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January 6, 2020 at 2:07 pm #5671UK SentinelModerator
Netgear Nighthawk WiFi Routers Comparison: R7000 vs R7000P vs X4 vs X4S vs X6 vs X6S vs X10
Producing mainly SOHO products (for Small Office / Home Office), Netgear is well known for their home WiFi routers, cable modems, Ethernet network switches, smart home devices and many more consumer electronics.
In this article we will focus on Netgear’s flagship WiFi product line, the Nighthawk wireless router models. Please note that the “Nighthawk” brand name is used also on other networking devices such as various combo “cable + wifi router” models, “combo DSL + wifi router” models etc. In this article we are focusing only on the standalone WiFi router devices.
Specifically, we will discuss, review and compare the following models:
Netgear Nighthawk R7000 (AC1900)
Netgear Nighthawk R7000P (AC2300)
Netgear Nighthawk X4 R7500v2 (AC2350)
Netgear Nighthawk X4S R7800 (AC2600)
Netgear Nighthawk X6 R8000 (AC3200)
Netgear Nighthawk X6S R8000P (AC4000)
Netgear Nighthawk X10 R9000 (AD7200)
Killer Features of all Nighthawk Models
Before starting to discuss each model individually, let’s first see the most important features and technical specs included in (almost) all models that make the Nighthawk product line a best-buy option for home and office networks.
WiFi Standards Supported
All Nighthawk models are using the newest WiFi 802.11AC standard (with a minimum of dual-band AC1900 speed found on the R7000 device and maximum AC4000 and AD7200 found on the high-end devices).
Moreover, the fastest X10 (R9000) router is using also the high-performance 802.11AD standard which is the only one supporting multi-gigabit wireless speeds nowadays (at shorter ranges).
LAN Ethernet Ports Connectivity
Another important hardware aspect you need to consider is the wired port options available. Although we are talking about wireless routers here (most user devices will be connected via WiFi), it’s important to have plenty of wired LAN ports as well.
To these wired ports you can connect for example your smart TV, a network printer, a game console, a desktop workstation computer which does not have wireless card etc. So yes, having several LAN wired ports is very useful.
All Nighthawk routers are equipped with at least 4 LAN Gigabit Ethernet ports (10/100/1000 Mbps) offering therefore plenty of ports for gigabit wired connections.
The flagship X10 R9000 router has 6 gigabit ports and you can use 2 of them for Link Aggregation. This will create a bundle port with 2 Gbps bandwidth capacity which is needed for fast 4K HD video streaming from a locally attached storage device.
This is another excellent hardware feature which is available on Nighthawk routers. All models have two USB ports (either USB2.0 or USB3.0) meaning that you can connect a USB hard drive full of content (photos, videos, documents etc) ready to be shared across the whole WiFi network in the home.
Moreover, you can have a hard disk with large storage connected to this USB port and serving as the backup storage for the whole family. Imagine being on your laptop working on an important document. You can just copy the document both locally on the laptop and save also a copy to the shared backup USB drive over the network.
Processing Power (CPU etc)
Starting with the dual-core 1Ghz CPU of the R7000 model and ending with the Quad-core 1.7Ghz CPU of the high-end X10 R9000, the Nighthawk devices are among the most powerful wireless routers in the market. Their CPUs include the popular Broadcom chipsets and also the Qualcomm IPQ8065 on the R7800.
Powerful WiFi Antennas
The Nighthawk line is equipped with high-power amplified external antennas (ranging from 3 to 6 antennas) that’s why they can cover large homes with ease.
DFS Channel Support
Two models (the X4S and X10) support also DFS channels (Dynamic Frequency Selection) which allows the router to use some special frequency channels in the 5Ghz band in order to avoid interference. These special channels are allocated for Radar use and are not used by other WiFi routers, therefore interference is minimized on your own router at the 5Ghz band. This is especially useful if you live in a wireless crowded area and you get a lot of interference from neighbors etc.
Moreover, the X10 is the only one using Active Antennas. This type of antenna has an active WiFi amplifier inside the antenna itself (at the top of the antenna precisely) in order to boost signal even further and avoid interference and signal loss. The other models have the antenna amplifier inside the router motherboard.
MU-MIMO stands for Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output. Not all Netgear router models support MU-MIMO as you can see from the comparison table above, however most of them do.
In layman’s terms, routers supporting MU-MIMO serve traffic to multiple devices concurrently (at the same time) while routers without MU-MIMO send and receive traffic to one device at a time.
In the multitasking world we live today, users in home networks do many activities at the same time. Some members in your family will be streaming video while some others might be playing online games or just browsing the web.
With MU-MIMO you will get a huge increase in performance boost for all your gaming, streaming or browsing activities on the Internet.
Beamforming is a feature of the new 802.11ac wifi standard and is fully supported by the Nighthawk wireless routers.
In normal wifi communication, the router emits its signal uniformly throughout the area. With beamforming, the router scans the wireless network to find and understand the clients connected to it and sends directional signals to the clients. This means better WiFi performance (throughput), extended coverage in the area, more stable WiFi connection etc.
This feature is disabled by default for a good reason. There are some discussions out there that it causes some performance problems and many experts recommend this to be disabled. However, I wanted to include this as one of the useful and important specs of Netgear routers.
Basically there are either 2 bands (2.4 Ghz and 5Ghz) or 3 bands (one 2.4 and two 5Ghz frequencies) in wifi AC networks. If you have Smart Connect disabled, then your wireless devices (smartphones, laptops etc) will see 2 or 3 different SSIDs (one for each band) – (the SSID is the WiFi network name). This means you will have to connect manually to the SSID you want (and you have to know the password for each SSID as well).
With SmartConnect enabled, you can configure the same SSID name and password for all radio bands. Therefore, your home devices will see only one SSID name (and use only one password). The router will negotiate with the device and decide to which radio band the device will connect without user intervention.
Netgear suggests to use Dynamic QoS if your internet speed connection is 250Mbps or lower. This feature enables Quality of Service (QoS) for time critical applications like voice traffic, video streaming traffic and online gaming. Other types of traffic like browsing, file download, torrenting etc, get lower priority when competing with latency sensitive applications.
Let’s say that a user in your network is downloading a very big file from a torrent website. Another user is watching Netflix or communicates with Skype voice. If the torrenting user takes up all the available bandwidth then Netflix and Skype quality will suffer.
With dynamic QoS, the router identifies the different applications and gives priority (and also allocates more bandwidth) to the time sensitive applications like voice, video etc (thus Netflix and Skype will work better in our example above).
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