Wi-Fi 6 deployment in the consumer market has achieved critical mass, with almost all modern smartphones and notebooks equipped with support for 802.11ax technology. As expected, we are starting to see the small-business and enterprise access points (APs) moving to support this technology. While vendors such as Aruba Networks, Ruckus Wireless, and others already have Wi-Fi 6 SMB / SME-focused Wi-Fi 6 APs in the market, Netgear is launching their first set of Wi-Fi 6 products targeting this segment today - the AX1800 WAX610, and its outdoor counterpart, the WAX610Y.

Unlike previous Wi-Fi technology upgrades, the move to Wi-Fi 6 brings in the need for some underlying infrastructure changes - support for NBASE-T and PoE+ (802.3at). Some high-performance Wi-Fi 6 APs even require PoE++ (802.3bt) support. Netgear's WAX610 and WAX610Y can be powered using 802.3at and use a 2.5Gbps RJ-45 port for wired backhaul / power delivery.

The focus in SMB products is more on stability compared to peak performance. Consumers in this space also want the ability to support a large number of concurrent client devices - high-density deployments - much more than what is usually handled by consumer Wi-Fi routers. Some SMBs also have to make do with non-dedicated IT staff, and external management capabilities as well as ease of setup / installation also plays a role in some scenarios. Netgear claims that the WAX610/WAX610Y's feature set aims at tackling these aspects. The AX1800 (2x2 802.11ax with 1200 Mbps in the 5 GHz band and 600 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band) APs utilize a Qualcomm chipset. Based on the performance specifications, we do not have 160 MHz support, and Negear also mentioned the absence of uplink OFDMA support. The former is not really important for SMB APs - at least, not without Wi-Fi 6E which brings extended spectrum and the possibility of availing multiple contiguous 160MHz chunks without interference / DFS.

In terms of security, Netgear is offering WPA3 support (as mandated by the IEEE Wi-Fi 6 specifications), as well as support for up to 8 SSIDs with a separate VLAN for each SSID. A number of SMB Wi-Fi 6 APs currently in the market use a 1Gbps wired port, but, Netgear has equipped their two new models with a 2.5Gbps LAN port. While most deployments would use the wired port for backhaul, Netgear has also provided mesh support, enabling the WAX models to mesh over Wi-Fi with other Netgear APs such as the WAC610 / WAC610Y / WAC540 / WAC564. The maximum power consumption for the WAX610 over PoE is rated at 15.3W, while the WAX610Y consumers 16.1W - enabling 802.3at-capable switches to power them easily. The APs will also function with 802.3af (traditional PoE), but ends up getting limited to 60% of its peak performance capabilities.

The APs are part of Netgear's Insight-capable portfolio - allowing optional cloud-based management access. This is a boon for part-time IT folks as well as resellers wanting to provide value-added services.

I have quite not been sold on the Insight-type cloud-based management scheme for SMB equipment (irrespective of the vendor offering it). However, the value offered to folks who are not dedicated solely to IT maintenance in an organization is undeniable. Now, the increasing prominence of work-from-home culture will bring additional pain-points to solve, and Insight-type cloud-based management can definitely play a role. For example, enabling seamless VPN and/or the ability to securely extend a WLAN from an office location to an employee's home (for scenarios where mobile devices needs to be in the company network for certain applications) are some challenges that IT administrators might want to solve in a user-friendly way moving forward. Cloud-based management solutions can definitely be of help in those scenarios.

The WAX610 and WAX610Y are Insight-capable (not Insight-only), and expose more functionality for local management compared to what is available over the app / using the cloud. Pricing ranges from $180 (base indoor model without a power adapter) to $250 (outdoor model). Compared to SMB offerings from vendors such as Engenius and ZyXEL (Engenius EWS357AP @ $184 and the ZyXEL NWA110AX @ $200, both AX1800 PoE+ APs without 2.5Gbps LAN), these are very competitive price points in terms of the features offered.

Source: Netgear

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  • Desierz - Tuesday, August 4, 2020 - link

    The same NetGear that refuses to patch 45 of their devices from a devastating security flaw, even though it would be so easy for them, as it's the same fix they use on their devices that aren't outside the security support period? Yeah, stay away.
  • vladx - Tuesday, August 4, 2020 - link

    That doesn't occur with enterprise equipment, only consumer products.
  • Samus - Tuesday, August 4, 2020 - link

    Define 'enterprise' because many SMB products from Netgear to Cisco have neglected security patches for products that are EOL after a few years on the market. SMB products are used at scale in many 'enterprise' settings.
  • The Tester - Tuesday, August 4, 2020 - link

    Netgear always been amazing interms of the quality of the products. While i spend most of the time resolving the issues with support for other vendor Accesspoints esp on wireless connectivity( dont want to name them here) , netgear has been pretty stable. looking forward for one of these WAX models to TEST and adopt.
  • sandtitz - Tuesday, August 4, 2020 - link

    I have had only problems with Netgear stuff. I've used many other vendors (don't want to name the here) and they offer better devices with better support.

    ...I though only Amazon had these paid 3rd world commenters praising stuff to heaven?
  • yordan-c - Wednesday, August 12, 2020 - link

    For me, netgear is not good brand for home router/AP
    Often hardware is above chinese quality, but for firmware
    fix for security failure - forget if your product is 3yrs+ old.
  • BedfordTim - Wednesday, August 12, 2020 - link

    Well their 4 and 8 port switches are OK, but I wouldn't go much further. Our one opportunity to test their support suggested that we should never use them again. Thankfully it was a NAS being used for backup that failed.
    I've been asking around as we are looking for something like this, and everyone I spoke to recommended Ubiquiti and Draytek.
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, August 12, 2020 - link

    Rubbish. I recall, many years back, PC Pro running an article for Netgear's latest and greatest broadband router/AP. 5 stars and all that jazz. Jump to the forums and the place was filled with people shouting about the fact that it simply did not work as intended. I still buy their switches, but have had to return a home 5 port (white) router as that failed to simply work.

    I doubt that ANY hardware maker has 100% with all products, but Netgear really do suck at times.
  • ied - Tuesday, August 4, 2020 - link

    My Netgear R6400 still works like a champ. Few years old & dated now, but still receives patches once or twice a year.
  • yordan-c - Wednesday, August 12, 2020 - link

    Is this a AC1750 router? It is old now?

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