Wrapping up my overview of the big names in routers, the final instalment in the series is Netgear. The US-based company has a long history of manufacturing telecommunications gear (it was once a division of Canada’s Nortel Networks) and has an extensive line of wireless routers, Wi-Fi extenders and adapters for the home and small business market. You probably know it best for the Nighthawk series of blistering fast AC routers.
Professional Telecommunications Gear
One of the competitive advantages Netgear has is its long history of producing telecommunications equipment for the business sector. Switches, hubs, gateways, network-attached storage and VPN firewalls bearing the Netgear logo have been mainstays in enterprise, ISP and small business environments.
Much of this technology and know-how has trickled down to Netgear’s home and small office product lines.
You may not need a 48-port Gigabit Managed Switch for your home network —in fact I can pretty much guarantee you don’t— but a company that offers this kind of networking expertise and technology is a good one to have backing your home or small office Wi-Fi.
Security, performance, a wide range of networking accessories and add-ons, plus the availability of enterprise-grade networking solutions: all good reasons to have a Netgear wireless router powering your home Wi-Fi network.
Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Wireless Router
There’s no better example of what Netgear can offer your home network than the Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band Wireless Router.
Six high performance amplified antennas, three Wi-Fi bands, Beamforming+ technology, a 1GHz dual-core CPU with three offload processors, Smart-Connect, USB 3.0, Gigabit wired ports, DLNA and iTunes compatibility, WPS, VPN support and combined speeds of up to 3.2Gbps!
Yeah, you can bet this one made it into my list of the 5 best wireless routers of 2014.
The Nighthawk X6 looks pretty radical, too. If you like the look of a Stealth fighter, you’ll appreciate the visual design of this wireless router just as much as its performance.
This is the kind of advanced Wi-Fi router that’s aimed squarely at the most demanding home and SOHO situations, ideal for online gaming and HD video streaming.
If you have a multitude of devices competing for Wi-Fi —a very common situation and one that can creep up on you as connected devices like smartphones, tablets, smart thermostats and appliances proliferate— the router’s three simultaneous Wi-Fi bands, Beamforming + (which focuses a signal at a connected device for better speed) and Smart Connect (which intelligently assigns a device to the optimal Wi-Fi band) ensure maximum performance for all of those devices.
The six amplified and adjustable antennas ensure maximum coverage with the ability to manually tweak direction for best results.
Security is more than covered off thanks to WPA/WPA 2 security, VPN support, guest network access and push-button WPS connection.
Streaming media enthusiasts will be able to take advantage of the router’s DNLA support and iTunes compatibility. This means you can plug a USB drive directly into the router and use it to store videos and music (with USB 3.0 and ReadySHARE access, this router also offers high speed wireless access to external hard drives and printers).
And of course, the Nighthawk X6 AC3200 fully supports 802.11ac —also known as Gigabit Wi-Fi— the latest standard in Wi-Fi. Even if you don’t have any devices today that can take advantage of 802.11ac, you will soon. Future-proofing is always a good thing.
I tested the Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 last year and of all the routers I had the opportunity to hook into my network, this one proved the fastest. It didn’t quite top the list when it comes to range, but those six amplified antennas were still pretty impressive at blasting Wi-Fi around the house and property. If you need even more power because of an obstacle like stone walls or some heavy duty interference, Netgear has add-ons that will rectify the situation.
Affordable Routers, Too
Not everyone needs the power and capabilities of something like the Nighthawk X6, so Netgear offers a full range of affordable routers with differing degrees of capabilities.
For example, the Net gear Nighthawk R7000 offers many of the features of the flagship Nighthawk X6 for $100 less. The Netgear range even includes a wireless router with 802.11ac support with a sub $100 price tag, proving that you don’t have to spend a fortune to move up to faster Wi-Fi.
Net Genie Software
Given Netgear’s enterprise telecommunications background, it wouldn’t be surprising if its routers required some IT or networking knowledge in order to make the most of them.
While you can opt for open source firmware on the Nighthawk series, Netgear’s own Net Genie software (available for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android) makes configuration, optimization and network management simple enough for even networking newbies to quickly set up a fast and safe Wi-Fi network.
Netgear Networking Add-Ons
As I mentioned earlier, Netgear’s product line extends far beyond routers.
If your home or office suffers from Wi-Fi dead zones, Netgear offers Wi-Fi boosters. For those seemingly impossible to resolve dead zones —the areas no Wi-Fi signal will reach, no matter how close the router or a booster is— Netgear’s Powerline series delivers Wi-Fi through the electrical outlets, completely bypassing the obstacle that’s interfering with a wireless signal.
Owners of older PCs that lack 802.11ac Wi-Fi compatibility can upgrade their wireless speed without having to install a new networking card with a Netgear Wireless AC USB Mini adapter. The company even makes its own wireless video streamer, the NeoTV Max.
If your Wi-Fi network is in need of an update, simply needs a boost to extend its range, or you’re ready to go all-in on the latest high performance 802.11ac Gigabit Wi-Fi performance, Netgear offers a solution.
If you missed the previous editions in the series, you can read up on D-Link here, and Linksys here. And for some big wireless router news out of the Consumer Electronics show, check out this CES 2015 daily wrap.