Netgear's D6200 is their latest variant in the DSL modem/wireless router offering. Armed with the newest 802.11ac wifi standard capable of 866Mbps throughput, it promises the fastest wireless speeds for the latest notebooks and mobile devices. Read on to see how it performs, and why I may consider keeping this.
PROS: Single device convenience, latest wireless standard, lots of configuration options
CONS: USB 2.0, price, planned obsolescence, lack of matching Netgear accessories
I've covered many of Netgear's products here on lgpOnTheMove over the years, and have continually been impressed with their performance. It's no accident my current wireless-g router, modem and switch are all Netgear items in their matching signature white exterior, and continue to perform well.
But as I quickly found out, introducing a NAS into the network demonstrated a much faster need for speed via Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. Similarly, in order to get the most out of a fast NAS solution, I would need better-than wireless-n speeds. And since I'm still rocking my copper DSL line, it made sense to get a solution that allowed me to replace a stand-alone modem.
Newer notebooks with built-in 802.11ac also demand matching connectivity, since these PCIe solutions aren't bottle-necked by current USB 2.0 wireless-ac dongles at 480Mbps. A handful of today's enthusiast motherboards are also shipping with wireless-ac included on-board, making a typical CAT5e infrastructure unnecessary.
Finally, it's just so much more convenient having only one device sitting on your desk that can do the work of three (or if you still use a dedicated AP, four). It also means I only need to hog a single precious battery-backed-up outlet on my UPS to ensure my internet connectivity and network remain on during a power outage.
Netgear's D6200 wireless-ac modem router is able to tackle all of the above challenges, while offering a lot of new functionality older devices lack. The modern all-black look is a well-needed refresh from their once-popular white devices.
The entire top, back and sides is one large ventilation panel. This is a welcome change from their earlier devices which did get warm to the touch. Over time, heat build-up can significantly shorten the life of your equipment, but the D6200 remains cool to the touch.
The front of the D6200 is a flush gloss black with an illuminated Netgear logo in the middle and four status lights on the bottom. You cannot turn off the Netgear bling, but fortunately it isn't an intrusive annoyance. The four status lights are for your power, Ethernet, DSL and wifi. These don't blink with the movement of packets, but stay lit to tell you they're on and working.
The bottom rear of the D6200 is the business end of the device and contains all connectivity. You get four 10/100/1000 ports, a port for plugging in an external cable modem, and a DSL jack for plugging in your internet line. In addition you have a USB2.0 port that can be used to connect either an external hard drive to create a quick and inexpensive NAS solution, or plug in a USB printer to enable wireless printing.
Setup of the D6200 was painless, requiring the user to connect the included cable between PC and device, open up a browser and follow a few simple steps. I was up and running in under 6 minutes, and once done, able to toss the required cable. Do make sure to get your ISP's login details (username/password), as the DSL modem won't work without it.
Speeds on the D6200 are fast. The 2.4GHz radio can run upto 300Mbps while the 5GHz band offers the full wireless-AC spec of 866Mbps. On testing with a Netgear A6200 dongle using a Dell XPS 15 notebook, I was able to maintain a constant 866Mbps connection active without a signal drop or speed decrease over a 72 hour streaming period.
|Simplified user interface|
The D6200 offers a mixed bag of SSID assignments. You get one main SSID for each radio, with three SSID's available as a guest network for each band. Each guest SSID can have it's own security settings, run on a different channel, and connect with the main network or stay isolated. I'm really not sure if there is a need for having upto six guest networks in a household - I would much rather prefer to group the four SSID's for each band together and assign them as I need.
One very interesting setting is the ability to turn off the wireless radios according to a preset time schedule. This can be handy if you don't want to keep your wifi on overnight but still need your equipment turned on for a wired connection. It's also a good way to police bedtime for tablet users.
At $170, the D6200 doesn't come cheap, and would become a very expensive doorstop should the built-in DSL modem decide to give up (it can happen). That's perhaps the only benefit of still having separate devices like I have at the moment. On the other hand, if you were to tally up the price of a separate wireless AC router, 5-port Gigabit switch and DSL modem, the D6200 is actually quite a bargain. Should one of my current devices go down, I may just retire the remaining items and go with a single device solution such as the D6200.
Of course, the other negative that I have to mention is still that USB2.0 port on the back which bottlenecks any inexpensive NAS setup to 480Mbps. Netgear does have hardware with USB3.0, but it seems they're relegating all-in-one DSL users to the slower standard.
Enthusiasts may also be put off by the fact that the status lights don't blink with any packet movement, since this can be helpful to see if your connected devices are working properly. For this reason, it would be good to see Netgear come out with a matching 5 or 8-port 10/100/1000 switch that retains this feature, while still complementing the D6200's modern exterior.
The Netgear D6200 wireless AC modem router is a definite hit in my book. It pretty much makes redundant all your existing multiple network devices, takes up far less space on your desk, looks great, runs cool, and eliminates the crazy spaghetti of power and CAT5e patch cables you would otherwise require.
With many of today's enthusiast motherboards shipping with 802.11ac on board, it also allows all the Gigabit Ethernet ports to connect exclusively with your wired accessories. I really like the idea of having up to four compact NAS boxes all connected to a mini-ITX system and Surface slate with the D6200 acting as the centerpiece.
Similarly, users of newer notebooks shipping with 802.11ac radios built-in will also find the single device convenience of a DSL modem and wireless AC router a great solution.