NETGEAR CES 2014 New Products Showcase
By Hank Tolman
NETGEAR rushed out the gate full force as CES 2014 started with a flurry of new products designed to improve network bandwidth and signal strength for the home or small office. Their two newest WiFi range extenders even won prestigious innovations awards. Benchmark Reviews met up with NETGEAR at their invitation-only suite during CES 2014 to get a look at the newest products and technologies being released.
Both of NETGEAR’s new range extenders are designed to work on the new 802.11ac standard to boost the signal of your existing home network. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few years, you’ve experienced the frustration associated with signal loss through walls or over long distances. Even in modest sized homes, things such as particles in the air or humidity can affect the signal from your WiFi router. NETGEAR’s new range extenders aim to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with weak WiFi. Of course, that isn’t all that NETGEAR announced at CES 2014. The company also partnered with Facebook to offer a more social connection between small businesses and their customers. NETGEAR additionally entered the streaming media realm with a mediacast dongle similar to a Roku or Google’s Chromecast.
NETGEAR EX6100 AC750 WiFi Range Extender
The first of the two WiFi range extenders announced by NETGEAR is the EX6100 AC750 WiFi Range Extender. The EX6100 plugs directly into a wall outlet and connects to any standard WiFi router. According to NETGEAR, the EX6100 AC750 Range Extender is the first wall-plug extender to provide dual-band 802.11ac performance. The AC750, of course, also supports legacy 802.11a/b/g/n networks and has the bandwidth to completely saturate those network speeds. The EX6100 can provide data transfer speeds up to a theoretical maximum of 750Mbps when used to extend an 802.11ac network to 802.11ac capable WiFi devices.
The NETGEAR EX6100 AC750 WiFi Range Extender utilizes both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands with respective transfer rates of 300Mbps and 450Mbps to reach that 750Mbps number using their FastLane technology. FastLane has been around for a while now, and it allows users to harness the power of both bands to form a single connection. This new connection is especially useful for providing extra performance in areas that require a lot of bandwidth, including gaming and video streaming.
The EX6100 also has a Gigabit Ethernet port on the side that can be used for a couple of different purposes. The main function of the GbE port is to provide WiFi connectivity to a wired device like a Blu-Ray player or network connected TV. At my house, both my TV and Blu-Ray player can connect to the network, but they require a wired connection. With the EX6100, I can wire either of those devices directly into the Range Extender to connect them to the network.
The other function of the GbE port is to turn the AC750 WiFi Range Extender into an access point for your wired network. Connecting the EX6100 directly to a wired internet connection turns it into a WiFi hotspot for your wireless devices. This functionality can come in handy in places like a hotel room where wired internet is provided, but you need to connect with a tablet, smartphone, or other wireless device. This feature could also be used to partition your home network by setting up a separate access point with different access than your normal WiFi.
The NETGEAR AC750 WiFi Range Extender is a compact and easy-to-install solution to the frustrating problem of WiFi deadspots, latency-laden connections, and even network separation distance for wired-only devices. The EX6100 even has smart LED indicator lights that point you to the best location for optimal WiFi coverage. The EX6100 AC750 WiFi Range Extender is set to hit the market with an MSRP of $89.99
NETGEAR EX6200 AC1200 High Power WiFi Range Extender
The second of NETGEAR’s two award winning Range Extenders is the EX6200 AC1200 High Power WiFi Range Extender. This bad-boy is the EX6100’s big, power-amplified brother. If you have a larger home or suffer from extreme WiFi dropout due to home construction, range limitations, or other atmospheric and signal-blocking problems, the EX6200 is NETGEAR’s answer. Like the EX6100, the AC1200 High Power WiFi Range Extender also connects to any standard WiFi router to extend your existing WiFi signal throughout the home or small office space. That, however, is about the limit of the similarities between the two.
The EX6200 also utilizes both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, but at 300Mbps and 900Mbps respectively. The two can be combined using FastLane technology to provide a single connection with a theoretical throughput of up to 1200Mbps. The EX6200 AC1200 High Power WiFi Range Extender also provides a much larger range than the AC750 WiFi Range Extender thanks to 700mW high-power amplifiers and 5dBi high-gain antennas. The EX6200 also uses Beamforming+ technology to focus WiFi signals for a more direct and reliable connection to wireless devices. The EX6200 also harnesses the power of a dual-core ARM A9 processor to enhance WiFi throughput.
Where the EX6100 has a single GbE connection, the EX6200 has 5 GbE ports and a USB 3.0 port. The five GbE ports means I can connect my TV, Blu-Ray player, and gaming console to the WiFi network all at the same time, without having to search for other solutions. The USB 3.0 port lets you connect a high-speed external hard drive and wirelessly share the contents without having to leave a system on and worry about sharing issues. Alternatively, you could connect a USB printer to the port and wireless share print capabilities. The AC1200 High Power WiFi Range Extender will hit the US market with an MSRP of $129.99.
Facebook WiFi Login
NETGEAR made a concerted effort to appeal to small business owners through a new partnership with Facebook announced at CES 2014. The Facebook WiFi Login option allows customers easy access to a small business’ WiFi network while also providing quick and easy advertisement for the company. This is how it works.
Imagine walking into a coffee shop, bookstore, or other small business and sitting down to take a load off. You notice the free WiFi sticker in the window and decide to check your email or browse through pictures of what all your friends had for breakfast on Facebook. All of us love that free WiFi symbol because it means we can save up our precious (and expensive) bytes of data on our cell plan, or we can connect in the back of the store where the 3G/4G signal never seems to reach. After connecting to the SmallBusiness-FreeWiFi network, you open up your browser and expect to be greeted with the login page that asks you to agree to the terms and maybe even go get a login key from the checkout counter. Instead, you find yourself at the company’s Facebook page. You login to your Facebook account, check into the coffee shop, and voila, you have internet access. You can even set it up so that next time you visit this shop, you’ll automatically be checked-in on Facebook and connected to the WiFi network.
This is the situation that NETGEAR imagines more and more customers seeing when they sit down and connect to the WiFi at a small business. Using NETGEAR’s premium 802.11ac routers, small business owners now have the option of enabling Facebook Login and Check-In as a method of allowing customers to connect to their WiFi networks. Don’t worry, though, if you don’t have a Facebook account or simply don’t want to check-in, you can still go to the counter and ask for passcode to sign in to the network.
The Facebook Login capability is due to be rolled out in firmware updates to four of NETGEAR’s routers over the next few months. These include the flagship Nighthawk R7000 AC1900 Smart WiFi Router, the R6300 AC1750 Smart WiFi Router, the R6250 AC1600 Smart WiFi Router, and the R6200 AC1200 WiFi Router.
NETGEAR NTV300D NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle
At CES 2014, NETGEAR also announced their intention to enter the streaming media market to compete with the likes of Roku and Chromecast. Their first foray into this arena comes in the form of the NTV300D NeoMediacast HMDI Dongle. Similar to other media streaming dongles, the NTV300D offers consumers a method of accessing their apps and content normally exclusive to their mobile devices on their TV. The NTV300D also allows content providers an easy to way to broadcast content over existing apps.
The NTV300D uses the Android SDK, making the learning curve for app development nearly non-existent. Providers can similarly stick to the apps they have already developed for Android phones or tablets, avoiding new development costs. The NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle uses 802.11ac to connect wirelessly to your existing home network and it is Miracast and Bluetooth 4.0 enabled to let you shoot your content directly to your TV from your mobile device and control the interface with your phone or tablet. The NTV300D supports HDMI1.4, HDCP2.1, full 1080p/60Hz HD, and H.264/MPEG4 video decode. NETGEAR promises integrated DRM support for the NTV300D so you won’t have to worry about being denied access to premium content. The integrated DRM includes support for Microsoft PlayReady, Google Widevine, and Adobe RTMPe.
The NTV300D will run Android 4.2 and will charge off a micro USB port. The NeoMediacast HDMI dongle further holds a Micro SD slot for storing and playing back home videos or images as well as a USB port for attaching additional storage. The NTV300D should ship sometime in the first half of 2014, although we have no word on pricing yet.