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Norton Core Wi-Fi router review: A snazzy-looking and speedy security router

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Norton Core (Titanium Gold)

(Part #: 21375805)
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Despite the fact that it looks like Spaceship Earth, the big geodesic sphere at Epcot in Disney World, the Norton Core is a fast AC2600 router with lots of high-end security features. It protects all the smart devices on your network from viruses and malicious content, including appliances, cameras and thermostats, which you normally can't install software on. You get one free year of advanced security services with Norton Core Security Plus, but have to pay $10 per month after that to keep the protection.

For $200, the range is a little disappointing but at short distances it has impressive top speeds. If you value high-end security, the Norton Core will do well in a medium-size home it you don't have a ton of devices.

It's the happiest Wi-Fi on earth

Router manufacturers are finally putting more thought into design. While the Norton Core is still a little odd-looking, I have to give the company credit for trying with the Core. The geodesic design comes in granite gray or titanium gold. One potential design flaw is that it lacks vents. While I had it plugged in for only an hour, I could feel it getting a little warm. This could cause issues in the long run if it overheats when lots of devices are connected or it's in direct sunlight.

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The Ethernet, USB and power adapter ports are very close together and probably will give you problems when unplugging them or plugging them in.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Its flat bottom is scooped out to provide enough space for three gigabit LAN ports, one gigabit WAN port, a DC power input, two USB 3.0 ports and a reset button. Norton tried to be too efficient here, because the ports are way too close together. The package includes an Ethernet cable that is extra-thin and fits well, but add in three more standard-size Ethernet cables and two USB cables and things get very crowded. Just connecting or disconnecting cables is a headache in the tiny space provided.

Maybe that's why the Norton Core is shaped like a ball -- because you're going to really want to chuck something across the room after minutes of trying to just plug or unplug a cable.

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You'll want to keep the Norton Core out in the open for looks as well as performance.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

I highly recommend putting the router in a central location in your home away from other objects The design begs you to keep it out as a conversation piece. In testing, the range wasn't great, so the more obstacles in its way, the worse your signal will be at long distances.

Where Wi-Fi security dreams come true

Setup was easy. The Norton Core app is the only way to access your router, which is a plus for security but a minus for convenience and customization. Just download it and make sure you are close to the router. It says that setup can take up to 10 minutes, but the one I tested was ready in under five. You will need to create a Norton account, but that will give you access to a free 1-year subscription for unlimited devices to its Norton Core Security Plus service.

The app gives you access to lots of security features including in-depth parental controls, limited quality of service (QoS), real-time monitoring for malicious content and downloadable Norton security software for devices like PCs, phones and tablets. There's even a security score (from 0 to 500) that details specific aspects of your network to tell you how to make it more secure. This seems to be a bit of an arbitrary scale, but at least it gives you options of which things you can fix.

The Takeaway
  • Setup 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Overall 7.7
Editor's Rating

The Good
It has anti-malware, parental controls and network prioritization for all your devices. The top speed on 2.4GHz and 5GHz was great, and it looks interesting enough that you may want to show it off.

The Bad
You can only access the router with an app. Its speed dropped off quickly as more obstacles were in the way. The Ethernet and USB ports on the router are hard to access.

The Bottom Line
For $200, you get a fast, unique-looking router with lots of extra security for all your connected devices. The first year is free, but you will have to pay to keep all the security features. For the price, it's still a good router that is easy to manage (via an app) for a medium-size home.

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