Friday, October 12, 2018

A Bitch I Must Bitch

     Gentle Readers, if you intend to purchase something from Amazon and look through the products in your target category to find the one you want, for the sake of your sanity always heed the following advice:

Read The One-Star Reviews!

     When a product is sound, it will have very few, and they’ll concern themselves with marginalia: options the purchaser wish he had, or something about how badly it fits his decor scheme, or the like. When a product is unsound – unreliable or otherwise guaranteed to give you serious trouble – the one-star reviews will be many, and will talk about the worst faults you can imagine.

     I write this because I failed to pay attention to the one-star reviews of an expensive product, and I’m paying for it today.

     The product is a NETGEAR X4S R7800 Gigabit router with 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz wireless support. When I went shopping for said router, it looked to be the best of what’s available in the consumer price range. It had over 3200 reviews against it. More than a hundred of them are one-star reviews.

     Yes, I read a few of the one-star reviews. What I didn’t do was note the similarities among them. They should have draped me in red flags:

  • Unreliability
  • Extremely difficult configuration
  • Effectively no support without a purchased support contract.

     I should have immediately turned aside. I didn’t.

     To make a long story short, NETGEAR managed to disable one of my routers – I have two of them – with a “firmware upgrade.” The thing no longer supports either speed of WiFi. I can’t get the thing to re-enable WiFi – and believe me, I’ve tried.

     Being the naive and trusting sort I am, I went to the NETGEAR support site hoping to learn how to undo the damage, or at least, undo the firmware upgrade in the hope of restoring the previous functionality. No dice; not without purchasing a support contract. So I pulled out the meager documentation that went with the router. No dice there, either.

     I’ve spent three fruitless hours over this piece I’m ready to chew girders and spit rivets. What I think I’m going to do is buy another router, this time at a retail establishment that guarantees both support and refunds. But it most assuredly won’t be a NETGEAR.

     It’s not just that the company crippled the product by remote control. It’s not just that the documentation was unhelpful. It’s even that NETGEAR won’t support its product without a purchased support contract. No, there’s even more flavorful icing on this turd.

     The router’s listing at Amazon will not accept any more reviews.

     The one-star reviews ripped NETGEAR up and down for poor support and service. That strikes me as the most likely reason no more reviews are being accepted. I should have paid more attention. So this plaint is what I’m left with – this and the immediate purchase of another router, so my beloved wife can use her office set-up as she intends.



Amy Bowersox said...

You can get the open-source DD-WRT firmware for the router here and see if it works for you. I know, I know, sunk cost fallacy, but maybe you can actually get some use out of the thing.

(I upgraded my ASUS router with similar open-source firmware; it's improved the performance and seems to have eliminated the "bufferbloat" problem.)

Bob T. said...

An up-vote here for the DD-WRT firmware. I was forced to go that route (unintended bad pun -- seriously) for my Buffalo WZR-600DHP. As long as you make damned certain the stars are aligned properly as far as which hardware variant goes with which firmware bundle *before* pulling the trigger on the upgrade, everything simply "just works". No drama, no wailing and gnashing of teeth, etc. Have flashed the firmware several times on said Buffalo due to frequent upgrades in the wake of well-publicized wireless security issues :-(.

Kevin said...


Check out the TP-Link Archer C7. The owner of one of the other blogs I read regularly just mentioned how well he likes the one he just installed at his own house.

Blog Post -
Amazon Link -

Good luck

Linda Fox said...

Oh, swell! I just this week picked up a router from Netgear, since my network had been crawling under the previous, Linksys router (well, it was ancient - over 6 years old).

I had been planning on the install today.

Hope my experience is better.

Rick C said...

If you get the Archer C7, it's important to upgrade the firmware! I bought one on recommendation from The Wirecutter a couple years ago, and the 5GHz band would stop working within a day, every time I rebooted it. I got used to living without it for a while. Eventually they put out a firmware update that claimed to fix the problem, so I applied it, and it actually worked. Other than that--in my mind, pretty serious defect--I'm happy with it now that it actually works.

The Wirecutter recommends a different router now, mainly for people with more devices that connect to it.

Also, with regards to DD-WRT, I've heard that OpenWRT is a better choice, if there's a version for your particular router; it's a fork that apparently is being more actively developed.