd love to call this a 100% Suckass Product there is at least one good thing to say, it did have good range. Using inSSIDer I was able to see very far away connections and it held 4 to 5 bars across the house. On the negative side however that connection signal was all over the place but more importantly it dropped connections randomly all the time. Like any good tech worth their weight in gold, I jumped into full Google search mode and turned up nothing that worked. I'm telling you now, name the fix and I've tried it!

Let's talk about the Push 'N' Connect button, didn't work. On my Netgear Router I pushed in the WPS button and nothing happened either. So I scrapped that idea and had to enter in the SSID and Security Key manually. Then the Netgear software tried to connect to my neighbors open wireless guest connection and it would not stop doing this endless cycle or resisting my needs to use my own internet. Then I had no choice but to disable the Netgear software and use Window. Things started looking good when I final got it connected, but my first movie test stopped mid-stream. How nice, a yellow exclamation mark over the Wi-Fi symbol. Clearly this was a sign of good things to come, or not.

Now I was back at Google again, and tried the new drivers and old drivers, via CD and their website. Lowered the router speeds. All options enabled, auto or disabled. Tried different options of WPA2, WPA and WEP security. Uninstalled the antivirus programs and turned off the firewalls. Then I plugged it into a different USB hub by itself and other USB ports. Checked it with a volt meter, it was getting full power. Tried the common windows power management options and disabled power saving and the typical "allow the computer to turn this device off" box. And lastly the network channels from 1, 6 and 11. By the end of it I was nose deep into the registry and places you should never be to fix a bad device. Ironically enough things just got worse and new problems started with windows not being able to ready the device after a reboot, had to manually remove it from the port and then everything was good again. WTF!?

Before taking it back I tried one last thing and plugged it in another computer with Windows 7 32-bit and it worked fine for hours. This of course made me lose my sanity. After a few beers later I was even more determined to fix this once and for all. Unfortunately after another week of trying I finally gave up. The only things I could think of are the differences in hardware such as Intel vs Via USB chipsets and 32-bit vs. 64-bit OS. Using this information the internet turned up many possible fixes, but nothing seemed to be an absolute repair of the problem. I noticed alot of Windows 7 64-bit users reporting the disconnections and at least one guy that said he had to pay Netgear for support only to be told this device supports Windows 7, but not necessarily 64-bit and was then recommended to return it. Given the spread of miss information on the internet I can neither confirm nor deny, but its looking true from my end of the bad news story. Seeing as how others have done the RMA's 2 or even 3 times without a permanent fix I did what any good man would do and killed it with fire!

No that's crazy talking; I got my money back and bought another working product. I picked up the D-Link Xtreme N Dual Band USB Adapter (DWA-160). It was on Sale for $30, I Installed the software on the CD, plugged in the Adapter, Push the WPS button and watched movies for hours. Unlike the WNA3100, I was not seeing those very far away connections and the signal strength was a little less. I'm not so sure a little less is a negative here however because rather than going up and down in signal strengths it was a steady flat rate and 4 solid bars.

In the end there is nothing else to say other than I’d avoid buying this Netgear USB Wireless Adapter if you wish to keep your sanity. Thanks for reading my review, until next time, peace-out!

Pros: Long range signal strength.
Cons: Disconnects, Poor Drivers and Software.

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Razear
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Joined: 12/30/2008
Posts: 1120

I have the DWA-160 as well and it does the job, however like any other USB wireless adapter, nothing to brag about.