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Netgear announces new tools for extending the range of your Wi-Fi network

Michael Brown | Jan. 6, 2015
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 says the EX7000 can cover an area of 10000 square feet, but you can reduce its range if you live in a smaller home and want to limit the reach of your SSID.

The $120 EX1650, meanwhile, plugs straight into an AC outlet. "People like wall-plug designs," Skripic said, "because they blend into the environment better. But they have less real estate to include components, and there are thermal restrictions that restrict which chipsets you can use."

The EX1650 is a dual-band model that can support clients with TCP throughput up to 900Mbps on the 5GHz frequency band, and up to 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz frequency band. It's outfitted with one gigabit Ethernet port and can be configured to operate as either a Wi-Fi access point or a range extender.

Netgear markets the $80 EX3700 as its "Essentials Edition" range extender. It's the least expensive and has the most compact design, but there's a trade-off in terms of performance.

This range extender can deliver TCP throughput of up to 433Mpbs on the 5GHz band, and up to 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. Like the EX1650, it has a single gigabit Ethernet port and can be configured to operate as either a range extender or a Wi-Fi access point.

Power-line network adapters

The new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard is awesome, but there are some environments where no wireless technology will work effectively. Homes with masonry walls, multiple floors, or walls with aluminum studs can wreak havoc with wireless signals. In those situations, power-line networking can be a lifesaver.

The HomePlug Alliance recently finalized the HomePlug AV2 standard, which leverages MIMO (multiple input/multiple output) technology and beam forming. Where previous HomePlug AV devices carried data only on a pairing of the line and neutral wires of a power cable, HomePlug AV2 devices can make use of any pairing of the line, neutral, and ground wires.

Beamforming, meanwhile, tunes the signal so that data travels the most efficient route between point A and point B. Beamforming over power lines is essentially the same concept as beamforming with wireless devices. In older homes that don't have ground wires, the technology automatically falls back to SISO (single input/single output) mode.

Today, Netgear announced two new HomePlug AV2 power-line adapters with claimed TCP throughput of up to 1.2Gbps. Both come in kits with two adapters, each of which has a single gigabit ethernet port. You connect one adapter to your router and the other to the device that you want to add to your network.

Netgear says the typical home can support up to 16 adapters. Netgear's power-line adapters have a feature called "pick a plug" that helps you find the AC outlet that will enable the adapter to perform best: An LED lights up when you plug the adapter into the outlet that receives the strongest signal from the adapter at the other end.


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