Netgear R6300: the second-fastest router we've tested

Netgear's R6300 isn't the fastest 802.11ac router you can buy, but it has a number of positive features going for it.

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The R6300's performance bounced back when I moved the client and the media bridge to the first of my two outdoor test locations, an exterior patio enclosed by three walls and one half wall with glass windows. The signal from the router travels a more direct path to this location, even though it must pass through two insulated walls. In the real world, I doubt that anyone would try to set up a media bridge outdoors because dragging the bridge and finding an outlet (and likely an extension cord) are too inconvenient. The R6300 performed slightly better here than it did in the kitchen, delivering wireless throughput of 435 mbps for a first-place finish at this location.

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TCP throughput dropped to 122 mbps when I moved the client and bridge to my second outdoor test location, a picnic table 75 feet from the router with four insulated walls in between. That data transfer rate was only good enough for a third-place finish on this measure, but achieving such high throughput that at so distant a range is pretty amazing. Most 802.11n routers operating on the 5GHz frequency band can't reach the client at all here (the Asus RT-N66U being a notable exception).

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Benchmarking 2.4GHz 802.11n performance

The R6300 delivered a middle-of-the-road performance on the 2.4GHz frequency band, but it was twice as fast as D-Link's DIR-685L when I moved the client to the farthest test distance from the router. Both devices can deliver perfectly acceptable performance for Web browsing here, but the Netgear is much quicker when transferring files across the network.

Netgear's R6300 lagged slightly behind the rest of the field with the client hardwired to its four-port gigabit switch, but the difference was negligible.

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To evaluate the R6300's performance as a network-attached storage device, I connected a 500GB Western Digital My Passport USB drive to one of the router's USB ports. I used a stopwatch to time how long it took the unit to copy a few files from a PC to the drive over the network (a write test), and then I copied a few files from the USB drive to the networked PC over the network (a read test). The PC was hardwired to the network.

I created a large-file test by ripping a DVD (Quentin Tarantino's From Dusk to Dawn) to the PC's hard drive. Copying this 4.29GB file from the PC to the portable hard drive required slightly more than 6 minutes, while reading it from the drive required a little less than 7 minutes. These scores put the R6300 in the middle of the pack on this benchmark. I couldn't test the Buffalo WZR-D1800H on this measure, because that router recognizes only drives formatted in FAT32 or XFS.

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Unless you rip a lot of movies from DVD or Blu-ray discs, you'll rarely move a single large file to a hard drive attached to your router. A more common task is to move batches of small files back and forth across your network. To evaluate each router's performance in this scenario, I created a single folder containing 595MB of small files (subfolders containing music, graphics, photos, documents, spreadsheets, and so on).

The Netgear R6300 was very quick at writing this batch of small files to and reading them back from the attached USB disk drive, performing each tasking in about 1 minute, as the charts below indicate.

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Bottom line

In the competition for the title of best 802.11ac router on the market today, Netgear's R6300 finishes a very close second to the Asus RT-AC66U. It's not quite as fast as the Asus in most benchmarks, and it doesn't offer as many features as the Asus does. The performance gaps, however, are not huge.

The one area where Netgear has a leg up on Asus is in apps. Install Netgear's Genie app on your smartphone, and you can use it to monitor and manage your network. Asus was getting ready to launch their AiCloud service as I was wrapping up these reviews, however, so Netgear's advantage may be short-lived. And Netgear will never be able to overcome the RT-AC66U's removable, upgradable antennas.

Note: This review is part of a roundup. Click here to read the introduction to the story and find links to the other 802.11ac routers reviewed at the same time.

This story, "Netgear R6300: the second-fastest router we've tested" was originally published by PCWorld.

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