The Netgear R6250 Smart WiFi Router is aimed at people who want to take advantage of the technological advancements in networking technology, without having to worry about messing around too much with various settings. But is a router that combines power with plug and play ease too good to be true? When opening the box, the first thing you’ll notice is the design of the router, and it’ll certainly be divisive. The plain and minimalist black square that emerges from the packaging seems far removed from the rather functional looking routers of Buffalo and TP-Link, and Netgear has clearly got its designers to come up with something that we’d be happy to have on display in our homes, rather than hidden away behind a bundle of wires. Whether or not they’ve succeeded will be down to personal taste, and while the look might not be our cup of tea we’ve certainly seen uglier routers.
On the front of the router are four icons that are illuminated depending on the state of your network and internet connection, as well as information if a USB device is connected or not. On the side of the router are buttons for switching the Wi-Fi on and off, and for connecting devices via WPS. On the back are five gigabit Ethernet ports (one of which is dedicated to hooking up to your modem – more of that later), a reset switch, power button and a USB 3.0 port. While a lot of routers have been including USB ports for some time now, the addition of a USB 3.0 port, rather than the standard USB 2.0, is welcome. With the increased speeds of the 802.11ac wireless protocol that the router uses, it would be a shame to bottleneck the data transfer speeds with the low USB 2.0 bandwidth. The Boradcom BCM4708 processor that inside the Netgear does a good job of running the new protocol as well as dealing with traffic via the USB 3.0 port.
Installation through the web interface was quick and easy, and rather than having to type in an IP address to access the settings, you can just type in www://routerlogin.net. It’s in the web interface where Netgear’s aim of creating a product that’s easy to use for beginners, yet still offers more advanced tools for experts, is evident. The wireless antennas (three 5GHz for 1300Mbps and two 2.4 GHz for 300Mbps) are built into the body, so unlike routers with external antennas, you can not position them to broadcast in certain directions. While this might not be too much of a problem, if you’re got a bit of a blackspot in a certain part of the house, directing an antenna towards it can help improve wireless coverage. This seems to be a case here where the router’s aesthetics have been chosen over functional.
Once set up we were able to look closely at the features included, and there’s a lot of them: DHCP, Static, PPPoE, PPTP and L2TP support, builtin dynamic DNS client for dyndns.com, WAN port scan and DoS protection, IPv6 WAN connection support (autodetect, 6to4 tunnel, Pass through, fixed [static], DHCP, PPPoE, Auto config), partental controls via OpenDNS, UpnP and DLNA media support, and SMB, HTTP, HTTPs, FTP storage sharing. For most home users this should be absolutely fine, but for more advanced tools like IPv6 port forwarding and firewall support, you’re going to want to look elsewhere. For programmers wanting to play around, the router and firmware comes with a GPL v2 licence. In our tests the Netgear R6250 performed pretty well, broadcasting two separate SSIDs for each band simultaneously, and on the 5GHz band we saw very impressive data transfer rates of 593Mbps, and while performance dropped the further we moved our machine from the router, we were still able to get good performance across a two bedroom flat over two floors.