Top positive review
It's good, but realize it's limitations.. Read on for the good stuff.
July 21, 2016
As a Senior Network Engineer I work around a lot of networking hardware. I am very adept with AP's, Extenders, WLC's, and all of that so I knew what to expect with this. I am not sure why people are complaining about setup, it's ridiculously simple! Note, this is NOT a Mesh-Mode AP/Router, it's an EXTENDER or AP, which means it will provide a 'new' SSID that you can connect to that will bridge to your primary SSID. You should not use this with the same SSID as your router or there could be serious issues. (That's MESH MODE and this is not that!)
For extender mode, what this device does is grab the SSID from your main router and act as a 'bridge' to that router and re-broadcasts the signal with it's own hardware over another SSID. Think of it as a relay race for wireless.. You can use almost anything to bridge networks, even other laptops, routers and access points. So your traffic goes like this: Device over extender SSID to Extender. Extender Hardware processes it as a bridge mode router then sends it through wireless to the existing SSID from your primary router. You are hopping multiple SSID's. To set this up you just put in the SSID and Passkey for your existing wireless, assign a new SSID to the Extender - and note this SHOULD be a different SSID than the primary SSID from your router. Once this is done you connect your wireless devices to the extender and it will 'hop' your data from the extender to the router.
QUICK SETUP: Plug in the extender, wait for it to boot up (2 min), connect your laptop to the SSID of the extender which by default will be something like "NETGEAR_EXT".. Once your device connects to this open up a browser and go to 192.168.1.250, that's the gateway, which is the extender. Once you hit the IP of the extender you will enter setup mode. Here it will ask a series of questions, poll the existing WiFi in the area, and have you setup a new SSID after you input the existing SSID information from your normal router. Setup is done! Now any device you want to go through the extender should utilize the SSID on the extender NOT the SSID on the primary router. Presto! A couple reviewers hammered this for difficult setup which I find hard to believe. Follow my instructions and it's up and running in 3 minutes, and 2 of those minutes are the device booting up! (seriously)
Second mode this can do is AP Mode. Essentially it will act as an AP off your existing network. Connect an ethernet cable to it and set it up per the instructions and you will have a second AP In your home utilizing the same network but different SSIDs! Remember, this is not an enterprise grade WLC AP so you are not going to have multiple AP's using the same AP profile and SSID, each AP will have different SSID's. (but they can use the same password for continuity)
IMPORTANT: A HUGE benefit to this device is it's ability to run in AP mode. Think about this - you are in a motel room with bad wireless but strong ethernet. Simply plug this in and have your own SSID's with speedy wireless. Another important way this can be used is with insecure wireless networks. You can 'hop' this into insecure networks and provide your devices with their own secured SSID's with AES Passkeys. Anyone attempting to hack you through the insecure WiFi would need to hack your secured device and SSID! So there are some pretty cool things you can do with this. Although keep in mind it's not a VPN so they still could sniff the stream going from the extender to the router if the router uses an unsecured SSID, but at least they aren't getting directly into your device so there is some slight, additional security.
Features/Advanced Options: After you run through the silly quickstart stuff you can go to 192.168.1.250 which is likely the preferred DCHP this will grab from your router. From here you have advanced options where you can see transfer rates, connected clients,setup MAC access permissions and other goodies. Not bad! But again this is really a tiny router so these settings are to be expected. There is a 'Fastlane' system in this which is really a gimmick that is absolutely pointless and more generally considered a marketing feature. What this does is you give the extender a designated frequency from your router (2.4 or 5.0) then the router pushes 5.0 with the 2.4 or 2.4 with the 5.0 channel. This is just frequency isolation that will allow you to use a designated band for the extender. It's utterly pointless in my testing and offers no speed boost at all. In a crowded home with a lot of devices this would probably be something you may use. Forcing everyone on 2.4 then piping 5.0 directly to the extender then 2.4 off of the extender. But I would say for 90%+ of uses this is utterly pointless. It's also likely why the feature is buried on the device in sub menus. I'd leave it off.
PERFORMANCE: I will say while the performance of this device is good, it's not perfect. You WILL NOT get the same performance as your primary router. The reason for this is that you are stepping through what amounts to an additional (low powered) router. This device has session and throughput limitations that are likely well below your router in some cases. Performance is lost in that transition, but also the SSID hopping also degrades the speed. This is to be expected, this is not an access point, it's an extender and performance on an extender will never be as good as a pure router or AP.
In my case, my connection averages 110Mbps-180Mbps over my primary router and AP's. (2400AC) Through the extender I averaged 50-60Mbps per device. That's a 50% loss on average of speed in comparison to the primary router/AP configuration. So remember, the point of this is to get WiFi to areas of your home with bad WiFi coverage but don't expect this to be a speed demon. Also there is a slight ping-drop between this and the router, expect 20-50% increase in ping latency. So if your existing router averages 10-20ms to a close hop, this will bump that to 20-40ms average. Not a big deal unless you are a gamer, that could present some issues.
Do I like this device? Absolutely! It's the best extender I have ever seen to date. Is the technology of extenders perfect? No. But this is as good as you are going to get unless you want to run a router in MESH or install a WLC and controlled AP's. I am using this for my vacation where signal power is probably going to suffer, but in my home my AP's do the heavy lifting and this isn't needed. Also on vacation I will provide myself with my own secure SSID's to use and leave the other SSID's for anyone else at the vacation home.. ISOLATION!
IMPROVEMENTS: Companies that make these extenders should focus on reducing latency and increasing throughput. This would be done by putting better processors in these units. My APs in the home have quad core processors and can handle a lot of speed, sessions and clients. I would guess this unit has a sub-1Ghz single core processor which is going to limit your performance. I suspect the higher model number has a better processor and/or other brands have better processors which would likely result in more robust performance.