Parents are spoilt for choice when it comes to parental control software that filters undesirable content on their children's phones and tablets. But setting up the software on multiple devices can be a hassle.
A simple solution for homes is to use the built-in parental controls found in most routers, which would act on all devices using the home network. But these parental control options are often not user-friendly or lack certain functionalities.
To overcome this, Netgear's latest Nighthawk R7000P router comes with parental control software from a company called Circle Media. This firm is in the business of selling a hardware box with its parental control software that connects to standard routers. But in the case of the R7000P (and a few other supported Netgear routers), the software is integrated in the router.
All you need is the Circle mobile app (available for iOS and Android). It takes just minutes to set up the app to work with the R7000P. The free version has a content filter, lets users cut the Internet connection for one or more devices and keeps a log of the websites visited. A premium paid version that costs US$4.99 (S$6.80) per month adds more features, such as time limits for apps and websites.
It is easy to use - you set up a profile for each person in the household and associate them with their devices. Each device can be assigned a preset content filter and users can also manually add websites to block. Filters differ based on the child's age group. For instance, the Teen filter blocks VPNs (virtual private networks) while the Kid filter does not because younger children are unlikely to use VPNs.
I have mixed feelings about the parental controls though. While convenient and user-friendly enough, Circle could do better. For example, a custom page saying Circle has suspended the Internet connection appears with a browser, but if you had been using an app such as YouTube, you simply get an error message. In my testing, there were also instances when the parental controls failed to work and previously blocked websites became accessible.
As a router, the R7000P is a slightly upgraded version of the previous R7000 model. Despite its $299 price tag, it is an entry-level router, though equipped with the latest Wi-Fi features such as beamforming and MU-MIMO support. You get four Gigabit LAN ports and two USB ports in an angular chassis typical of Netgear's designs.
ETHERNET INTERFACE: 1 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit WAN, 4 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN
SECURITY: WPA2, WEP
ADVANCED FIREWALL FEATURES: NAT, DoS and SPI
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
I liked that the router reminded users to change the default password the first time I logged into its Web-based user interface. The interface itself is long in the tooth and looks almost identical to the one on Netgear's 802.11n routers from over five years ago. To be fair, it is still very functional, though not the fastest at applying changes to the settings.
Performance-wise, the R7000P is competitive with routers in its class. It scored an average of 549Mbps in my file download test, which is almost identical to my result for the recently reviewed Asus RT-AC86U.
•Verdict: The Netgear R7000P is a capable router that performs well in speed tests. Its integrated third-party parental controls software could be better.