Netgear’s business-class Wi-Fi 6 access points (APs) may have come a little late to the next-gen wireless party, but what an entrance: for only £130 exc VAT, the WAX610 combines 802.11ax technology with full cloud management and support for wireless mesh networks.
Like most APs, it’s a dual-band design, claiming connection speeds of up to 1,200Mbits/sec on its 5GHz radio and 600Mbits/sec over 2.4GHz. A single 2.5GbE LAN port is set into the rear alongside a power socket – although there’s no power supply included because the expectation is that you’ll use PoE.
For basic Wi-Fi services, you can deploy the WAX610 in standalone mode and use its local web console to manage it. For larger offices, Netgear’s Insight cloud portal is more appealing, as it can administer multiple wireless networks from one cloud console, along with any Insight-enabled NAS appliances, switches and routers. It isn’t free, but the price of the WAX610 includes a one-year subscription to the Insight Premium service, with subsequent years costing £10 per device. There’s also an Insight Pro tier, costing £25 per device, which is aimed mainly at service providers that want to assign user roles and rights, as well as manage multiple organisations from the same account.
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Setting up the WAX610 is a cinch. After installing the Netgear Insight iOS app on an iPad, we were able to add the AP to our cloud account by simply scanning its QR code and assigning it to an existing Insight site.
If you haven’t previously defined your network settings, you can set them up now. Insight supports up to eight SSIDs per site, using both WPA2 and the stronger WPA3 encryption. For each one you can decide which radios should be active, apply rate limits, set availability schedules and enable features such as load balancing and fast roaming. For guest networks, you can enable captive portals with custom logos and acceptable use policies. All of these settings are automatically picked up and applied as soon as you plug in the WAX610.
On the subject of plugging in, note that the AP can be used with regular PoE, but we strongly recommend that you use a PoE+ source – otherwise, Wi-Fi performance may be reduced by up to 40%. To accommodate the WAX610’s full bandwidth, you might also want to use a multi-Gigabit switch; we connected an EnGenius ECS2512FP, which provides 802.3bt PoE++ on all its 2.5GbE ports.
The Insight portal provides plenty of details about network activity, including details of site traffic, APs, SSIDs, connected clients and detected OSes. From the wireless page, you can view data usage for each AP, check channel utilisation, see radio usage and track how much traffic your clients are generating.
There is, however, almost nothing in the way of Wi-Fi 6 settings – only an option to toggle 802.11ax mode on or off. And, like most low-cost APs, the WAX610 doesn’t support high-bandwidth 160MHz channels at all.
Even so, we had no complaints about performance. Large-file copies between a Windows 10 Pro desktop equipped with a Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 802.11ac USB adapter and a server on the LAN were completed at average speeds of 77MB/sec at close range and 70MB/sec at 10m. These are slightly better numbers than we saw from Aruba’s Instant On AP22 Wi-Fi 6 AP, which gave speeds of 74MB/sec and 67MB/sec respectively.
Taking advantage of the WAX610’s mesh support couldn’t be easier – just power up your additional APs within range of a root AP, without cabling them to the same network. After we’d added one of Netgear’s WAX610Y outdoor APs to our Insight account, it automatically connected to the WAX610 on the 5GHz radio band and created a mesh with it.
The WAX610 brings Wi-Fi 6 to small businesses at a price they’ll love. It’s easy to deploy and delivers good performance, while the Insight portal provides slick all-round management and visibility of your wireless networks.
Netgear WAX610 specifications
AX1800 dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz 802.11ax
2×2 MU-MIMO, internal aerials
2.5GbE LAN/802.3at PoE+
Ceiling/wall mounting plate
161 x 161 x 33mm
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Mon Nov 02 17:56:40 +0000 2020
Insight Premium, 1yr, £9 per device Insight Pro, 1yr, £25 per device
wifi & hotspots
Network & Internet
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