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I was considering paying extra for the NETGEAR WNR3500L router, because it claims:

The WNR3500L supports Wireless-N and features a 480 MHz processor with 64 MB RAM and 8 MB of flash memory to provide enthusiasts great performance.

However, I'm wondering if processor speed in a router is a marketing gimmick or actually useful for efficiency.

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My uses for the router, would be gaming, streaming high-definition videos, and large downloads.

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2 Answers 2

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For most uses, my experience has been that the CPU is rarely used in simple routing type usage. Even with NAT and QoS running, very little CPU time is used.

The one exception to this that I've run into is when installing add-on firmware like DD-WRT, OpenWRT, etc, and using the router for more than just routing. In particular, for VPN client or server usage, most of these router CPUs will run out of horsepower around 3 to 6Mbps. If you aren't planning on doing anything like this, it is not likely to be something that you will notice.

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Thank you for the concise answer! --- Since my uses for this router won't involve anything more than simple routing, I can confidently buy the less-expensive variation of this router. –  Ademos Dec 6 '10 at 1:47

In usages like gaming and video streaming, it is possible for the processor to bottleneck your network, but not incredibly likely. The processor speed is more interesting if you're planning on using advanced features like QoS, or if you're thinking about installing a third-party operating system (OpenWRT, for example). Depending on the price difference, it may be worth it for upgradeability to a new OS.

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Ironically though a listed feature for the NETGEAR WNR3500L is "Open Source for Customization and Development" OpenWRT is not supported: wiki.openwrt.org/toh/start#netgear2 --- But I suppose there are other projects on their website myopenrouter.com –  Ademos Dec 4 '10 at 21:27
    
So if I'm not planning to install open source software, would the extra ($20 in my case) not be worth it? –  Ademos Dec 4 '10 at 21:33
    
Considering that it's only $20, I feel that it could be worth it. It's not that significant an amount of money, and if anything else it would significantly reduce the chance of any bottlenecking due to the router itself lagging behind. –  jcrawfordor Dec 5 '10 at 8:57
    
Well normally I would agree that $20 is worth the extra power. But since I won't be using any open source software, I see no purpose for the extra power. --- Thank you for your explanations. –  Ademos Dec 6 '10 at 1:44

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