Netgear D6300 £239.99
22nd Dec 2012 | 12:01
An ADSL2+ equipped version of the R6300
For UK and European countries that largely use copper-based ADSL, rather than cable DSL, this represents the first all-in-one device that can provide a complete communication solution from a single unit. It's the stuff of dreams for the purist, or just people who hate cables.
As always, the bee in our bonnet - that we're happy to flog to death like a tiny buzzing horse - is that this is all based on the draft release of the 802.11ac standard. The fact that all routers seem to be using the Broadcom 4360 chipset does mitigate incompatibilities.
But things like Netgear putting the delightful small-print disclaimer on the back of the D6300's box stating "NETGEAR makes no express or implied representations or warranties about this product's compatibility with future standards" doesn't do anything to allay early adopters' fears.
More pressing is the fact that even at the end of 2012 there are still no 802.11ac capable laptops to take advantage of this speedy standard. We understand that Netgear is about to launch its Netgear A6200, the first 802.11ac USB adaptor, but it'll only be USB 2.0, making something of a mockery of any claimed speed increases.
This environment not only hinders testing, but also restricts use in the home or a professional environment. In fact, the only way of using these is to buy two of the Netgear R6300 or Netgear D6300 routers and bridge one to the other. It's this type of thing that makes it hard to recommend any draft router solely based on its performance.
At least one area that we're interested in is to see if there have been any speed increases from the release of the older Netgear R6300 and this more recent Netgear D6300. One aspect of draft products is that refinements in firmware and hardware tend to see incremental increases in speed as newer hardware is released. This is another good reason for holding back on early adoption.
This Netgear D6300 retains the enormous chassis design of its Netgear R6300 brother. Stood upright, it's 255mm wide, 205mm high and 77mm deep (10.04 x 8.07 x 3.03 inches). It's by far the largest router we've ever seen, and for no obvious reason, since it's far larger than any other 802.11ac router.
At least Netgear has swapped the gaudy gold pattern of the R6300 for a more subdued red one.
Another issue we had, related to the size and design, is that it's awkward to reach the rear-positioned ports and power button. They're recessed into the huge case, and you have to reach around to find them, while it's tricky releasing the catches on Ethernet cables. Far more accessible are the side-mounted WPS and Wi-Fi toggle buttons, so you can quickly switch off the network entirely.
Negatives aside, the router does come with four Gigabit LAN ports, one WAN and two USB 2.0 ports. For this Netgear D6300 router there's the integration of an ADSL2+ modem and RJ11/phone port.
The USB ports support the usual NAS, printer and DLNA media sharing. The NAS supports FAT16/32, NTFS and EXT2/3, which covers all the main file systems you'd want.
One area the specification differs from the Netgear R6300 in is its 1300 + 300Mbps support. Oddly, the 2.4GHz capabilities are downgraded to just support 300Mbps rather than 450Mbps.
The 5GHz network still offers full 802.11n 450Mbps and 802.11ac 1300Mbps. It's just you 2.4GHz luddites that get the stick in the eye on the performance front.
Installation is a breeze thanks to the new web-based interface. This can automatically pick up any WAN configuration for you or you can opt for a manual approach.
The new front-end takes a friendly, colour-coded approach and offers a quick status overview of the internet, wireless, parental and security settings. Delving deeper, the settings are logically split into basic and advanced sections, while the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands can be configured separately.
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There is a bridge and repeater mode that can handle up to four repeaters, along with a main base-station. It uses the same awkward bridge configuration as the Netgear R6300, but once you know where the advanced settings are, along with the MAC addresses, it's straightforward enough.
A Guest network mode has already been added, which provides internet access but no local network access to wireless users. Netgear also provides decent parental filtering that can be provided on an automatic and keyword basis, making use of the OpenDNS system.
There are also comprehensive logging, scheduled power and access times, plus a bandwidth monitor. Netgear now also offers a new iOS and Android app to provide local control and access, too.
We've always found Netgear interfaces to be fast and easy to navigate. This newer interface, while not as flash as say the Fritz!Box 7360 or Asus RT-N66U Dark Knight offerings, is a pleasant update and provides comprehensive features.
This requires two bridged routers for speed testing, and the biggest limitation with this is the lack of diagnostics, so it's next to impossible to check connection speeds between the two and optimise the installation.
At least we reassuringly managed to achieve a 1000+Mbps connection between the Netgear D6300 and the Buffalo 1300 Media Bridge. This shows that interoperability seems to be a reality, at least for the same Broadcom chipset.
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Despite our initial enthusiasm for the Netgear R6300, our performance expectations have been set far higher by the performance of the Linksys EA6500. So we are expecting more from new devices out on the market, but interestingly that's partly what the Netgear D6300 manages to deliver.
The headline speeds to walk away with from this test is an average upload of 53.7Mbps and download of 46.8Mbps in a same-room scenario. That's a solid improvement over the Netgear R6300, which comparatively returned 47.8Mbps upstream and 33.5Mbps downstream.
The big problem is that the Linksys EA6500 exists, and appears to be showing all the competition the door, with same-room average upload speeds of 68.5Mbps and downloads of 66Mbps.
Moving one room and a solid brick wall away only dropped speeds for the Netgear D6300 to 52.9Mbps and 46.3Mbps.
That again compares well to the Netgear R6300 at 45Mbps and 33.9Mbps, while it's far in excess of the disappointing Buffalo 1750. The issue is once again the Linksys EA6500, which still screams away at 60Mbps upload and 53Mbps download.
These types of speed do move the Netgear D6300 nearer to the three times faster speeds claimed throughout of at least 2.4GHz 802.11n, though it's more like twice as fast, falling short of what we'd like to be seeing and what we have seen from the new technology.
The Netgear D6300 remains an excellent 5GHz 450mbps 802.11n router. The same-room downstream speed of 34.3Mbps is among the best we've seen alongside the Netgear R6300.
This pack-leading speed extended to the long-distance test too, though the WD N900 Central still wins at our mid-range test involving solid walls.
As a 2.4GHz router, the Netgear R6300 is average at best. The performance at middle and distance was poor against other 300Mbps models. Same room performance was better at keeping up with downstream but not upstream speeds when pitched against the better performing models such as the Fritz!Box 7360.
We're starting to warm to the new generation of 802.11ac routers, since models such as this Netgear D6300 do show potential. It might not be entirely delivering at this stage, but even so average transfers around 50Mbps are halfway to Gigabit LAN speeds. What's more encouraging is that these speeds remain at middle-distances.
If you're after a future-proof all-in-one communication hub, this Netgear D6300 is the one to choose, but with a full retail price of £239.99/AU$399/US$199.99 it's incredibly pricey. The better news is even now you can pick it up for less than this in the UK, but it's still more expensive than even a decent 5GHz dual band ADSL modem router. And there's still a lack of any devices on the market to use with it.
The turn of speed in 802.11ac is starting to raise eyebrows. Of more use and even better is the 5GHz performance the Netgear D6300 puts in - it's among the fastest we've tested and at distance is only outperformed by the Netgear DGND 3700.
We also think Netgear has done a sterling job of redesigning the web-based interface. While it's not as flash as others, the feature set is excellent. It's easy to use, fast but without compromising information. The same goes for the included ports - we wouldn't expect less than the four Gigabit LANs, two USB ports and the WAN.
The physical design does nothing for us, and its size is a actually restrictive, while port positioning is rather poor because of this. Despite its 5GHz performance, at 2.4GHz the Netgear D6300 does little to impress, not going beyond a mediocre performance, which at this price isn't what we'd expect at all.
Despite our praise for the interface, it could still do with some refining in the looks department, and it's not entirely clear where some settings are to be found, since they're split between Basic and Advanced sections.
As a 5GHz router, the Netgear R6300 excels. It provides a comprehensive feature set and easy installation. Problematically, it's very expensive, has disappointing 2.4GHz performance and is outperformed as a 802.11ac router by the Linksys EA6500.
And frankly, even if it's compatible with future 802.11ac hardware, we wouldn't recommend investing in such hardware at this time just on the back of that.