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Touring NETGEAR at CES 2019: Wi-Fi 6 Takes Center Stage!

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The gift that is CES keeps on giving! We go over the NETGEAR suite, and it was more of an entire floor, in this article with the company showing off their involvement in every networking sector imaginable- the professional environment, consumer and retail networking solutions, and smart home devices. Indeed, stepping off the elevator itself led to a hallway lined with Meural canvasses, which are very well built frames that have an integrated display to show off images of your choosing. This public hallway had generation 2.0 canvasses, with the new-for-CES generation 3.0 series inside the show room that encompasses four different frame options in two different sizes- the currently available 27" version, and the newer 21.5" size for those wanting something smaller.

Meural canvasses can be used in landscape or portrait configurations, and supports a library of over 30,000 curated art images at an optional membership cost of $49.95/year. The new generation is available from August 2019, with the new screens having a wider color gamut and a truer-to-life display, that was impressive. These are definitely for a niche audience, however, but I can appreciate NETGEAR wanting to provide more use cases for their networking solutions. The current Gen 2.0 27" canvas starts at $595 (dimensions with the frame are larger than 27"), and an optional pivoting stand with more display I/O options is an additional $49.95 for when you want to have your own images connected to it. For the rest of the tour, be sure to read past the break!



Also in the hallway was a NETGEAR business demo unit of a server rack switch, configurable to handle up to 4 simultaneous displays off a single 1G/10G unit using AV-over-IP. The switch setup is a 2u unit with 12 slots to fill in as desired, if you wanted to run more displays simultaneously with the demo station having two slots filled in. Use cases here involve, say, live simultaneous broadcast of music performances or sports programs to screens in a theater or stadium, but NETGEAR tells us they have had interest also from the prosumer market of streamers managing gaming events and LAN parties as well. An easy-to-use configurator provides admin access to each individual unit, and there can of course be more such units daisy-chained if need be.



The entire new NETGEAR offering for small- to medium-sized businesses includes their Smart Managed Pro S350 IPV6-ready switch series with five new switches in total (8-48 GigE port options with 2/4 SFP ports for fiber uplink and POE+ on select units), a new Orbi Pro mesh Wi-Fi ceiling satellite with POE (power over ethernet) and 4x4 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi, a NETGEAR Insight Managed Smart Cloud tri-band wireless access point (the WAC540) rated for a total of 3 Gbps throughput performance, and the WAC124 AC200- Wi-Fi router.

Heading back inside the room, we saw their entries to the relatively new Nighthawk Pro Gaming lineup, including the XR500 we reviewed before, the 10 GigE SX10 switch we will be checking out soon, and the newer XR700 that offers more performance relative to the XR500 and runs off the same, excellent Duma OS which has, since the time of our review of the XR500, added in more features including a ping-based geo-filter, more VPN support integrated in the configurator, and a summary table view of connected device with real-time stats.



Next up were additions to their Nighthawk series in general, including two new Wi-Fi extenders and two standalone routers. The NETGEAR Nighthawk EX6250 is a dual band Wi-Fi extender rated at AC1750 for throughput, whereas the Nighthawk X6 EX7700 is a tri-band extender with a dedicated backhaul for proper mesh networking without loss of throughput from the main router, and is rated for AC2200 operation. The standalone routers were both compliant to the new WiFi-6 (Wireless AX) standard, and received CES innovation awards as well. Both adopt a more subtle form factor compared to erstwhile units with multiple discrete antennas pointing upwards, with MU-MIMO and beam forming effectively reducing the need for this and allowing for a more pleasing look in general. The Nighthawk AX8 is an 8-stream router rated at AX6000 throughput, and the AX12 is a 12-stream version that also includes a multi-Gig (1/2.5/5 GigE) port on the back and a fan for active cooling.



5G and LTE-based mobile networks were a big theme at CES this year, and NETGEAR showed off mobile routers for both applications, including their new Nighthawk MR5000- the world's first millimeter wave 5G mobile hotspot. Effectively controlled by network providers such as AT&T and Verizon in the USA more so than NETGEAR, however, it won't do much good to have the hardware ready but be nerfed by data and speed caps imposed on them. Time will tell how 5G influences the market, but for now the company also showed the Nighthawk M2 (MR2100) update to their LTE mobile router.



The tour ended at the Orbi section, which had new (first at CES and also recently announced) additions to their more user-friendly mesh Wi-Fi system lineup, including the outdoor satellite with IP4x rating for dust and rain storms, an Alexa-compatible Orbi Voice smart speaker and mesh satellite, a cable modem + router Wi-Fi combination unit, and the new Orbi Wi-Fi 6 system supporting the new standard. This last demo was based off the existing RBK50, which will debut in the AX6000 format in the second half of this year bringing with it 1024 QAM with a 4x4 Wi-Fi 6 backhaul for even higher increased speed, coverage, and capacity- especially between the router and the satellite units.



NETGEAR also showed off enhancements to their software end, with Insight management for the pro side and NETGEAR Armor cybersecurity for the Orbi family, in addition to quality-of-life improvements to the Nighthawk and Orbi mobile apps as they attempt to move away from NETGEAR Genie. Some of my complaints from last year were already addressed, which is nice to see, and the product managers for the different business units were receptive to feedback across the board as well.

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No thanks to a fan cooled router, it's not a good idea.
Netgear needs to make some good heatpipes instead. Sure, it costs a bit more, but it'll also last much longer, won't have a mechanical failure and doesn't make noise.
 
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No thanks to a fan cooled router, it's not a good idea.
Netgear needs to make some good heatpipes instead. Sure, it costs a bit more, but it'll also last much longer, won't have a mechanical failure and doesn't make noise.
A well-designed DBB can be both extremely durable, and very quiet. It doesn't need to be perfectly silent, just quiet enough to not raise the noise floor of the room.

As for passive cooling, you need a very, very large heatsink to match even just a very small fan-cooled setup, which is why Netgear has gone fan-cooled.
 
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A well-designed DBB can be both extremely durable, and very quiet. It doesn't need to be perfectly silent, just quiet enough to not raise the noise floor of the room.

As for passive cooling, you need a very, very large heatsink to match even just a very small fan-cooled setup, which is why Netgear has gone fan-cooled.
Is that so? And have you tested the lifespan of these tiny fans? They get very noisy, very fast. In fact, I was involved in designing the first consumer router with a heat pipe (at least that I'm aware of) a few years ago. We did that simply because of the noise and fan life problems. The will also be a tin of issues with these once the fans fail, as they're not exactly user replaceable.
 
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That pricing for the picture displays is INSANE.

You can get a monitor and media streamer for a lot less or a 10" tablet (albeit a lot smaller).

You could actually get a 40" UHD TV for that kind of money and a frame from the local IKEA or whatever ....

If they cut it in half (the price) it would make more sense.
 
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Is that so? And have you tested the lifespan of these tiny fans? They get very noisy, very fast. In fact, I was involved in designing the first consumer router with a heat pipe (at least that I'm aware of) a few years ago. We did that simply because of the noise and fan life problems. The will also be a tin of issues with these once the fans fail, as they're not exactly user replaceable.
I won't say that I have tested in the sense of putting 300 of em on a frame and running em for years on end, but I have bought a decent amount of servers, switches and so on that do have tiny fans (40-120mm, DBB, speed controlled), and they have all done 3-10 years of 24/7 service without issue. Naturally, these are tier 1 fan manufacturers here (Delta, Sunon, Nidec, San Ace), not your run of the mill unbranded Chinese crap marking a shitty rifled sleeve-bearing fan as a true FDB/HDB that you find in most consumer equipment.
 

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That pricing for the picture displays is INSANE.

You can get a monitor and media streamer for a lot less or a 10" tablet (albeit a lot smaller).

You could actually get a 40" UHD TV for that kind of money and a frame from the local IKEA or whatever ....

If they cut it in half (the price) it would make more sense.
Keep in mind that part of the cost involves the frame itself, equivalent versions of which can cost a pretty penny in the USA at least.
 
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I won't say that I have tested in the sense of putting 300 of em on a frame and running em for years on end, but I have bought a decent amount of servers, switches and so on that do have tiny fans (40-120mm, DBB, speed controlled), and they have all done 3-10 years of 24/7 service without issue. Naturally, these are tier 1 fan manufacturers here (Delta, Sunon, Nidec, San Ace), not your run of the mill unbranded Chinese crap marking a shitty rifled sleeve-bearing fan as a true FDB/HDB that you find in most consumer equipment.
Industrial grade fans also make a lot of noise, hence why people don't have servers and rack mounted switches sitting on their desk.

Unfortunately these new models are still under short term confidentiality over at the FCC, but hopefully we'll know what kind of fans they put in them soon enough. I bet it'll be something cheap and horrible.
A good example would be the Linksys WRT1900/1200 routers, which ended up with a fan in the fan in the first version. It had a Sunon MagLev fan, but a lot of people complained about whining noise from them within less than six months. The joy of 40mm fans. It was quickly removed in the second revision. Even worse, it wasn't even a PWM controlled fan, which should be a must if you're going to add a fan to a device that's on 24/7 and operate at different load during different times of the day.

I have no idea why these companies are putting tiny, whiny fans in their products, they don't seem to have realised that can get something much larger, but still almost as thin. It's not as if these are that small products any more, as routers are just getting bigger and bigger. Either which way, I don't really want a fan in my router.
 
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Industrial grade fans also make a lot of noise, hence why people don't have servers and rack mounted switches sitting on their desk.
Some are very quiet. For example, the 13k rpm 40x28 PSU fans in my server's PSU gets PWMd down to inaudible levels under the usual idling. So is the big 120mm San Ace in my old AX850 PSU.

Unfortunately these new models are still under short term confidentiality over at the FCC, but hopefully we'll know what kind of fans they put in them soon enough. I bet it'll be something cheap and horrible.
A good example would be the Linksys WRT1900/1200 routers, which ended up with a fan in the fan in the first version. It had a Sunon MagLev fan, but a lot of people complained about whining noise from them within less than six months. The joy of 40mm fans. It was quickly removed in the second revision. Even worse, it wasn't even a PWM controlled fan, which should be a must if you're going to add a fan to a device that's on 24/7 and operate at different load during different times of the day.
That's just really crappy engineering :(. Hopefully Netgear has paid attention and doesn't screw it up.

I have no idea why these companies are putting tiny, whiny fans in their products, they don't seem to have realised that can get something much larger, but still almost as thin. It's not as if these are that small products any more, as routers are just getting bigger and bigger. Either which way, I don't really want a fan in my router.
I'd love a larger fan, sadly it seems that management out there doesn't want to let em spend the extra dollar on a nice 120x25mm PWM-controlled Maglev or Noctua (Asus can get a contract, so I see no reason why Netgear can't). :(
 

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I think we're too focused on pushing the boundaries of performance in such devices. A router with a fan? Really? Same deal with smartphones getting hot and requiring heatpipes and such.
 
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I think we're too focused on pushing the boundaries of performance in such devices. A router with a fan? Really? Same deal with smartphones getting hot and requiring heatpipes and such.
The real problem is that one device is doing too much for it's ideal thermal profile. Proper dedicated APs using the exact same guts as these consumer APs never overheat even with tiny 6mm thick heatsinks, cause they're running really low CPU loads.
 

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If it can't run 100% load without overheating, then you either need to apply a better cooling solution, or tweak the hardware so it can run 100% load without overheating. Even some modern desktop processors can be run without a heatsink... at idle... but will throttle like mad once you put any load on them. But, doing that would be ridiculous, wouldn't it?
 
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If it can't run 100% load without overheating, then you either need to apply a better cooling solution, or tweak the hardware so it can run 100% load without overheating. Even some modern desktop processors can be run without a heatsink... at idle... but will throttle like mad once you put any load on them. But, doing that would be ridiculous, wouldn't it?
Preaching to the choir, mate. Tell that to upper management instead.

Edit: this is also why I like fans, even small ones. The difference between fanned and passive is huge past about 7W
 
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I think we're too focused on pushing the boundaries of performance in such devices. A router with a fan? Really? Same deal with smartphones getting hot and requiring heatpipes and such.
It's not about the processor, it's about the power amplifiers for the Wi-Fi. In these kind of routers you have a minimum of eight PA's and they're tiny, yet very hot chips that can hit 100C or more. They're hard to cool due to their size and require a lot of cooling, which means the heatsinks in routers have evolved from not being there, into rather complex and exotic designs. The CPUs are running a bit hotter these days too, as we've gone from 300-800MHz MIPS chips to ~2GHz ARM chips with multiple cores. But they're still quite easy to cool in comparison.
 
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