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NetGear R6300 WiFi Router review:

NetGear R6300 WiFi Router

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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.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.0 Overall
  • Setup 7.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 9.0
  • Support 8.0

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.

The Netgear Genie app makes managing your local network an easy task, using your mobile device. It doesn't work over the Internet, however.
The Netgear Genie app makes managing your local network an easy task, using your mobile device. It doesn't work over the Internet, however. Dong Ngo/CNET

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, 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.

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