802.11n spent years tied up in draft status with the IEEE, and as a result it feels like it’s been around forever. By comparison it feels like 802.11ac, the standard being released to replace it, is moving at an amazing pace. In fact, Netgear is preparing to claim bragging rights on being the first 802.11ac compatible commercial router available for sale. Announced on Thursday, the R6300 will start shipping in May, and is capable of speeds up to 1.3Gbps on the 5 GHz band, assuming of course you have a compatible 802.11ac device on the receiving end.
Based on the theoretical max speeds listed above, that could mean speeds up to twice as fast as 802.11n under similar conditions. It will be interesting to see if 802.11ac is able to maintain the same type of range as 2.4GHz 802.11N networks. 2.4GHz is much better at penetrating walls and travelling over large distances, but given its popularity is also prone to excessive interference.
The other drawback to the R6300 will be in how it deals with legacy hardware. To use 802.11ac, all your devices must be using that standard, or it will drop back down to the lowest common denominator for everything using that wireless network. We are hoping the default behavior of the dual band feature is to limit the 5GHz band to 802.11ac, and banish everything else to 2.4GHz. Hopefully its possible to add 802.11n to the 5GHz band as well using the firmware, however a fairly large percentage of 802.11n devices are stuck at 2.4GHz. The Kindle Fire comes to mind.
The R6300 will be sold for around $200 through Netgear retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, and Fry’s. If we didn’t scare you off based on the limitations listed above, you won’t have to wait too much longer to future proof your wireless network.