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Wireless Reviews

Features

Extenders have come a loooong way since Linksys' infamous WRE54G, which was so difficult to set up I had to write a separate article describing how to do it. Today's extenders have everything you need for a painless setup experience built right into their shiny plastic shells and the EX6200 is no exception.

All you need to do is connect to the default NETGEAR_EXT SSID (same for both bands) and follow the wizard. I've put a visual walkthrough of the process with commentary in the gallery below.

After setup, you can log into the admin interface by pointing your browser at http://mywifiext.net, which takes you to the status page shown below. I was pleased to see link rate and signal strength readings for both links between the extender and base router / AP!

Hallelujah! Link Rates and Signal Strength Indicators

Hallelujah! Link Rates and Signal Strength Indicators

As noted above, NETGEAR has included visual setup aids in the form of link rate LEDs that use color to indicate the quality of the link between the EX6200 and the router / AP being extended. There is also a "Device to Extender" LED, but it doesn't provide the same link quality indication.

The User Manual also tries to do its part to get you set up right with simple diagrams like the one below and a section on how to position the extender.

How To Position The Extender

How To Position The Extender

ReadySHARE

NETGEAR has included more than a five-port Gigabit switch in the EX6200 to increase its appeal. The front-panel USB 3.0 port supports NETGEAR's ReadySHARE. ReadySHARE includes support for Apple Time Machine and DLNA and FTP servers and can even share a printer. But the EX6200's implementation does not support remote access via ReadySHARE Cloud or backup via ReadySHARE Vault.

Basic ReadySHARE settings are shown below. Other screenshots with commentary are in the gallery above.

How To Position The Extender

How To Position The Extender

I ran some quick file copy tests using our standard USB 3.0 backup drive formatted in FAT32 and NTFS. The results are very similar to what we measured with NETGEAR's R6250 AC1600 router. Note that you'll achieve this throughput only between Gigabit Ethernet devices connected to the EX6200's switch. Once you hit the wireless link, throughput will drop significantly, yes, even using the 5 GHz AC connection!

Product NETGEAR EX6200 NETGEAR R6250
Processor Broadcom BCM4708X? Broadcom BCM47081A
FAT32 Write (MBytes/s) 18.1 15.9
FAT32 Read (MBytes/s) 28.4 25.6
NTFS Write (MBytes/s) 19.8 17.6
NTFS Read (MBytes/s) 28.5 25.7
Table 2: File copy throughput - USB 3.0 (MBytes/sec)

Fast Lane

A key concept to keep in mind before you buy is that wireless extenders work best to bring a signal to where you can't get one at all or perhaps only an intermittent one. Extenders generally won't help make a good wireless connection better, because they start off by cutting the bandwidth they receive in half. The only way around this throughput penalty, which is due to a single radio receiving, then retransmitting each data packet, is to use two radios.

This is exactly what NETGEAR does with its "FastLane" feature, found in the Advanced > Operating Mode settings. The EX6200 comes set to "Internet Surfing" mode by default. As the graphic below indicates, this mode lets each radio extend the network in its band. Switching to FastLane provides the choice of using one of the radios as "backhaul", i.e. to connect the EX6200 back to the base router / AP, and the other to connect to clients.

How To Position The Extender

How To Position The Extender

Because each radio uses separate airtime to receive or transmit each packet, there is no 50% throughput penalty. But choosing which radio to use for what can make your head hurt, if your base router and clients support both bands. Otherwise, the choice will be dictated by the capabilities on each end of the EX6200. We'll explore both options when we look at performance.

One final feature note is that you can't use the EX6200 as an access point.

More Wireless

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