I’ve always liked Netgear. They seem to be a company that stays ahead of the technology curve, makes reliable products and understand the balance between easy to use and advanced features. I no longer like Netgear.
My old Netgear router, which had been the paradigm of reliability, died suddenly last week. It was over two years old, so I didn’t complain too much. Instead, I made an emergency run to Fry’s and purchased the top-of-the-line WNDR3700 Range-Max dual band wireless N gigabit router. The two main features I really liked were: (1) very high speed processor that should give better performance, and (2) ability to configure 2 SSID’s, so that a visitor could gain access to the internet without getting access to either my security phrase or my local data. Very cool I thought.
Setup took me a typical time about an hour. And after the usual of downloading the latest firmware, having to reboot all of the other switches and my modem, I was on the internet, transferring files, etc. The wifi worked with my iPad and iPhone. And for those regular readers, it also worked with my home theatre control system. All was good in the world again.
Given that it was past midnight when I finished, I waited to add the cool new features till the next day. It was then that my router stopped working. I enabled the guest SSIDs, and suddenly the wifi was dead. I went into the configuration menu, and noticed the radios were turned off, so turned them back on only they didn’t go back on. So, I looked at the router, and the lights for the wifi were off. I manually turned them on. But they turned off on their own again as soon as I downloaded the config. Thinking I had inadvertently misconfigured the router, I reset it to factory configuration and started again. Then the problem repeated itself as soon as I turned on the guest network. I played with the various settings, but it happened every time. So.. I concluded I had a defective unit.
The next morning, I hopped in the car and drove the 15 miles to Fry’s, who were gracious about the exchange. Got the new unit home and it was exactly the same. By this point, I had invested well over 8 hours on this, not to mention the previous 4 I spent figuring out that my old modem had failed.
So, I began investigating on the web, only to learn that this has been a known problem with this unit since March. (See: http://forum1.netgear.com/showthread.php?t=49720&highlight=guest+ssid). The original bacth of routers sold prior to January, apparently do not have this problem. But the ones sold in 2010, all suffer from this issue. There has been a beta firmware upgrade available for two months that fixes the problem, but seems to have other issues. Netgear will release it, but only under NDA! So the message is, you have to suffer, call our customer service, be put on hold, sign and NDA, and then we will give you a less buggy upgrade, for a product that didn’t work to begin with. In other words, Netgear has known that they are selling a defective unit for over three months, continue to sell this unit, have not notified their retailers, and let customers know that this was a problem.
This is intolerable and unacceptable behavior, the kind that should be punished by fines, and big ones at that. My time is valuable to me, but apparently not to companies like Netgear that feel it is acceptable to have their customers to their testing, spend countless hours making a defective product work, and then have to beg for a solution that exists. They should just recall this defective product and either replace it with one that works, or refund 100% of their customers money, and also give a credit for future products.