Netgear Nighthawk X6 Smart WiFi Router Review
Just as our internet speeds across the nation have improved, so has the technology that powers our routers and modems. Unfortunately, many customers are still relying on ISP provided routers and modems to power their home networks. The problem with this is, most of the ISP provided equipment is outdated or underpowered. To counteract this outdated equipment, many customers are paying for higher Internet speeds, when they could be improving their equipment and finding a much more reliable experience in the process. Just because you pay for high-speed internet, doesn’t mean your router is capable of relaying that speed to all of your devices at the same time. There are routers that are made to tackle this issue, and we picked our favorite.
I should mention that there is also a monetary value at stake when using ISP provided equipment, many services like Time Warner or Comcast will charge you monthly for renting their equipment. Overtime you could be paying more for a router and modem that performs at half the rate as a newer model, then you if you just bought a pair on your own. If you move, you have to set everything back up and start over with new equipment, and possible higher fees, you won’t have to do that if you own your equipment.
If you are an older reader then you probably remember how complicated and unreliable third-party routers and modems once were. Setting them up was complicated, ensuring that they work with your ISP provider was also a hassle. Settings buried in terrible UIs, port numbers and IP addresses were all new to us once, and things weren’t exactly user-friendly. If you haven’t been in the market for a new router or modem, now is the time to jump back in.
If you have been out of the third-party loop, then equipment like the Nighthawk X6 will probably blow your mind. Streamlined UIs, sharing features and mobile apps all tied into the router makes using the device as easy as clicking on one icon, and depending on how long you have been using an ISP router, the power behind the device is unmatched and remarkable.
Instead of testing out the Nighthawk X6 at the office, I decided to put it to the real-world test inside my NYC apartment. In Brooklyn we have Time Warner, I pay about $6 a month to rent their wifi/modem combo and I have a 100Mps internet speed option because I so-often work from home. I’m also a cord-cutter, meaning my girlfriend and I have said goodbye to cable and stream everything on our devices and our internet is always working hard. This is the set-up we have at home.
At any given time we have the following feeding off our wireless network (Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, Two iPhone 5s models, and an iPad 2) there is also an Alienware X52 that is wired to the network. We put our internet to the test constantly, and we rely on it for everything.
Software (Netgear Genie)
Outside of the hardware performance of the Nighthawk X6, the Netgear Genie is the single greatest advancement in wireless networking software that I have come across at a consumer level. Whether you enjoy tinkering with settings for optimum performance, or hate the idea of having to tinker with settings, it’s a flawless software package. Everything you need to control your wireless network is available through the software and it is extremely organized and user-friendly.
Tools like the network map make troubleshooting or identifying connected devices a snap. Just by clicking on the map you can see every device that is connected to your network and see their average speeds, connection strength, IP address or other details in an instant. You can also block or modify these devices right from one location.
You can easily set parental controls, change passwords, adjust router settings or share files across all devices within the app. It’s foolproof system and a must for a busy household, or anyone that wants a reliable home network without the hassle.
Other great features are the speedtest, or the speed alerts. You can adjust these alerts to give you a warning when you reach a ‘high traffic threshold’. You can adjust this to alert you when a device is hogging all of the bandwidth, and you can check on your usage at anytime with an easy to read chart that gives you the data in real time.
All of this software is also available on your phone or tablet, and synching into your wireless network is as easy as scanning barcode from your mobile device’s camera.
If you live in a major city, then channels are very important to monitor. Each wifi-router can work on a vast number of channels and most routers will be set to (auto) to pick the right one. If you live in a sparsely populated area then this isn’t an issue, but as you can see in NYC, there are a lot of competing networks all connecting to the same ISP.
Now as I said before most routers connect to the channel that has the fewest connections, but that isn’t 100% accurate all of the time, the easy UI shown below from the Netgear Genie makes picking the right one a snap. You can also use it to troubleshoot any issues with performance and it’s a great example of just how well throughout the software is.
Hardware and Performance of the Nighthawk X6
When it comes to reviewing anything that connects to the internet, the proof is in the pudding, and this pudding is labeled Megabits Per Second (Mbps). That is the number you agree to when choosing your internet connection package (they usually come in packages like 3, 15, 30, 50 or in my case 100). The problem is that what you pay for, isn’t always what you get. If the bandwidth in your general area is under high-strain then you may see lower speeds, but more often, if your ISP provided equipment can’t handle your device’s heavy usage, then that may impact speed as well. I pay for 100Mbps, and this is a screenshot of my testing, while streaming video to other devices at the same time. I duplicated this test dozens of times throughout my time with the device, at different hours of the day on different days, and the results were the same (wireless or wired).
The routers and modems given to me by Time Warner, just couldn’t handle our constant internet use between online games, streaming Netflix and general internet use on the side. It wasn’t until I switched to the Netgear setup, that I noticed just how poorly my old ISP equipment was working.
Even with all of our devices connected at one time I was still pulling in optimal speeds with Netgear. I had zero interruptions, errors or restarts for the weeks of testing. It was something that I would never had experienced had I stayed with TWC equipment.
Inside the Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Router you will find the Tri-Band WiFi technology, hailed by Netgear to easily connect every device in an instant, and it actually does. The device is capable of a combined wireless speed of up to 3.2Gbps and inside is a 1GHz dual core processor with 3 offload processors, something that the average household will probably have to work hard to max out, and 3 WiFi bands and Smart Connect intelligence will make sure each device is given the speed that you are paying for (should the device have the ability to max out your broadband speed).
All of this wifi-tech that comes within the Nighthawk X6 runs on a 802.11ac Tri-Band Gigabit system. The wifi band offers a staggering simultaneous Tri-Band WiFi setup, allowing Tx/Rx 3×3 (2.4GHz) + 3×3 (5GHz) + 3×3 (5GHz) so you can connect to whatever you prefer. All of this is powered by 128 MB Flash memory with 256 MB RAM.
The 6 High performance antennas give the Nighthawk a definite shape, like an angry crab turned upside down, but they will ensure a strong connection even in a large home. There are five 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports on the device and (1 WAN and 4 LAN) Gigabit Ethernet ports as well. If you need USB ports there are three two in total (1 USB 3.0 & 1 USB 2.0).
If you are a power-user then all of the important upgrades are ready to go; a customized free URL to set up a personal FTP server, VPN support with secure remote access, you can setup a guest network, wifi security includes (WPA/WPA2—PSK) with Double firewall protection (SPI and NAT) and there is also a Denial-of-service (DoS) attack prevention.
The more devices you have connected to your home the more your router is going to have to work, and if you finding that your ISP equipment isn’t performing well, it probably isn’t. We went through 3 upgraded routers/modems with TWC and each time I was told ‘what’s wrong with’ or ‘the problem with these routers was’ by the technicians sent out to fix our issues with speed and having to restart the router.
At $299 the router comes at a price, but you can think of it another way. Odds are you will continue using the internet for decades into the future. That entire time, you will probably need a router and a modem, and at $7 a month for a router rented from your ISP, you will be paying more for that router than the Nighthawk after 42 months (less than two years).
The Nighthawk X6 optimized our entire internet experience, we have had zero issues with our internet since the change (and we had a lot of issues with our equipment failing to keep up with us in the past). It has one of the best software packages you can even find on the market today, and the tech inside will keep you at lightning speeds for years to come.
more info: amazon.com