I've been a long time fan of NETGEAR routers, and with the R8000, they've really upped their game. There's a lot of hype about this particular router; many tout it as one of the best, if not the best on the market... and it certainly looks the part. However, with use by an average household, is it really worth it? Does it measure up?
Unboxing the NETGEAR R8000
I won't bore you with too many details here -- unboxings are cliche, no? I do really dig them, though, so here's some pics of what it's like to open one up. The packaging is top notch and very blingy, and this router really has a distinctive look.
Gold, shiny packaging.
The router of the hour.
Anatomy of the NETGEAR R8000
The R8000 is a beast of a router. Sporting looks like a geeky Lamborghini Diablo with antennae, nobody is going to mistake this for any other product. It's about a foot wide and 9 inches deep. So yeah, it's got a presence.
Whoa, what's this? 2 antennas not enough for you? How about 4? Still not enough? Well, here's no less than SIX antennas sprouting from this monster. The entire top of the case is a giant vent, presumably for the heat it could potentially generate, although I've never noticed any significant temperature increases -- but it does serve as a nice peek into the internals.
The LED panel is impressive. These lights shine a nice clear white, a refreshing change from the standard blue, and are quite bright.
The back panel shows a USB 2.0 port, a USB 3.0 port (nice!) and the standard Ethernet ports that ever router needs to be a router. Plus, there's a Wi-Fi power-off button and LED on/off control on the router.
Specifications of the NETGEAR R8000 Nighthawk X6
- 802.11ac Tri-Band Gigabit
- AC3200 (600 + 1300 + 1300 Mbps)†
- Simultaneous Tri-Band WiFi - Tx/Rx 3x3 (2.4GHz) + 3x3 (5GHz) + 3x3 (5GHz)
- Beamforming+—Smart, signal-focusing technology boosts the speed,reliability, and range of your WiFi connections
- AC3200 Tri-Band WiFi
- WiFi Band 1: 600 Mbps @2.4GHz-256QAM
- WiFi Band 2: 1300 Mbps @5GHz
- WiFi Band 3: 1300 Mbps @5GHz
- Smart Connect intelligently selects the fastest WiFi for every device
- High powered amplifiers and six (6) high performance external antennas
- Implicit & Explicit Beamforming for 2.4 & 5GHz
- Powerful Dual-Core 1GHz processor with 3 offload processors
- Memory: 128 MB Flash and 256 MB RAM
- Two (2) USB ports: (1) USB 3.0 & (1) USB 2.0 port
- Customized free URL to set up personal FTP server
- VPN support—secure remote access
- Guest network access—separate & secure
- WiFi Protected Access® (WPA/WPA2—PSK)
- Double firewall protection (SPI and NAT)
- Denial-of-service (DoS) attack prevention
- 1GHz dual core porcessor with three offload processors
- 128 MB Flash and 256 MB RAM
- Dimensions: 11.63 x 8.92 x 2.14 in (295.5 x 226.8 x 54.5 mm)
- Weight: 2.43 lbs (1.1 kg)
- Two (2) USB ports: 1 USB 3.0 & 1 USB 2.0 port
- IEEE® 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz-256QAM support
- IEEE® 802.11 a/n/ac 5.0 GHz
- Five (5) 10/100/1000 (1 WAN and 4 LAN) Gigabit Ethernet ports
Some impressive features and specs, indeed. What makes the R8000 stand out from other options, though? Find out on page 2.
What Makes the Nighthawk X6 So Different
Besides the fact that this router is packed full of basically every router feature NETGEAR offers, there are some unique aspects to it that make it special.
- Tri-Band WiFi: This router has three wireless bands: one for 2.4 GHz, and TWO for 5 GHz.
- High powered amplifiers and 6 antennas
- USB 3.0, which many routers don't offer
- Dual=Core 1 GHz processor; a TON of power for a router, and more than many smartphones, in fact
- Beamforming, which optimizes performance of wireless devices based on their relative location to the router
- Smart Connect, which separates your 5 GHz devices between the two 5 Ghz bands to further optimize performance
What's it like to own a NETGEAR R8000 Nighthawk?
In a word: great. For purposes of writing this review, I have left the R8000 with the stock NETGEAR firmware, although a DD-WRT firmware is also available currently.
This router is rock solid stable with the latest firmware updates. It has not gone down, dropped wireless connections, or otherwise had so much as a hiccup for weeks now. With the exception, of course, of a recent power outage, it has not had to be rebooted.
In my home, we have quite a few devices, and all can connect simultaneously with no noticeable degradation in performance (2 smartphones, 3 tablets, 2 laptops, a high powered desktop, an Ouya, a PS Vita, a Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3, XBOX 360, Kindle, etc.)
Logging into the router and navigating the firmware is expectedly snappy, given the processing power of the internal chip. There are no standout changes to the interface from the R7000 or other NETGEAR routers I've used recently, but this is OK by me -- it works.
Pros and Cons
There's a lot to love about the R8000, but I think it's worth noting some downsides first.
- The recent firmware updates are a must. When I first set up the router, I did experience some wireless connection issues. With the latest updates, these vanished completely and it works like a dream.
- The size. It's damn big. This might be a con for some people. With the 6 antennas fully deployed it looks like it's about to take off and jet around your living room. I dig this, but then again, I'm a huge nerd.
- The price. You will pay to have the best. This is by no means a cheap router, but for larger homes and for those who demand the fastest performance, it's worth it.
Some of the pros to the NETGEAR R8000:
- Ultimate performance. I've seen better performance from this router than any other router I've used, from NETGEAR or otherwise. Today, while connected to a VPN out of my state, I'm seeing 42 Mbps... on wireless. That's insane. Without the VPN, I can max out my ISP's speeds at 60 Mbps, again on 5 GHz wireless. This is equivalent to the speeds I achieve on Ethernet! Plus, it handles a large number of devices connected at the same time with ease, making it perfect for large (or techincally minded) homes.
- Features. You won't ever use all the features it has, most likely. You want it, the R8000 has it: parental controls, beamforming, VPN support, FTP support, supreme power, the list goes on.
- Upgradeable: DD-WRT has already been released, with a variety of versions sure to come soon.
One final con I forgot to mention, but is actually the most important to me. The R8000, like other NETGEAR routers, does not have built in PPTP or OpenVPN support. This means that, without changing to DD-WRT, I am left with using my desktop or mobile clients for my personal VPN. I hope that in the future, NETGEAR finds a way to support popular VPN protocols built-in to their routers -- this is router firmware done right!
The R8000 is an excellent router, not without its cons, but the best router I have ever owned or used.
Is it right for you? Well, it depends. If you're not the super-technical type or have simple networking needs, then probably not -- it's pricey, and way more than you need. If your home Internet speed is limited, you likely won't see much benefit from the R8000's features, unless you depend heavily on network streaming.
However, if you have a medium to large sized home, with lots of devices, and plenty of Internet speed, the R8000 will almost definitely be a worthy addition (or upgrade) to your home network.