Netgear R6300 WiFi Router
Price Range: $178.49 - $293.64
CNET Editors' Rating: 4.0 / 5
The good: The Netgear R6300 WiFi Router supports 802.11ac and offers superb performance. It has a nice mobile-app-enabled Web interface that's easy to use.
The bad: The Netgear R6300 WiFi Router is bulky. Its mobile app only works within the local network and the performance of its network storage and 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band could be better.
The bottom line: The Netgear R6300 WiFi Router is for a high-standards, low-ego type of user: it's not something you can show off aesthetically, but it's a powerhouse for a robust, fast home network, both for now and tomorrow.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
The Netgear R6300 WiFi Router is the second router on the market to support the new 802.11ac (also known as 5G Wi-Fi) standard, the first being the Buffalo AirStation WZR-D1800H. Like the Buffalo, the Netgear R6300 uses a 5G Wi-Fi chip from Broadcom and supports the three-stream standard to offer up to 1.3Gbps on the 5GHz frequency band. On the 2.GHz band, the router also supports the latest three-stream version of 802.11n (Wireless-N) to offer data rates of up to 450Mbps.
Unlike the Buffalo, which wasn't as fast as I had hoped, the Netgear offered really fast performance, and great range, in my testing. The router has two USB ports for hosting printers and external storage devices, and a very robust home network management program called Netgear Genie, available in desktop, mobile, and Web versions.
On the downside, the R6300 is bulky. Even its power adapter is unusually big and has the same kind of thick power cord as a desktop computer. The router's storage performance, when coupled with an external hard drive, also wasn't as good as some others.
Priced at around $200, the Netgear R6300 is about $20 more expensive than the Buffalo WZR-D1800H, but this is $20 well spent. If you're looking for a top-notch wireless router for both existing Wi-Fi devices and future clients that support 802.11ac, the Netgear R6300 is the way to go. Note that at the time of this review there aren't yet any hardware clients, such as laptop computers or mobile devices, that support the new 5G Wi-Fi. They will be available by the end of the year, but for now, a top-tier Wireless-N router such as the Asus RT-N66U or the Cisco Linksys EA4500 still does all that you need.
Design and setup
The Netgear R6300 looks very different from previous Netgear routers, resembling a very shallow CRT monitor. Measuring 8.07x10.04x3.03 inches, the router is very bulky, despite the internal-antenna design. Its power adapter is also larger than most of those used in notebook computers and requires a standard power cord of the desktop computer type. Basically, even if the router looks nice enough to keep on your desk, its power adapter and cable are too heavy and bulky for you to do that.
Though the base of the router is detachable via two screws, there's no reason you would want to detach it since leaving the router on a surface would then be rather problematic. The router is not wall-mountable, either.
On the back the R6300 has four LAN ports and one WAN port. All of them are Gigabit Ethernet, which is always a good thing since that means you're guaranteed to have a fast wired network. These ports are a little recessed, however, and because they are so close to the base, which is wide, it's rather inconvenient to plug network cables in. Also on the back, you'll find a USB 2.0 port, a power button, and a reset button that brings the router back to factory default settings.
The second USB port is on the right side of the router. Above it are a Wi-Fi on/off button and a Wi-Fi Protected Setup button that initiates a 2-minute window in which any WPS-enabled device can enter the wireless network. On the front, the router has a flat surface with a white LED Netgear logo and four blue LED indicator lights for power, Internet, Wi-Fi, and USB.
It's very easy to set up the router with the included Netgear Genie application. The latest version of Netgear Genie offers detailed instructions and deeper access to the router's settings. The best thing about the new Genie software is the fact that it now encompasses all platforms: there's a desktop application, a Web interface, and a mobile app for Android and iOS devices. Regardless of what platform you use, you gain similar access to the router's settings and functions. There are also functions offered only for the particular platform. For example, the Netgear Genie app for the mobile device comes with a feature that supports streaming digital content from any DLNA server in the network or from the external hard drive connected to the router's USB.
For those who are used to the Web interface, it can be accessed by pointing a connected computer's browser to its default IP address, 192.168.1.1. Again, you can use the Web interface, the mobile app, or the desktop software to manage the router's settings.
The R6300 is the first 802.11ac router from Netgear. Per the new Wi-Fi standard, the router offers data rates of up to 1.3Gbps Wi-Fi on the 5GHz frequency band. In order to get this performance, you'll need to use an 802.11ac client. Currently there are no hardware devices -- such as a computer, a smartphone, or a tablet -- on the market with built-in support for 802.11ac. For computers, there are just a handful of USB adapters and media bridges. In fact the R6300 router can also be set up to work as a media bridge itself, making it possible to add up to four Ethernet-ready devices to an 802.11ac wireless network.
Since 802.11ac, which is only available on the 5GHz band, is backward-compatible with 802.11n (Wireless-N), the R6300 also supports Wireless-N clients. In fact it offers three-stream Wireless-N with data rates up to 450Mbps. Like all 802.11ac routers, the R6300 is a true dual-band router with the 2.4GHz band also offering up to 450Mbps.
In short, the R6300 is a N900 router (one that simultaneously provides 450Mbps Wireless-N speed on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands) plus it supports 802.11ac clients on the 5GHz band. In other words, if you get the R6300 now, all of your existing wireless clients at home will be supported and work the way they have always been working, as long as they support WPA wireless encryption or later, which the majority of wireless clients do. And when you get yourself 802.11ac clients, you'll be able to enjoy the much faster speed of 5G Wi-Fi.
Other than that, the new router comes with a few features available in previous Netgear routers, including OpenDNS-based Parental Control, network storage via USB drive, and Netgear Genie.
The router's Parental Controls feature was first introduced with the WNR2000. To use this, you first need to have a free online account with OpenDNS, which you can use Netgear Genie to make, or just go to OpenDNS' site. After that you can use Netgear Genie (from any platform) to sign in with OpenDNS and choose between five overall Web-filtering levels: high, moderate, low, minimum, and none, where high means most traffic will be blocked, and none means nothing will be blocked.
The second big feature of the R6300 is its two USB ports that can be used to host external hard drives and printers. We tried these ports with a few external hard drives and they work well. The router can handle hard drives formatted in FAT32 or NTFS, and its USB ports provide enough juice to power portable bus-powered external drives. Once a drive is plugged in, its contents will be immediately shared across the network, with everybody having full access to it. The router supports the SMB protocol, meaning any computer in the network can browse for the shares using a network browser such as Windows Explorer or Finder. Share folders can also be turned into an FTP site for those who want to access them over the Internet. Via the Web interface, you then can restrict this access to certain folders via the router's admin log-in account. This is a rather simple yet effective way to quickly share content.
The router also allows users to stream digital content stored on the hard drive to DLNA-compliant network media players, such as the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. This feature automatically scans the attached external hard drive for digital content, making it available to devices within the network. The router can also automatically scan for new content when new files are added or repeatedly over a period time. We tried this out and it worked as intended.
Perhaps the coolest feature of the R6300 is the Netgear Genie mobile app. As mentioned above, you can use this app to stream digital content to a mobile device, such as an iPad. Netgear Genie also has a feature called Network Map, which shows an illustration of connected clients and their information, and one called Traffic Meter, which allows you to control the router's Internet connection. For example, you can set the router to disconnect from the Internet if a certain amount of data has been downloaded (or uploaded, or both) over a certain period of time. This is useful when you have a limited quota and don't want to go over. Unfortunately, the Traffic Meter doesn't offer bandwidth control for specific computers, so you can't use it to restrict one individual from downloading too much.
The R6300 also offers other basic features found in most modern wireless routers, such as port forwarding, IPv6, VPN pass-through, and guest networking. The router offers two Guest networks, one for each frequency band. Using the Netgear Genie mobile app, you can manage only the 2.4GHz Guest network, however.
For security, the router supports all variations of WPA, and WPA2 encryption methods. IT doesn't support the legacy WEP but this isn't a big problem since only really old wireless clients would support WEP but not WPA.
The R6300 offered the fastest Wi-Fi performance I've ever seen.
Since 802.11ac clients are scarce, I used another R6300 unit and set it up as a media bridge for the test. Basically, the second unit worked as a 802.11ac client and bridged a laptop computer to the wireless connection using a Gigabit Ethernet connection. In this setup, the R6300 showed the fastest wireless connection I've seen, registering about 41MBps (or 331Mbps) at a range of 15 feet. When I increased the distance to 100 feet, it still offered about 26MBps (or 208Mbps). While these rates were not the 1.3GHz of the 802.11ac standard, they were about 50 percent faster than the other 802.11ac router, the Buffalo WZR-D1800H. Generally, with Wi-Fi, the actual real-world speed is always much lower than the theoretical ceiling speed.
The R6300 was also fast when used with Wireless-N clients. On the 5GHz band, it scored 179Mbps and 145Mbps for close-range and long-range tests, respectively. Like other recent routers, it wasn't very impressive, however, on the 2.4GHz band, registering just 51Mbps for short range and 42Mbps for long range. It's worth noting that I tested routers at CNET's office where there are always a lot of other Wi-Fi and wireless devices that operate on the 2.4GHz frequency band.
In that same environment, to the R6300's credit, it offered very long range, up to 300 feet away in my testing for both 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands. It also successfully passed a 48-hour stress test without disconnecting once during this time.
Like all routers with built-in support for network storage via USB ports, the R6300 showed a data rate for the connected USB external drive, via Gigabit Ethernet, that averaged around 64Mbps and 80Mbps for writing and reading respectively. This, while faster than some others, isn't fast enough to be considered a viable network storage option and is only good enough for light document sharing. If you want to do lots of data sharing or media streaming to multiple clients, it's recommended that you get a dedicated NAS server.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Service and support
In the U.S., Netgear backs the R6300 router with a one-year warranty, which is standard for wireless routers. The router also comes with 90 days of free technical support. Netgear's site offers lots of support information, with troubleshooting, a knowledge base, firmware, drivers, and manual downloads.
Despite its bulky design, the R6300 makes an excellent router for those who want a fast home network for wired clients as well as existing Wi-Fi clients and future 802.11ac clients.
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||8.1 in x 10 in x 3 in|
Average User Rating: 4.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 11
4 Star: 4
3 Star: 1
2 Star: 0
1 Star: 5
Rating: 2.5 / 5
on August 29, 2012
4 out of 6 users found this review helpful
Pros: Fast on 5g. Performs great inside 20ft
Cons: Very short range. Unusable at 25ft. Shortest range router I have had.
Summary: Had to switch to Asus, so I could get WIFI to Smart TV on back Patio. Witch is 23FT from router?
Updated on Aug 29, 2012
Lost signal at least once a day.
Rating: 1 / 5
on January 28, 2013
3 out of 4 users found this review helpful
Pros: Worked great most of the time.
Cons: Would drop signal for about ten minutes sometimes three or four times a day. Terrible tech support.
Summary: Spent three and a half hours in four different phone calls to tech support. Tech support used most of their time trying to sell me more tech support for $169 per year. When my 90 days free support expired and my router was still not working, they would not help me unless I paid for more support even though I had two open cases going.
I scrapped the Netgear router and purchased a ASUS RT-AC66U router and it works great.
Fastest WiFI Router EVER
Rating: 5 / 5
on January 29, 2013
1 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: Setting-up the R6300 is easy. I used a desktop to set it up initially and I was up and running in 10 minutes. The router's chassis is made so that it stands upright. Once it was running, I changed settings using my Iphone.
Cons: I have used this router for about 3 months Nothing to report yet . I have 9 devices connected ipad, iphone,smart TV's , Smart Blue Ray's ect...
Summary: Fastest WiFi Router , Great range on 2.4GHz and 5GHz; Simple Setup w/Netgear Genie; Fastest router I have ever owned; Perfect for Larger Homes . GREAT look
$$$ Not Cheap
Best Router I Have Ever Owned...Period
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on September 15, 2012
1 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: Simultaneous Duel Band 802.11ac/n/a/b/g; Large range on 2.4GHz and 5GHz; Simple Setup w/Netgear Genie; Fastest router I have ever owned; Perfect for Homes and Apartments; Sleek look
Cons: Not easily mounted (haven't bothered trying); Netgear Genie is a great feature, but it lacks refinement and looks like a 1st Grader designed it; A bit pricey, but considering the top end N900 is about $20 less, still worth the buy.
Summary: Preface: You can only get out what you put in (Fast Internet=Fast Router...not the other way around). Saying that, I feel that the speed I pay through my ISP is exactly what is coming out of this router, if not more.
I live in an apartment filled with 42(thanks to inSSIDer 2.1 for the number) competing 2Wire 2.4GHZ wireless networks, and have used many routers, in multiple places but there was always interference. This router surpasses and overpowers all the other wifi signals, and that is just the 2.4GHz bands.
The 5GHz bands are on par, if not better than the comparable Linksys EA4500.
My only qualm really with the entire product is the Netgear Genie. Although, a great tool; I feel it could be more of a powerhouse, like it's companion router. I believe in this aspect, Netgear should take note from Linksys and step up their game.
Worst router for me!!!
Rating: 0.5 / 5
on October 18, 2013
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: worked fine for one month.
Cons: Sporadic, then permanent, problem with corrupted firmware.
Summary: Reloaded firmware from Netgear more than once.
Worked with tech support, no relief.
This POS is headed for the trash bin.
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