You may not have noticed, and we certainly didn't, but Netgear now has a complete line of wireless access points that provide business-class wireless networking. We tested the WN370, a new AP, as the APs used when we tested the Netgear WC7600 Premium Wireless Controller.
Slightly larger than a USB hard drive many people keep with their laptops (5.46 x 3.80 x 1.16 in), the small WN370 access points are meant to be used with a PoE (Power over Ethernet). Cleverly, they can be mounted to any wall or ceiling to terminate a PoE Ethernet cable drop. Both new construction and retro-fits will cost less using an Ethernet cable to power the APs rather than both Ethernet and electrical. After all, electrical power cables need to be encased in metal conduit today. But nobody cares where 10Base-T Ethernet cabling goes, whether through the drywall or above your suspended ceiling. Low voltage means no fire risk no matter how many weird locations you run wires for your customer.
Three lights on the WV370 tell its story. First, power, coming from the PoE cable. Steady green is good. Second, the network light which flashes with network activity. The third, WiFi on or off, means the WN370 has been acquired and logged into the wireless network controller running the network, such as the WC7600 Premium Wireless Controller we reviewed earlier.
The WN370 includes a wall mounting bracket with four mounting screws. You attach the bracket to the wall and line up the PoE Ethernet cable with the rectangular hole in the mounting bracket. Then the WiFi housing snaps into the bracket simply and easily, all without the need for mounting a junction box (and covering the small hole you make in the wall for the Ethernet cable). There are two connections for optional small antennas on either side of the WC370.
You can login to individual access points if you don't entirely trust your wireless controller, but you don't get to see much. The Configuration screen shows IP addresses and VLAN information. You can change the password as well, but again, that's what controllers are for. There's no need to individually upgrade each unit, since the WC7600 wireless controller downloads new firmware at boot time.
These are aimed to support large groups of users like schools and hotels and built to fill an entire room with WiFi. During our tests, the WC370 had as good if not better distance support than our U-Verse wireless broadband modem from AT&T. While a roomful of WiFi is a good thing, especially when one access point supports up to 30 users and a maximum theoretical throughput of 300Mbps, the WC370 has another surprise: ports. Four 100Mbps Ethernet ports are hiding on the bottom edge of the units, along with a Pass-Through port to support VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) telephones. How many business travelers would be thrilled by one box that provides fast WiFi and four physical Ethernet ports? Just about 100 percent. Leveraging these little APs for a motel, for instance, cuts down the number of data cables to each room by half.
On the technical side, the WN370 uses Wireless-N to provide speeds of 300Mbps-450Mbps, all the standard secure authentication protocols, and even rogue AP detection. Up to 30 clients are supported per AP, using up to 8 SSIDs and 9 VLANs. APs of this type are controlled by wireless control units, a new model of which Netgear announced when they announced the WN370 ProSAFE Business-Class Access Point.
Netgear offers two models below the WN370 (WN203 and WN210), and five models above this: WNDAP320, WNDAP350, WNDAP360, WNDAP620, and WNDAP660. Prices start at $105.99 and go up to $570 per unit. All the models above the WN370 support both the 2.4 GHz and 5 Ghz frequency ranges, while the WN370 and lower models only support the 2.4 GHz spectrum. That is the most popular spectrum with the most devices in use, supporting 802.11b/g/n. And, when wall mounted, Fast Ethernet ports as well as WiFi.
Advanced Wireless Features (Courtesy of Netgear):
- IEEE 802.1x Radius (EAP TLS, TTLS, PEAP)
- Wireless access control to identify authorized wireless devices
- MAC ACL
- Rogue AP detection
- Heat Map
- Guest Access and Captive Portal
- Auto Healing
- Auto RF adjustments
- Auto AP power adjustments
- 802.11 WMM (Wireless Multimedia mode for QoS)