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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Performance

The Core is not Wi-Fi Certified and was tested with the Revision 10 wireless test process loaded with 170927_191 firmware. Since the app provides no control over channel or bandwidth, I had to take what I got, which was Channel 1 / 40 MHz bandwidth for 2.4 GHz and Channel 36 / 80 MHz bandwidth for 5 GHz.

However, the Revision 10 process still uses 20 MHz bandwidth for 2.4 GHz tests for throughput vs. range, but uses 40 MHz for peak throughput tests. These settings are enforced by the octoScope Pal test client.

The router body was centered on the test chamber turntable as shown in the photo below. The 0° position for the router had the front facing the chamber antennas. Although you see four chamber antennas in the photo, only the center two are used for throughput vs. attenuation testing, which is done with the Pal set to operate as a 2x2 AC device.

Core in test chamber

Core in test chamber

I haven't tested a lot of routers with the Revision 10 process due to concentrating on the more popular Wi-Fi Systems. So I have no other 4x4 routers to compare with. Instead I'll put the Core up against two 3x3 routers, NETGEAR's newer R7000P and original R7000 Nighthawk.

First comparing 2.4 GHz average throughput, we find Core coming in last for both down and uplink. At least it's not alone, joined by the R700P.

2.4 GHz average throughput comparison

2.4 GHz average throughput comparison

Core fares better in the 5 GHz benchmarks for downlink, but coming in once again at the bottom of the chart for uplink.

5 GHz average throughput comparison

5 GHz average throughput comparison

The 2.4 GHz downlink profile shows why Core did so poorly, starting out lower than the NETGEAR R7000 and falling off faster than the R7000P. It was also the first to disconnect after the 39 dB attenuation test.

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz uplink shows a similar pattern, although with higher starting throughput. But Core's rapid throughput decline and early disconnect end it up at the bottom of this chart, too.

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

Core starts out strong for 5 GHz downlink and, for awhile, looks like it might go the distance. But throughput collapses after the 18 dB attenuation test. The plotted results are the average of two complete test runs, so this effect was repeatable.

5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

Looking at the stats from the octoScope Pal test client, it's clear that TX rate went south pretty quickly after 21 dB, indicating a problem with MCS rate management.

5 GHz Downlink octoScope Pal statistics

5 GHz Downlink octoScope Pal statistics

5 GHz uplink shows Core starting out at the same ~560 Mbps as NETGEAR's R7000. But Core's steeper decline again makes it disconnect earlier and push it down in the Chart ranking.

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

A look at the Pal uplink stats again shows a rapid decline in link rates.

5 GHz Uplink octoScope Pal statistics

5 GHz Uplink octoScope Pal statistics

For our peak wireless performance tests, the octoPals are configured as 4x4 AC devices and left to negotiate their best connection, with 10 dB of attenuation applied on 2.4 GHz. The latter is necessary so the 2.4 GHz octoScope Pal isn't overloaded.

The octoScope Pal test client reported 720 Mbps as the highest link rate vs. the 800 Mbps maximum possible using 256 QAM in the 2.4 GHz tests. The maximum possible 1300 Mbps was seen for the 5 GHz tests. The peak 2.4 GHz tests are the only two wireless benchmarks where Core outdid the two NETGEARs. However, Core also turned in respectable results in the 5 GHz peak throughput tests.

Test Description Norton Core NETGEAR R7000P NETGEAR R7000
2.4 GHz Peak Downlink (Mbps) 472 221 220
2.4 GHz Peak Uplink (Mbps) 500 134 116
5 GHz Peak Downlink (Mbps) 884 940 929
5 GHz Peak Uplink (Mbps) 931 940 842
Table 3: Peak Wireless throughput

I didn't test MU-MIMO because it rarely provides significant benefit, if any at all.

Closing Thoughts

Many of us are looking for an reasonably-priced, easy-to-use solution to help protect us against the evils that lurk on today's internet. And some of us are getting to the point where we won't mind paying a reasonable monthly fee to ensure that safety.

Unfortunately, like most other internet security "solutions" we've looked at, Norton by Symantec's Core Router doesn't make the grade. It failed our very simple zombie machine check and has the usual weaknesses with its website content filtering.

If you use Core with devices protected by its companion Norton Security Premium Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android apps, you'll be able to rest a little easier. But if you're expecting it to detect all the nefarious activity your webcams, streamers, printers, etc. might be up to, it doesn't look like it will.

Most of all, Core fails the minimum requirements for any router that hopes to make it today, specifically, the ability to keep up with 100 Mbps+ internet connections and decent Wi-Fi performance. No matter how good Core's security features may be, if it has worse Wi-Fi performance than the router it replaces, it will probably go right back to the store. Since Core's performance landed it at the bottom of our Router Ranker, I can't even recommend Core as a plain ol' Wi-Fi router.

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