Netgear is one of the bigger players in the router market, but we won't be seeing any new products from them in that space at this year's CES. That's not to say Netgear hasn't been busy, just that they've been working on other products of late, including several new Wi-Fi range extenders, power-line network adapters, NAS boxes, firmware updates for existing products, and more. I'll cover the first two two products here.
Netgear took the wraps off three new Wi-Fi range extenders today: The entry-level AC750 Essentials Edition (model number EX3700), the mid-range AC1200 (model number EX6150), and the top-of-the-line Nighthawk AC1900 (model number EX7000).
Netgear senior product-line manager Damir Skripic told me in an embargoed briefing last month that the market for Wi-Fi range extenders is hot because 80 percent of consumers find dead spots in their home. "When you have a lot of Wi-Fi devices in the home," Skripic said, "the devices move around a lot more." And that exposes dead spots.
The best place to locate a router is high up in the center of your home, but that ideal is usually impossible to achieve because it's so inconvenient. Home builders just don't put phone or cable TV jacks high up the wall in the middle of the house; and for aesthetic reasons, you probably wouldn't want to put a router there even if they did. So you stick the router in a closet somewhere and suffer with dead spots.
Range extenders can resolve that problem by picking up your router's signal and repeating it so that nearby clients see a stronger signal. The range extenders then send data from those clients back to the distant router using radios and antennas that are more.powerful than what's in the clients themselves.
But some range extenders use the same radio to send data back to the router that they use to receive data from it, so their throughput is effectively cut in half. All three of Netgear's new extenders are dual-band models that use the company's FastLane technology: The full link rate of one radio is used to transmit, while the full link rate of the other is used to transmit.
The $170 Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 (aka the Netgear EX7000) is Netgear's most powerful range extender, but it can be difficult to hide: It's housed in a large plastic enclosure with three external antennas. In fact, it looks just like some routers; it even has five gigabit ethernet ports on its back panel and can also operate as a wireless bridge.
The EX7000 delivers TCP throughput of up to 1300Mbps on the 5GHz frequency band and up to 600Mbps of throughput on the 2.4GHz band. It's outfitted with a USB 3.0 port, so you can share USB storage or a USB printer on the network, and it has an onboard DLNA server for streaming media.
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