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NetGear R6300 WiFi Router review:

NetGear R6300 WiFi Router

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 Network Map is one of the coolest features of the Netgear R6300, especially for tablet users.
The Network Map is one of the coolest features of the Netgear R6300, especially for tablet users. Dong Ngo/CNET

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.

5GHz Wireless-N performance (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Netgear R6300 (with AC client)
D-Link DIR-857
Belkin N900 DB
Asus RT-N66U
Netgear R6300
Netgear WNDR4500
Trendnet TEW-692GR

2.4GHz Wireless-N performance (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Netgear WNDR4000
Asus RT-N66U
Netgear R6300
D-Link DIR-857
Netgear WNDR4500

NAS write performance (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
WD My Net N900
Apple Time Capsule
Netgear R6300
D-Link DIR-857
D-Link DIR-827
Netgear WNDR4500
Netgear WNDR4000

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.

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