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Netgear WAX615 review: Excellent Wi-Fi 6 performance for SMBs

An affordable AX3000 Wi-Fi 6 AP with great performance, classy cloud management and easy meshing

The Netgear WAX615
Price
£138 exc VAT
  • Easy to deploy
  • Energy efficient

SMBs looking for an affordable Wi-Fi 6 network upgrade will find that the WAX615 has a lot to offer. Priced at only £138 (exc VAT), Netgear's first business AX3000 access point (AP) supports the Wi-Fi 6 high-performance 160MHz channels and comes with a 2.5GbE multi-Gigabit network port to unleash this extra speed.

The WAX615 may be cheap to buy but it doesn't compromise on features. It combines plenty of business-class features with standalone mode or cloud management and can be used to
swiftly build a meshed wireless network. Its LAN port supports PoE and PoE+ power sources, and you should use the latter if you don't want to see a drop in performance.

It also supports the Wi-Fi 6 Release 2 standard, which enables uplink MU-MIMO to deliver faster upload speeds and improves latency for delay-sensitive tasks such as video conferencing. Energy efficiency is another key feature of this standard, and the WAX615 offers an optional energy efficient mode (EEM) so it will drop from 2x2 to 1x1 MU-MIMO if no clients are connected. 

It's easy to deploy the WAX615 in standalone mode, with its local web console providing a wizard that guides you through the initial setup phase. SMBs will find Netgear's Insight cloud portal more appealing, however, as it can remotely manage all wireless networks from one web console, along with Netgear's Insight-enabled NAS appliances, switches and routers.

The price includes a one-year subscription to the Insight Premium service (subsequent years cost £8.95 per device) and provides web portal plus mobile app access and support for multiple sites. You'll need to tread the Insight path if you want meshed networks, as this feature isn't available in standalone mode. 

To add the WAX615 to our cloud account, we used the Insight iOS app on an iPad to scan its QR code. We then assigned the AP to our Insight organisation site and, once it was powered up and networked, it connected to our account and started broadcasting the wireless SSIDs we'd created previously. 

The portal site page presents a summary of all cloud-managed Netgear devices and uses widgets so it can be easily customised to suit. Choosing the wireless option reveals all APs, more detailed traffic graphs for each radio and a list of all connected clients, along with the detected OS and traffic statistics. To create a mesh network, you can enable a global auto mode for all supported APs or set it at the device level and choose root or extender modes.

Extender APs are placed in range of a root AP and powered but not physically cabled to the same network. After we added a second WAX615 AP to our Insight account, it automatically linked up with the root AP over a 5GHz wireless connection and created a mesh with it.

The Netgear user interface

To speed-test the WAX615, we hooked it up to a Zyxel XS1930-12HP 10GbE multi-gigabit PoE++ switch and connected a Dell T640 Windows server over 10GbE, giving us a test bed supporting a minimum 2.5GbE throughput. Our client system was a Dell Windows 10 Pro workstation equipped with a TP-Link Archer TX3000E Wi-Fi 6 PCI-E adapter, which employs an Intel AX200 chip supporting all Wi-Fi 6 channels.

With the AP's 80MHz channels enabled, close-range copies of a 25GB test file between the workstation and server averaged 110MB/sec. With the AP moved ten metres away from the workstation and into an adjoining room with a partition wall in the way, we saw copy speeds drop to 94MB/sec. After enabling the 160MHz channels, our workstation reported a 2.4Gbits/sec wireless connection and close-range copies averaged an impressive 179MB/sec. Increasing the connection distance to ten metres saw our file copies return a very respectable 157MB/sec. 

Netgear's WAX615 combines excellent Wi-Fi 6 performance with great cloud management and delivers it all at a price that SMBs will love. It's easy to deploy and manage, while support for meshing allows businesses to expand their wireless networks easily.

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