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Netgear R6400 review: Netgear's latest mid-range router is a solid value

Michael Brown | Aug. 7, 2015
As the headline indicates, this is a review of Netgear's new mid-range 802.11ac router, the R6400. But the most interesting discovery I made during benchmarking is how much TP-Link's Archer C8 802.11ac router has improved--at least at close and medium range. I updated the firmware in all four of the routers before benchmarking them, and the TP-Link's close-range TCP throughput with an 802.11ac USB Wi-Fi adapter jumped from 262Mbps to a very strong 411Mbps.

The R6400 supports three spatial streams (with beam forming) to deliver maximum throughput of up to 1300Mbps on the 5GHz band, and up to 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz frequency band (that's assuming your 2.4GHz Wi-Fi adapter is also capable of 450Mbps throughput--most aren't; more typical clients will max out at 300Mbps). Add the two specs together and you get the industry label AC1750.

Netgear made a number of improvements to its Netgear Genie software, which can also run on Netgear's R7000- and R8000-series routers. You can now log into and manage the router either locally or remotely via the Internet, which could be handy if your friends and family have designated you as de facto IT support. The optional parental control policies can now be defined on a per-device level, instead of for the entire network.

Netgear R6400 Wireless performance

As I mentioned up top, the R6400's 802.11ac Wi-Fi performance (streaming to a laptop with a 2x2 Asus USB-AC56 USB Wi-Fi adapter) was disappointing at close range, but much stronger at longer range. Then again, the other three routers also performed well on the longer-distance test.

The R6400's performance paired with the laptop's onboard 3x3 5GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter was weak at both test locations. It finished in last place at short range, and next to last at distance. TP-Link's Archer C8 took first-place finishes in both contests (and the pricey Asus RT-AC3200U finished dead last here).

If you're connecting legacy clients to your Wi-Fi router, you'll be very happy with the R6400: It came very close to a second-place finish at close range when paired with the laptop's onboard 3x3 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter, and it was well out in front at distance.

Netgear R6400 NAS performance

I'm not using SSDs to evaluate network storage performance because I think that's a real-world scenario. You'd be more likely to use a mechanical drive because you can get so much more storage for the buck. I'm using SSDs so I can measure maximum performance without the overhead of mechanical drives.

All four of the routers performed well on this count. Each one placed first on one test or another, and each one finished last on one test or another. The R6400's narrow first-place finish came while writing a 10GB collection of files to portable SSD attached it its USB 3.0 port, and it finished in last place--by a wider margin--when writing a single 10GB file.

Should you buy an R6400?

Netgear has a very capable mid-range 802.11ac router in the R6400. It's not the fastest router in its class, but it has a strong feature set in terms of remote access, parental controls, and network-attached storage. On those counts, it's a better router than the cheaper-but-faster TP-Link Archer C8. That makes it a solid value.

 

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