So what makes a “gaming router” a “gaming router”? With many electronics, and headsets are the worst offenders, the “gaming” branding is just exactly that- the branding, but with cost and performance significantly below comparative value to other electronics without the “gaming” branding. Does the Netduma R1 continue the trend of overpriced peripherals with “gaming” branding, or are its features actually worth paying the premium for instead of opting for a more budget-minded option?
The packaging is super minimalistic, with the only the router, AC adapter, a CAT 6 cable, and a quick start guide. Netduma isn’t the OEM for the router itself. There is nothing fancy about the actual electronics. Netduma specializes in software development, and do little if any hardware development. The actual components are made by MicroTik, a Latvian company. In designing their product, Netduma looked for a router that had specifications that could reliably run their software at a reasonable price, and decided to obtain a license to use the Routerboard RB951G-2HnD to build the Netduma R1. In future, it is possible that their software could be utilized on different models of routers, and it may be in the works to use their software with your existing router, but this is just conjecture on my part.
I wasn’t lying when I said the hardware was nothing fancy. The routerboard has a 600mhz CPU, 128 MB of RAM, and 5 gigabit Ethernet ports, 1 WAN and 4 LAN. The biggest crutch to performance optimization is how it has 802.11 b/g/n/ support on 2.4 GHZ instead of the faster 5 GHZ wifi.
But again, the specifications aren’t the main selling point of the router. The competitive online gaming-oriented network features are.
Arguably the strongest feature, but less relevant for recently released games, is the Geo-Filter, where you can draw a radius around where you live for distance of allowable online game hosts. There is also “Ping Assist”, which will allow a host that gives you ping that falls below your specified amount even if they fall outside your radius. In the “Allow and Deny” function, you can even rate hosts, blacklisting those who gave you a bad connection. There are less-than-honorable ways to use the “host deny” function, but I’m not going to go into detail, at the risk giving out ideas and ruining the feature. Even on console, since a lot of games have gotten more dedicated servers relative to P2P, this feature is less relevant for Black Ops 3 than it is for Advanced Warfare. However, it does add peace of mind for better connections.
A feature that will be a major selling point for streamers is device prioritization. You can adjust the upload and download bandwidth allocation for each device connected to the router. This feature is similar to already long-existing software, GameFirst, that comes with Asus ROG Motherboards.
The anti-flood functionality goes hand-in-hand with device prioritization, and allows you to maintain optimal gaming connections even if other activities are going on your network. The way this works is by limiting non-gaming traffic to a certain percentage of bandwidth, like 60%, so you always have free bandwidth for your games.
The one-click VPN feature allows you to quickly set up a latency-free secure connection. Again, the heavy streamers would benefit most from this feature, as it is a measure of insurance against DDoS attacks.
Rounding out the features are observational tools, like the device monitor, which allows you to see all networked devices and their data usage. Also, for PC games, you can look deeper into connection stats such as ping stability and packet loss.
The Netduma R1 costs $199 dollars. The most important question out of this review is: At the end of the day, is upgrading to the Netduma R1 going to improve your gaming experience to make it worth the price point? There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer. Your potential benefit depends on your current gaming setup, goals and expectations. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having realistic expectations. As with any gaming peripheral, you can’t expect it to improve your K/D ratio by .5 overnight. No legal product on this planet can. You have to think of any potential improvements holistically instead of on a game-by-game basis. If you already have an optimal internet connection with fast speeds and low device traffic, then you will see minimal benefit, if any at all. If you already can get into servers that give you a 40ms ping, I guarantee you won’t notice a difference. If you do, it’s a placebo effect. For me, I live in an apartment with my dog, I have high performance internet, and I play on PC servers, so I may have dropped my average ping by 10 ms, which isn’t all that impressive. If there were any improvements in hit detection and netcode, then it was likely placebo instead of an actual improvement due to having the Netduma. One guarantee for when you buy the Netduma is that you cannot ever legitimately complain about netcode again.
I would recommend you consider buying the Netduma if you are already making money gaming, either through competitive Esports or streaming, or you have an imminent potential to make money from gaming. You really have to be honest with yourself as to whether you fall into the latter category. Potentially making money from gaming doesn’t mean you had your YouTube channel for a week, made an intro, and started spamming your channel on every comment thread. It means you have put literally hundreds of hours into establishing yourself as a content creator or a marketable streaming brand. The professional gaming sector depends on consistency. It is a headache for a streamer anytime they have a network problem. As a streamer, you don’t want to have to worry about the technical details, you want to focus on being entertaining. As a competitive Esports player, you can’t have any outlying interference with your gaming, so the Netduma can provide that extra layer of peace of mind. The level of consistency the Netduma gives is almost like playing over LAN. I will reiterate, though, that if you aren’t already skilled at a professional level, you can’t buy the Netduma thinking you’re going to obtain professional Esports level of performance by using it. Professional gamers are already playing at such a level that they seek to benefit from the subtle advantage the Netduma provides.
The second group of gamers I recommend, but at a slightly lower priority, consider the Netduma are those who live in multi-device households and have to share their connections with others, like roommates. The performance difference of having the Netduma could potentially be like night and day, but it could also be like noon and 4 pm. You can buy a lot of other peripherals for the $199 price tag. Honestly, if you aren’t already making money from gaming, it is a very questionable investment, as you would probably get more enjoyment and a better gaming experience from a new quality headset, mouse, and keyboard COMBINED for the price.
If you are like me and are on stable, quality connections, then you won’t gain much benefit at all, especially when playing over PC servers. If you’re only a casual gamer, meaning you don’t make money from gaming, not meaning you have less dedication to gaming, you still probably won't find $199 of value from getting the Netduma. Even if you play as many as 30 hours a week in online multiplayer, I still can’t see you getting a return on investment, especially since P2P game hosting is less common.
Another argument against buying the Netduma for PC is the lack of direct game support. There are only a few PC games (Quake 3, Lol, DOTA 2, CS:GO, Insurgency) directly supported currently. Netduma has kept the support to the most populous and competitive games. As Netduma grows as a company, they might be able to support more games, but the current offerings are a pittance.
One thing I can guarantee with your purchase of the Netduma is outstanding customer service. In all my interactions I’ve had with Netduma, they’ve displayed the highest level of communications professionalism. They have a forum dedicated to discussing the Netduma’s performance, and the support staff are very active and helpful in posting new topics and replies to users. In all of their social media interaction with the community, they have been extremely friendly and are committed to a satisfied consumer base.
As of the writing of this review, the router is only available to buy on the Netduma website. They’ve kept sales at a minimum to ensure that they have the manpower to support the software, and that the software works flawlessly before selling through other retailers.
Netduma is headed in the right direction in designing router features optimized for gaming, but the appeal is still extremely limited. The product works great and does all that it advertises, but few gamers are invested enough to make the $199 purchase price seem remotely attractive. It is the best available option for professional esports players and streamers, but it is an expensive paperweight to anyone else.
6.0 out of 10
+Gives the most consistent gaming connections and lowest pings you will ever have
+Outstanding technical support staff
-Hard to justify the purchase price for those not pro Esports players or streamers
-Very few PC games directly supported
-Only one VPN service supported
-Only up to 2.4 ghz WIFI