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Wireless Reviews

AC1200 WiFi Range Extender
At a glanceAC1200 Wireless Extender Performance
July 2015
ProductNETGEAR EX6150 AC1200 WiFi Range Extender   [Website]
SummaryMediatek-based AC1200 wall-plugged wireless extender with Gigabit port
Pros• Can be used as access point
• Unique positioning visual aid
• 'FastLane' can increase available wireless throughput
Cons• 'FastLane' limits operation to single band client connection
• Some instability in 2.4 GHz throughput

Typical Price: $90  Shop Amazon

Introduction

NETGEAR's EX6150 AC1200 WiFi Range Extender is the first of the three AC wireless extenders announced at CES 2015. As the name indicates, it's an AC1200 class extender supporting maximum link rates of 300 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band and 867 Mbps in 5 GHz.

The two radios can extend both bands simultaneously or be configured in what NETGEAR calls "FastLane", which uses one radio as a "backhaul" to the router or AP being extended while the other is used to connect clients. This avoids the 50% retransmission throughput penalty imposed by the basic wireless extension process.

"FastLane" has lately lost some of its appeal, however. Other new extenders, like Linksys' RE6700 I just reviewed, can avoid the retransmission penalty for clients connecting on both bands, making the backhaul decision on a packet-by-packet basis. On the NETGEAR, you select which radio to use for backhaul and the setting is static, changing your simultaneous dual-band extender into a single-band device.

The callout diagram below shows the EX6150 can be used as a mini dual-band access point by flipping a switch. There is also a power switch, another welcome feature. The single Ethernet port is Gigabit and supports LAN connection in AP mode and client connection when used as an extender.

NETGEAR EX6150 callouts

NETGEAR EX6150 callouts

The EX6150's antennas aren't upgradeable and there is no USB port to support ReadySHARE USB storage and printer sharing. Unlike the Linksys RE series extenders, the EX6150 doesn't have an audio output jack to support DLNA streaming. It does, however, retain the four LED placement indicators introduced on the EX6100. Check that review for more on how the indicator system works.

Inside

NETGEAR didn't block the internal FCC doc photos, but the FCC photos weren't clear enough to allow identifying all key components. So I opened up the EX6150 after testing was completed. The design consists of power and signal boards connected by a four-pin connector, tucked neatly into the case. Like in the EX6100, the two-board assembly is completely removable, because the power board connects to the AC plug prongs via spring-loaded contacts.

Unlike the EX6100's inside / outside antenna design, the EX6150 uses two external dual-band dipoles that can't be upgraded. The router SoC, RAM and both radio SoCs are thermally connected to an RF shield cover via adhesive pads. The RF cover is in turn thermally connected to a metal heat spreader plate. (Sorry for the fuzzy picture. For some reason my camera wouldn't focus properly.)

NETGEAR EX6150 main board

NETGEAR EX6150 main board

The components summarized in Table 1 show a MediaTek design centered around MediaTek's MT7621ST router SoC that provides the CPU and gigabit Ethernet port. The other NETGEAR extenders we've so far reviewed are also listed for comparison. This is the first time I've seen a Mediatek based extender with a separate processor SoC. Note both radios have external power amplifiers.

  EX6150 EX6100 EX6200
CPU MediaTek MT7621ST router SoC MediaTek MT7620A WiSoC Broadcom BCM4708A or BCM4708A1 (guess)
Switch / Ethernet In MT7621ST Realtek RTL8211E Gigabit Ethernet Transceiver In BCM4708A
RAM 64 MB Winbond W9751G6KB-25 64 MB Winbond W9751G6KB DDR2 ?
Flash 16 MB Macronix 25L12853F 8 MB Macronix MC25L6406 8 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - Mediatek MT7602EN 2x2 11bgn radio
- Skyworks SKY85300-21 2.4 GHz WLAN/Bluetooth Front End (x2)
In MT7620A Broadcom BCM43217 2x2 802.11b/g/n transceiver + unidentified 2.4 GHz
power amps (markings 088649E310)
5 GHz radio - Mediatek MT7612EN 2x2 11ac radio
- Skyworks SKY85712-21 5 GHz WLAN Front End
- MediaTek MT7610EN 1x1 11ac radio
- Skyworks SE5003L1 5 GHz power amp (x1)
Broadcom BCM4352KMLG + Skyworks SE5003L1 5 GHz, 23dBm Power Amplifier with Power Detector (x2)
Table 1: NETGEAR EX6150 key components

There are more internal photos in the gallery on the next page.

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