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Wireless Reviews

WiFi Router - 802.11ac Dual Band Gigabit
At a glance
ProductNETGEAR WiFi Router - 802.11ac Dual Band Gigabit (R6300)   [Website]
SummaryBroadcom-based simultaneous dual-band AC1750 class Draft 2.0 802.11ac router
Pros• Has WDS, Client Bridge and AP modes
• Can reach almost 500 Mbps total 11ac throughput
Cons• No site survey in client bridge mode
• Can't adjust transmit power

Typical Price: $128  Buy From Amazon

Preface

Be sure to read the full review.

Since NETGEAR was vague about when review samples would be available for its brandie-new draft 802.11ac router, I put my pre-order in for two with Amazon. They arrived on Wednesday and I spent part of Thursday running some preliminary tests.

There has been some moaning in Amazon reviews and in the NETGEAR forum about performance with non-draft 11ac clients. So I took a different approach from my initial testing of Buffalo's WZR-D1800H draft 11ac router and ran full two-stream tests in both bands. I also ran the multiple-pair maximum throughput tests I ran for the Buffalo to see if throughput similarly scaled with traffic load.

A full review will follow in the next week or so, after NETGEAR releases a rumored firmware release. But, given the interest in the product, I wanted to get some performance data up quickly so that early adopters can get a brain cramp trying to decide between Buffalo and NETGEAR.

First, though, some advice to those thinking of buying this or any other draft 11ac product in hope of improving your wireless LAN range—DON'T. Like 802.11n before it, 802.11ac's focus is on providing increased bandwidth. It does this primarily by chewing up more channels and by adding higher link rates for mobile devices that can fit only one antenna into their compact enclosures.

The only thing in the draft 802.11ac technologies that might provide better range is standardized beam-forming, to replace the various incompatible methods used today. But this will help only when clients are introduced that implement the new beam-forming standard. There will be no improvement for current 802.11n devices. See Why 802.11ac Will Kill The 5 GHz Wi-Fi Band for more on this.

Now, if you are starting from an old 802.11g router and considering an upgrade, you will definitely see a throughput improvement if you also upgrade your clients to 802.11n. You may also see range improvement. But most range improvement is coming from the advances in wireless chip technology and improved receive sensitivity that have occured since 802.11g was the new kid on the wireless block.

And one more thing for those who are shocked, shocked (!) to find that the initial crop of draft 11ac routers have bugs and features missing from current-generation products. Get over it! These products are being rushed to market in hopes of proving how fashion-forward their makers are. Hell, the techology they are based on is still in draft form, so what do you expect?

So, if you choose to buy one, stop your whining and behave like a brave early-adopter. Suck it up, politely file your bug reports and perform the role you chose to play—helping develop the product and technology by being a beta tester...and paying for the privilege! And be sure to note the covered-over Wi-Fi and other Certification logos on the R6300's product box and this note in the box fine print: "NETGEAR makes no express or implied representations or warranties about this product’s compatibility with any future standards".

Proceed with caution

Proceed with caution

Highlights

You'll be surprised at how large the R6300 is: around 10 inches wide and a bit over 8 inches tall. The gold styling cue on the bottom edge conveys sort of a horizon effect with a white NETGEAR logo floating in space. As long as your spouse doesn't object to black, there should be no battles over having the R6300 out in plain sight.

There are only power, Internet, Wireless and USB status indicators on the front panel and no link or activity indicators for wired network traffic on either the front panel or rear panel switch ports. All ports are 10/100/1000 Mbps and there are two USB 2.0 ports--one on the rear and the other on the right side.

The R6300 is intended to sit on a table on its non-removable base. NETGEAR thoughtfully put all the Ethernet jacks on the bottom edge so that there is no danger of the router being pulled over by cable weight. The only gotcha I found with Ethernet port placement is that if you are using hooded cables, you may struggle to disconnect them.

There is no user manual as I write this, only an install guide. But NETGEAR says they expect to post a User Manual soon.

The user interface is the "Genie" first seen on the WNDR3800. Genie does away with installation CDs and should get you up and on the Internet pretty quickly. Since I have a simple DHCP connection to my main router, Genie didn't have much to do and thankfully got out of the way quickly.

Advanced Home

Advanced Home

The V1.0.0.68_1.0.16 firmware version you see in the above screenshot is what I used for testing. I checked on Thursday before testing and it was the latest. But I just happened to check again on Sunday as I write this and there is newer 1.0.0.90 version posted. But among its bugfixes is not the missing Guest wireless mode that some early buyers are pining for (or at least complaining about the lack thereof).

That fix is supposedly coming before the end of this week (June 8) according to NETGEAR, along with a fix for a "variable throughput issue" and "enhanced 802.11ac performance". As noted earlier, once NETGEAR releases that firmware and I have confirmed that there are no other performance tweaks coming in another week or so, I will retest everything for the full review.

Inside

Broadcom was the only vendor with draft 11ac chipsets ready to go to hit this current product launch window. So I expect the R6300's design is very similar to Buffalo's WZR-D1800H. But since NETGEAR has suppressed the internal photos for six months (!) until November, I may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice my Amazon return privileges on one of mine to post internal photos.

When I open it up, though, I expect to find a very similar, if not identical, complement of the Buffalo router/bridge key components shown in Table 1.

  Buffalo WZR-D1800H / WLI-H4-D1300
CPU Broadcom BCM4706
Switch Broadcom BCM53125
RAM 128 MB
Flash 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - BCM4331
- SiGE SE2594L Dual Band 802.11a/b/g/n
Wireless LAN Front End (x3)
5 GHz radio - Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE5003L 5 GHz, 23dBm Power Amp
w/ Power Detector (x3)
Table 1: Buffalo draft 11ac product component summary

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