Netgear R8000 Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band Gigabit Wireless Router review: Lots of price pain for only a little gain

After a lot of hype, the Netgear R8000 Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band Gigabit Wireless Router is just a disappointment.

Positioned as a major update for the previous model R7000 , which is one of Netgear’s best, if not the best, home routers, the R8000 is impressive on paper. It is the first ever tri-band router with a total Wi-Fi bandwidth of up to 3,200 Mbps at any one time and comes with an innovative design.

When it performed as expected, however, the R8000 performed no better than its predecessor, or any of these other excellent AC1900 routers for that matter. During my tests, it suffered from a problematic 2.4Ghz frequency band, making it for the most part a 5Ghz only router and with a relatively short overall Wi-Fi range.

In all fairness, you might still enjoy yourself if you’re only using 802.11ac Wi-Fi clients, although you’ll have to have plenty of them to see any advantages. Considering its current price of $ 300 (AU $ 399 in Australia, with the UK price not available at the moment), however, I can’t think of any reason why you should buy it.

The new R8000 is equipped with six external antennas that can be folded on top.

Dong Ngo / CNET

Same powerful hardware, new design

Available in black, the R8000 is slightly larger than the R7000 while taking the shape of a flying object (hence the name Blackhawk). It is, however, more compact than its predecessor, thanks to the six foldable antennas. I love that you can fold them completely out of the way. However, you will need to open them to get maximum range.

Otherwise, the new router is very similar to the R7000, with four Gigabit LAN ports, one Gigabit WAN port and two USB ports (USB 2.0 and USB 3.0) on the back. At the top, right in the center and from back to front, is a series of fancy looking LEDs that indicate if the router is on and the status of its port and Wi-Fi networks. If the lights are too bright, you can turn them off via a small switch on the back. Below these lights is an on / off button for Wi-Fi signals and another button to activate Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). WPS is an easy way to connect a WPS-enabled Wi-Fi client to your router, avoiding having to manually type the Wi-Fi password.

Inside, similar to the R7000, the R8000 runs on a 1,000Mhz dual-core processor and supports the latest Wi-Fi standards. It is capable of offering Wi-Fi speeds of up to 1,300 Mbps on the 5 Ghz band and up to 600 Mbps on the 2.4 Ghz band simultaneously. However, it has two separate access points for the 5Ghz frequency band, instead of just one like all other dual band routers. This means that at any given time, the R8000 has a bandwidth potential of 3,200 Mbps; is the first router on the market with the designation AC3200.

Regarding the interface and configuration process, the R8000 shares the Netgear Genie firmware as the R7000 and uses the same methods to manage it, via a web browser or the Netgear Genie mobile app.

The R8000 has almost exactly the same interface and features as the R7000.

Dong Ngo / CNET

Minimal performance gain, many disappointing returns

The R8000’s second access point on the 5Ghz band looks promising, but it made only a small, if at all, difference in my testing.

For local devices, a single Wi-Fi client still connects at 1,300 Mbps maximum because it can only connect to one access point at a time. So, the only time you’ll see the benefits of the R8000’s two 5Ghz access points is when you have many 802.11ac clients, such as a dozen or more, connecting to the router for intensive data transfer tasks to the same. time.

Currently, there are fewer 802.11ac clients on the market than 802.11n clients (the R8000 has nothing more to offer 802.11n clients). (Read more about the Wi-Fi standard here.) And even though there are several 802.11ac clients in a household, I can’t think of a situation where more than a few of them might need to do intensive local tasks at the same time. During my tests, I was unable to create a situation where a second 5Ghz access point would be needed.

For the Internet, the R8000 has no difference to other AC1900 routers. This is because the speed of any residential broadband Internet connection is much slower than the speed of 802.11ac Wi-Fi. In other words, you won’t see any improvement for internet-related activities, such as streaming Netflix or downloading and uploading files.

The router has one 2.4Ghz and two 5Ghz access points.

Dong Ngo / CNET

Problematic 2.4Ghz band

Like all Wi-Fi routers, the R8000 has only one access point for the 2.4Ghz frequency band. This band is slowly becoming obsolete, as there are too many clients and routers using it. But for the same reason, it’s also very important that a router supports this band, for backward compatibility – you don’t want to leave any 2.4Ghz clients out in the cold. However, if you were to change the settings of the R8000, that’s exactly what could happen.

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