The $300 SurfBoard AC3200 Wi-Fi Router G.hn (model SBR-AC3200P) is a part of a completely new RipCurrent product line from Arris, a company prior to this makes mostly cable modems. The RipCurrent product line includes the SBR-AC3200P, two cheaper models (the SBR-AC1900P and the SBR-AC1200P, which cost $200 and $120, respectively), a $60 gigabit power line extender (model SBX-1000P) and a $100 Wi-Fi hotspot extender (model SBX-AC1200P.) This review was conducted with the SBR-AC3200P and the two extenders.
RipCurrent is a fancy name for the G.hn power line standard that allows you to extend the range of your wired home network without running any extra network cables. Basically when you plug a RipCurrent router into a power outlet, it will turn that outlet into the first end of a power line connection. Then plug a RipCurrent power line extender, or a RipCurrent Wi-Fi hotspot extender, into another wall socket (even if it’s at the far end of your house, a good distance away from your router) and the network will be instantly extended to that corner of the house. Depending on the type of adapter you use (with or without Wi-Fi capability), this will allow you to connect a single wired client or multiple Wi-Fi clients to the network from that adapter.
Subsequently, as you plug more RipCurrent adapters/Wi-Fi extenders (up to a total of 15, according to Arris) around the house you can further extend your wired network, without having to run any network cables through or under your house at all.
In my personal experience, the G.hn is one of the best power line specifications. Using two adapters, I was able to extend my wired network — with great performance — from my home to my garage that’s 15 feet away and two buildings were connected using original electrical wires installed some 45 years ago. (Due to the age of the electrical lines, some other power line adapters didn’t work for me.) This again proved to be true in the testing of the SBR-AC3200P.
That said, getting this router and the RipCurrent SBX-AC1200P Wi-Fi extender is a sure and quick way cover your entire residential home with reliable Wi-Fi, fast enough to deliver even a top-tier broadband connection. The only question is if you’ll be willing to pay $400 ($300 for the router and a $100 each the extenders) for this privilege.
SBR-AC3200P: A compact tri-band Wi-Fi router
The SBR-AC3200P doesn’t look like a traditional Wi-Fi router. It’s shaped like a sideways number 8 and looks like something you’d decorate your house with.The router is compact yet still includes (as most routers do) four Gigabit LAN ports (for wired clients) and one Gigabit WAN (Internet) port to connect to a broadband modem.
As an AC3200 router, the device includes three Wi-Fi bands, one 2.4GHz band with a top on-paper speed of 600Mbps and two 5GHz bands each of which tops out at 1,300Mbps. (Read more about Wi-Fi standards here.) The extra 5GHz band means that the router can handle more 5GHz Wi-Fi clients at the same time without dragging the overall router speed down.
Setup was similar to that of a typical router with a Web interface. Alternatively, you can use the free Arris SurfBoard app (available for iOS and Android) to complete the setup process. The app scans a QR code located on the underside of the router and after following a few simple steps, it’s ready to use.
The router has a responsive Web interface and in my testing most of the changes can (thankfully) be applied without a restart, which is a bonus for those who are constantly making changes to their settings. Unfortunately, most of the router’s features are rather primitive. For example, the Parental Control requires you to manually enter the MAC address of the client that you want to restrict; not an easy task for advanced users. What’s more it USB ports didn’t offer very fast performance, either, when hosting a portable drive. In my testing, when hosting a drive with its USB 3.0 port, via a Gigabit connection, the router registered the sustained copy of speed of just 28MB/s for writing and just 32MB/s for reading. Many routers can do much better than that.
The SBR-AC3200P delivered a stable signal that didn’t drop out as long as I stayed within its range and throughput performance (which measures the router’s ability to transfer files over the network), while not the fastest we’ve ever seen, was still pretty good. The router topped out at 653Mbps on the 5GHz band at close range (10 feet). From 75 feet away, with one wall in between the router and the test computer, it posted just 248Mbps. On the 2.4GHz band, the router averaged 122Mbps and 70Mbps at close and long range, respectively, which is about the average among 802.11AC routers.
The router’s range was short compared with other AC3200 I’ve tested topping at about 80 feet for the 5GHz band and about 100 feet for the 2.4GHz band.