If you stay in a linked house with multiple wireless clients competing for bandwidth, it…
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Another generation of wireless routers is here now: Netgear may be the first manufacturer to give a tri-band router. This new class of device is suitable for the web of Things (IoT)-that is, it’s designed to handle the increasing number and selection of devices most of us have on our networks. The Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band WiFi Router (R8000) ($299) makes an extraordinary debut, deftly managing multiple wireless devices about the same network, though a few minor rough spots that resulted in in my own testing show a firmware update could be in order soon.
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We’ve only had dual-band routers as yet, operating on the two 2.4GHz and 5GHz band. The Nighthawk X6 offers a 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands. These dual 5GHz bands become performance load balancers. Progressively more home networks have tablets, smartphones, and gaming consoles performing heavy-demand throughput tasks, such as for example streaming HD video. You’d normally want to assign those devices to the more-robust 5GHz band, but with so many gizmos competing for throughput, you’d soon saturate it. The X6 automatically configures its two 5GHz bands on different channels, in order to hook up more devices at 5GHz without the performance suffering.
What’s more more likely to immediately strike you about the Nighthawk X6, however, is its bizarre design. It appears like a robotic insect. The router includes a rectangular chassis that slopes upwards and six retractable external antennas that may fold in and right out of the housing. When fully extended, they make the router appear to be a six-legged bug flipped on its back. These antennas swivel, letting you position them to get the best signal, however they could be tricky to go and, while reasonably sturdy, seem to be like they might be simple to break with rough handling.
In the Nighthawk X6 are some powerful components. The AC3200 identifies its total theoretical bandwidth: It supports up to 600Mbps on the two 2.4GHz signal or more to 1300Mbps on each 5GHz band. It’s advertised as offering up to 3.2Gbps speeds, but that isn’t real-world speed. Actually, the X6 isn’t even among the five most effective routers I’ve tested. That isn’t necessarily a problem, however, as the purpose of this router is to take care of many devices on a network simultaneously; it isn’t really about blazing-fast throughput for an individual device. I’ll reach that later. Other noteworthy elements of the X6 add a dual-core 1GHz processor with three offload processors, 128MB of flash memory, and 256MB of RAM.
Back to the surface: On the X6’s back panel certainly are a USB 2.0 and a 3.0 port, both which can support printers and external drives. The trunk panel also offers a WAN port and four LAN ports, an LED off/on switch, and a on / off switch. Thirteen LEDs run-down the top-center panel, providing statuses of the router’s various connections, such as for example WAN and USB.
The X6 is really as large since it is weird-looking. It’s a great deal larger and heavier compared to the original Nighthawk-which is a big piece of hardware. The prior Nighthawk ($158.47 at Amazon) measures 1.97 by 11.22 by 7.26 inches (HWD) and weighs about 1.6 pounds. The X6’s dimensions are 2.14 by 11.63 by 8.92 inches (HWD), and it weighs almost 2.5 pounds.
Of course, such a major and powerful device needs enough cooling, and Netgear offers plenty of, in the sort of vents on the complete topside of the router and along the trunk panel. I left filmmaker Ken Burns’ 10-hour Civil War documentary running on Netflix through the router overnight, and the X6 was barely warm another morning. Overheating shouldn’t be a concern with this router, though, much like any router, you should stick it somewhere with decent airflow.
Setup and Management Interface
Netgear has gotten automated setup right down to a science using its last handful of dual-band routers, and the no-brainer setup with the X6 is no exception. Connect the cable as displayed in the enclosed illustrated instructions, extend the retractable antennas, and turn up a browser. The router redirects you to the Netgear Genie management setup page.
Following the initial setup, a note pops up asking if you wish to set up the optional Desktop Genie for monitoring and restoring network issues. If you go with the install (I did so) the installer places a shortcut to the Genie management software on your own desktop. You have the choice to control the router with the desktop Genie software or even to open a browser to the Ip of the router and utilize the Web-based Genie interface. Having two management options may confuse some users. The difference, the bottom line is, is you could perform basic management and monitoring through the desktop app; to configure more complex settings, such as for example configuring WAN DNS or port forwarding, you need to utilize the browser-based Genie.
An improved, less-confusing option is always to have many of these features in a single place within the browser UI, perhaps separating them onto Basic and Advanced tabs. I love the actual fact that the desktop Genie provides newbie users FAQs for network troubleshooting, but how hard would it not be to just get rid of the desktop interface altogether and incorporate each one of these user-friendly features in to the Web management UI?
Smart Connect, Network Map, and QoS
Smart Connect, Network Map, and QoS
I was extremely interested in the management of the dual 5GHz-band settings, therefore i went right to the browser UI to check on it out. By default, each band gets its SSID: The two 2.4GHz band is NETGEAR99, among the 5GHz signals gets NETGEAR99-5G-1, and the other is NETGEAR-99-5G-2.
Netgear preconfigures the wireless networks to create it easier for users to get right up and running, nevertheless, you can transform the SSID and even the channels, if you would like. You can also permit or disable a setting named Smart Connect. Enabling it sets both 5GHz bands to the same SSID. According to Netgear, the X6 auto-negotiates which band is most beneficial for performance as you add more devices to your network. Of course, for testing purposes, I needed to regulate which device was linked to each band, therefore i disabled the setting. Unless you’re a power user who would like granular control over your wireless network, however, it’s probably smart to leave Smart Connect enabled and allow router do the performance heavy lifting.
Network Map is an attribute within older Netgear routers, but it’s gotten somewhat of an update in the X6. It enables you to see which devices are linked to your network in an exceedingly graphical way. It’s an excellent feature, but it requires a few improvements. Responsiveness is one. As I linked devices to the network, the Network Map was slow to update its view with those new devices, even when i forced a full page refresh.
Whenever a new device connects to the network, a pop-up notification appears on-screen assuming you have the desktop Genie installed. I’d rather have the ability to configure the iphone app to send a contact or SMS notification, however. It’s simple to miss a popup, and if you are away from your personal computer whenever a potentially rogue device connects, you obviously won’t start to see the popup regularly.
I also pointed out that the Network Map is hit or miss with regards to properly identifying linked devices. For instance, it properly determined an iPhone 4S, nonetheless it labeled an iPhone 5c as simply a generic network device. You can manually edit devices that arrive in the map, though. Moreover, you can manage them on the fly, performing such actions as blocking a device from accessing your network with an individual click. Though it needs some tweaking, Network Map is a good feature.
I am surprised that the X6 offers none of the intensive QoS configuration options that I came across in the initial Nighthawk. The first-generation router enable you to set options such as for example increased QoS and had a slew of preset QoS network traffic rules. In the X6, I only start to see the option to permit or disable WMM, and I don’t see some of those traffic rules. You can permit DLNA, TiVo, and iTunes support, however. The increased QoS was a fantastic feature in the first Nighthawk, and I’m uncertain why it’s not within the X6.
Much like other Netgear routers, the X6 enables you to hook up an external drive to 1 of the router’s USB ports and use its ReadyShare feature for a few light NAS (network-attached storage) functionality. I copied a 1.5GB online video from a PC to a Western Digital My Passport drive to measure write speed. The file copy procedure clocked in at 12MBps. That is clearly a little better than the initial Nighthawk, which performed the same test at 11MBps. However, the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router AC 1900 (WRT1900AC) blew both of these routers away in NAS performance, with a write speed of 66MBps in my own testing. Still, the Netgear Nighthawk is probably the best-performing routers in terms of serving as a NAS device.
Netgear cautioned me that the purpose of tri-band routers isn’t breathtaking wireless speeds. Rather, it is the capability to achieve superior performance on a whole Wi-Fi network, even while more devices hook up to that network. Having said that, it’s still vital that you test the unit’s performance.
This is really not the most effective 802.11AC router I’ve tested. That nod would go to the Trendnet AC1750 Dual Band Wireless Router (TEW-812DRU) with the average wireless throughput speed of 283.28Mbps in 802.11AC mode. The X6 clocked in at a still quite-respectable average of 171Mbps in the same mode, ranking sixth-fastest of the eighteen 802.11AC routers I’ve tested up to now. Actually, Netgear’s original Nighthawk router tested a tad faster compared to the X6. For information on all throughput testing results, and comparisons to other 802.11AC routers, go through the images.
Netgear touts this router’s range. Both original Nighthawk and the X6 outperform almost every other routers in maintaining good throughput at further distances in 5GHz mode. By enough time we tested throughput at 30 feet, both actually increased signal strength by 2 percent in comparison with their performance at 5 feet. That is clearly a rarity really worth noting.
One problem I noticed when testing throughput at distance, however, was that the bond between my notebook and the X6 timed out when I reached a distance of 30 feet and farther from the router. I was easily in a position to reestablish the connection without further issues, nonetheless it was frustrating yet.
2.4GHz signal change, moving from 5 to 30 feet
5GHz 802.11N signal change, moving from 5 to 30 feet
The X6 lost range at 30 feet in 2.4GHz mode, showing an 16 percent drop when moving from 5 feet. I attribute a few of that to interference at the two 2.4GHz band in the testing area. Having said that, I’ve seen routers with better range in the noisy 2.4GHz band. The D-Link Amplifi Cloud Router 5700 (DIR-865L), for instance, made a 5 percent gain in signal strength when moving from 5 feet to 30 feet. Still, the X6 devote a solid showing at 5GHz in both 802.11N and 11AC mode, by gaining 2 percent strength by enough time I tested from 30 feet away. This product should suffice for large homes and offices that don’t possess a whole lot of other gizmos hogging the two 2.4GHz band.
What really impressed me in testing was the difference having two 5GHz bands manufactured in performance with many devices linked to the X6’s wireless network. To gauge the difference, I primarily linked two laptops and a smartphone to the 5GHz-1 band. I used Ixia’s IxChariot for throughput monitoring and performed a 1.5GB file copy in one laptop computer to some other and got 11.7Mbps as a baseline of my network’s performance on the copy test. The throughput for the network all together was at a moderate 57Mbps, according to IxChariot.
Next, I had among the laptops and the smartphone stream a Netflix movie (Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos, to be exact), with most of my devices still linked to the same 5GHz band, and performed the same file-copy test. Due to additional stress of two linked wireless clients streaming Cosmos, I now had more throughput happening: IxChariot reported throughput of 71.4Mbps on the network. My simple file copy’s performance was considerably slowed, from 11.7MBps to 5.6MBps. This shows how saturating the 5GHz band hampers performance.
Finally I removed the notebook streaming Netflix in one of the 5GHz bands and linked it to the other 5GHz band, isolating it from the next notebook computer and the smartphone (also still streaming Cosmos). Ixia still registered a whole lot of activity on the network: 85Mbps worth. However the file-copy speed a lot more than tripled, to 18Mbps. That is an excellent illustration of the potential of tri-band routers.
Sold on the theory
Tri-band routers certainly are a brand-new phenomenon in the Wi-Fi router market, one that’s evidently needed. With advent of the IoT, we’ll have significantly more and more devices linked to your routers, competing for throughout at both bands. Even when you don’t plan on obtaining a linked fridge and a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat, it’s likely that you’re making use of your network with a good TV, a laptop, and smartphone, too. And, in the end, almost all of us aren’t simply texting with cellular devices any more. We’re streaming movies, making videos, and performing other throughput-intensive tasks. If we can, we do so while linked to Wi-Fi, which is faster and cheaper than cellular connections. The purpose of tri-band routers is to meet up the demands we’re continually positioning on our networks, and the Nighthawk X6 meets that goal.
Despite solid performance and its own first-mover advantage, it’s prematurily . to deem the Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band WiFi Router (R8000) an Editors’ Choice. That isn’t due to the problems I had with the dual-interface confusion, nor the Network Map performance problems, nor even the casual disconnects I seen in testing. All those are minor complaints for what’s obviously an outstanding (if weird-looking) router. The problem, rather, is that we must test more tri-band routers to see if the X6 actually makes the almost all of tri-band technology, or if various other maker can trump it. More tri-band routers are just around the corner, as soon as we’ve tested enough, We’ll choose an Editors’ Choice. For the present time, I’ll leave it as of this: Competitors must really ace our tests to beat out the X6 for PCMag’s top honors for tri-band routers.
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|Model||Nighthawk X6 AC300|
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