From the marketing material you may think that Netgear’s latest speed demon is a new category of router. The name – N600 – seems to imply it’s capable of 600Mbits/sec transfer speeds.
Alas, that isn’t the case: Netgear has simply added the maximum throughput figures of the router’s 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios together to manufacture an impressive-looking marketing line.
It’s a cheap trick, but it clearly isn’t an attempt to cover up any kind of weakness. In fact, the N600 achieved the fastest all-round wireless results of any router in this Labs.
At close range, we measured an average transfer speed of 15.9MB/sec over 2.4GHz, peaking at 18.5MB/sec when transmitting large files to the router. Only the single-band 450Mbits/sec-rated Buffalo WZR-HP-G450H was faster in this test.
Over 5GHz at close range it’s even quicker, returning an average rate of 17.5MB/sec and peaking at 21.8MB/sec. Three other routers are marginally faster in this test. However, it’s the N600’s performance at long range that really seals the deal. At 4.6MB/sec over 2.4GHz, it’s second (again) only to the Buffalo WZR-HP-G450H, and at 2.9MB/sec over 5GHz it’s the quickest by a significant margin.
The N600’s radio frequency curve during the close-range 2.4GHz speed test is cleaner than most, but there’s an awful lot of spread.
That’s quite a lot of data to take in, but one thing is abundantly clear: this is one seriously speedy router, combining close-range rapidity with long-distance reliability like no other router in this group.
The one weakness is NAS performance. With a portable USB 3 hard disk plugged into one of the N600’s twin USB sockets, it recorded a sluggish average transfer rate of 3.5MB/sec.
This is a shame, since it’s packed with features elsewhere. It’s one of three routers in the Labs this month to boast both cable and ADSL connections; if you move house from a cable area to a location only served by ADSL, you won’t have to purchase a new router.
Its twin 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless networks can be run concurrently, and you have the option to create multiple SSIDs and hotel-style guest networks on each band, each with its own set of security protocols.
Although the web-based administration pages are difficult to find your way around, they too are replete with options. We particularly like the Traffic Meter section, which allows you to set up limits and warnings based on your monthly data usage.
The router checks for firmware updates automatically, every time you log in – a feature we think should be standard across all routers. There’s also DLNA media-streaming support, and a handy Wi-Fi on/off button.
All of which makes the N600 the pick of the bunch this month. It’s respectably priced, and if you want optimum wireless performance and the best range across both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands, complete with a host of features, then look no further.