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Wireless Reviews

Core Router
At a glance
ProductNorton by Symantec Core Router (517)   [Website]
SummaryQualcomm-based 4 stream AC2600 class router focused on network security
Pros• Good value for parental control and per-device anti-virus/anti-malware
Cons• Low routing throughput
• Poor wireless performance
• No USB storage sharing, only printer
• Can't administer router with internet connection down

Typical Price: $280  Shop Amazon

Introduction

Updated 10/12/17 - Corrected alternate DNS error, double NAT comments

I have no idea why companies with no previous experience in Wi-Fi routers still want to enter the market. Product cycles are getting shorter with new shiny routers hitting store shelves to entice people to spend their hard-earned cash every six months or so. And the going is particularly tough if part of your product is based on a recurring subscription.

Despite increasing threats from malware, drive-by downloads, poisoned websites, phishing emails, ransomware and all the other crap coming at us from the internet, tech buyers balk at add-on router services. The same people who easily cough up 10 bucks or so a month for Hulu, Netflix or other OTT services suddenly get alligator arms when it comes time to pony up for a subscription security service.

Which brings us to Norton by Symantec's Core Router. It's a four-stream AC2600 class router that has Norton's parental control and security technology baked into an easy to use package. In an attempt to stand out on store shelves and perhaps wow naive buyers, Norton/Symantec chose to go with a geodesic dome format with internal antennas. This makes for perhaps higher WAF, but limits space for the ports necessary to power and connect the beastie. As a result, you get only a three-port LAN switch vs. the usual four. But at least all ports, including the single WAN, are gigabit. The power switch could have been left off, given its inconvenient location, and so could one of the two USB 3.0 ports, since only printer sharing is supported.

Core rear panel

Core rear panel

There are neither wireless on/off, nor WPS switches, either hardware or software.

Inside

Symantec/Norton has not released the FCC internal pictures, so I opened the router after testing was done for a look. After finding 3 hidden screws and with some patient prying, the top came off to reveal the photo below. The plastic antenna tower holds four dual-band bent-metal antennas. The heatsink below it has a small fan at its center and is coupled via thermal pads to the RF can tops covering the processor/ RAM and 5 GHz radio sections.

Norton Core inside

Norton Core inside

The connector board must be removed from the main assembly to get the guts out of the geodesic dome shell.

Norton Core two assemblies

Norton Core two assemblies

Stripping off all the RF can tops shows the CPU / switch and RAM section at top and 5 GHz radios at bottom. It's pretty clear Core is yet another Qualcomm-based design. Both radios are on plug-in modules connected via mini PCI-e. The 2.4 GHz radio connects to the 5 GHz radio board, which contains switching circuitry to feed both radios to the single set of dual-band antennas.

The Bluetooth 4.1 radio and its bent metal antenna are tucked into the lower left corner.

Norton Core board processor side

Norton Core board processor side

The other board side holds the 2.4 GHz radio module and eMMC flash to its left.

Norton Core board 2.4 GHz radio side

Norton Core board 2.4 GHz radio side

Key components are summaried below along side NETGEAR's R7800 Nighthawk X4S AC2600 router. The designs are very similar, component-wise except for RAM and flash capacities and the Core's Bluetooth radio.

  Norton Core NETGEAR R7800
CPU Qualcomm dual-core IPQ8065 Internet Processor @ 1.7 GHz Qualcomm dual-core IPQ8065 Internet Processor @ 1.7 GHz
Switch Qualcomm Atheros QCA8337 Qualcomm Atheros QCA8337
RAM 1 GB 512 MB
Flash 4 GB eMMC 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - QCA9984 4x4 MU-MIMO 802.11ac radio
- MSC5533(?) 2.4 GHz power amp (x4)
- QCA9984 4x4 MU-MIMO 802.11ac radio
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x4)
5 GHz radio - QCA9984 4x4 MU-MIMO 802.11ac radio
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz PA module (x4)
- QCA9984 4x4 MU-MIMO 802.11ac radio
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz PA module (x4)
Bluetooth CSR8811 Bluetooth 4.1 SoC N/A
Table 1: Component summary and comparison

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