Netgear R6300 review
A promising start for 802.11ac, but with few compatible devices, it won’t revolutionise your home network
The transition from 802.11g to faster 802.11n Wi-Fi was among the slowest, most drawn-out upgrades in the history of technology. It was only officially ratified by the IEEE standards committee in 2009, but before that, we had years of unofficial “pre-n” and “draft-n” products released as manufacturers and consumers lost patience.
Thankfully, it looks as if its successor – 802.11ac – will go through the process far more quickly. Although still at the “draft 2” stage, it’s predicted the standard will be finalised by the end of 2012, with manufacturers already delivering new hardware. This Netgear R6300 cable router is the first supporting the new standard we’ve seen.
The 802.11ac standard is intended to boost wireless speeds and range. It only operates in the 5GHz band but is backwards-compatible with 802.11n devices, which means if you buy an R6300 now you’ll be able to connect any dual-band laptop, smartphone and tablet over 5GHz just as you would any regular dual-band 802.11n router. The Netgear R6300 also sports a 2.4GHz radio, allowing concurrent 802.11n and 802.11ac connections.
Over 802.11ac, the potential speed gains are significant. This Netgear R6300 router has a theoretical maximum throughput of up to 1,300Mbits/sec, almost three times the 450Mbits/sec claim you’ll see on the fastest 802.11n routers, and there’s also headroom in the standard for speeds far in excess of this.
These speeds are achieved in two key ways. First, the 802.11ac has support for wider channels. While 802.11n supported a maximum channel bandwidth of 40MHz, 802.11ac goes right up to 160MHz. Second, the standard supports the use of more MIMO (multiple input and multiple output) spatial streams, up to eight from four in 802.11n. With a single spatial giving a maximum possible throughput of 433Mbits/sec on an 80MHz channel, there’s potential for throughput of up to 6.93Gbits/sec.
That’s the theory, but as we’ve found over the years, such figures are rarely achievable in real-world use. So we set about putting the R6300, which supports 80MHz channels and three simultaneous streams, through our usual battery of wireless tests.
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Gigabit LAN ports||4|
|Dimensions||255 x 67 x 205mm (WDH)|