We thought Netgear's previous king of the hill,, was physically big. The R6300 needs dedicated floor space, at a leviathan 205x255x77mm.
It's no doubt this huge due to everything that's inside. Sure, it carries the usual 802.11n 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, but this is Netgear's first 802.11ac router as well; the 5GHz standard that's being pitched to take over the Wi-Fi world. It runs all three simultaneously, supporting any client you may have.
It should be noted that the 802.11ac specification has not been ratified, and that vendors are jumping the gun with this one. While there is a chance that equipment could be released in the future that's not compatible with today's 802.11ac routers, various vendors have been making soothing noises about how that's not likely to happen, and they've learned their lesson since 802.11n.
We'd exercise caution; while the 802.11ac tech looks great, there are definitely caveats: no client device (laptop, mobile phone) yet contains an 802.11ac receiver, and USB dongles are only just starting to leak their way into the market. We also suspect that there'll be a few kinks to iron out before the spec goes final, so for now, treat it as a technology preview.
Specs at a glance
|Highest wireless security||WPA2|
|Ethernet ports||4x gigabit, 1x gigabit WAN|
|USB print sharing/storage||Storage, printer|
|Accessories||Ethernet cable, installation CD|
There's another USB port on the left edge.
Gigabit WAN and four gigabit Ethernet ports are the stable for top-end routers these days, while two USB ports can handle USB storage and printers. There are two push buttons on the side, offering a hardware on/off switch for Wi-Fi, and the obligatory WPS button.
UI and features
Netgear's "Genie" UI hasn't changed since the WNDR4500. It attempts to provide "at a glance" information, although graphics have been severely over-optimised and dithered over.
Netgear now places its help menu in a bar along the bottom -- click it and it pops up, overlaying the settings screen. While the help is related contextually to the current screen, there are huge amounts of information here, with only a tiny viewing box, resulting in a massive scroll bar.
The separation into "Basic" and "Advanced" settings is expected; however, Netgear hasn't really thought things through, providing an "Advanced Setup" section within the advanced tab. We can only assume that it's for advanced-advanced users. Similarly, we're at a loss as to why "Setup Wizard" is in the advanced section, or why you have to bounce between two different sections to access all of the wireless settings.
While the R6300 clearly has quite a bit of grunt inside, there are still periods where changing a setting takes an inordinate amount of time, and it's clear that the router is being rebooted, rather than just, say, the network stack.
The usual smattering of features are here; we're told that with the earlier US release, guest networks didn't make the cut, but firmware updates have since reinstated the feature.
You can also record the amount of internet traffic through the router, if you wish, allowing you to disconnect the internet or make one of the lights on the router flash orange once the limit (MBs or hours) has been reached. Those on TB plans will be out of luck here; the limit only supports six digits, locking you to a maximum of 999,999MB. We'd love to see Netgear go one step farther, and throttle connections based on a MAC address or refuse internet access to certain MACs should they exceed a preset, per-MAC limit.
Netgear has also released a Genie app for iPhone and Android. It's not as far reaching as Cisco's Connect Cloud, and it's only able to manage the router if you're on the same subnet -- that means no off-site management is possible without futzing with VPNs. We also found that throughout use, we were looking at a "waiting" graphic more often than we were actually configuring.
Technically, you should be able to configure your router out of the box with the phone, as it ships with Wi-Fi on and an auto-generated SSID and WPA2 password, which are both listed on a sticker on the router. You can then change your SSID, password or Wi-Fi channel through the app.