NETGEAR NightHawk X6 Review: the End-All Router

We all know wireless isn't the most reliable thing ever made. Well, not anymore!

Disclaimer: Review unit of the NightHawk X6 provided by NETGEAR.

I am a sort of elitist when it comes to network and PC hardware. I am a firm believer of the solid wire, it cannot be beaten. At least I thought I was. Yes, I still have my PC hard-wired in, but it's no longer required, if I so choose.

May I introduce the wireless router to conquer them all, the NETGEAR NightHawk X6.

If you are unsure why, I am going to break it down now.

Why all wireless routers before this are terrible

Most wireless routers before this one have had one channel. It sends all of its traffic through this one channel. You can go buy a wireless router with an insanely fast channel all day long and it will never speed up your network. The reason for this is simple: the channel always slows itself to the speed of the slowest device connected. Yes, that very first iPod with WiFi that has sat around your house is making your entire wireless network slow.

Not only this, a channel can become overwhelmed. Imagine having a bunch of friends over, they all have phones, every single one that connects slows the router even more.

Why the NightHawk X6 trumps this

I caught an email at a glance one day and saw NightHawk X6. It was like the heavens opened up and started singing to me. I knew it immediately, my wireless woes were going to end!

Don't start thinking I'm just over hyping this router. I understand the limitations of wireless as I expressed above. I have found some articles around claiming common misconceptions from consumers thinking that this router will allow a full 3.2Gbps of speed to one device. No. It does not work that way and I know this. The max speed you could possibly get from it on one device is 1.3Gbps, unless you have Google Fiber, you can't even come close to using all that bandwidth.

The NightHawk X6 has 3 independent channels, one at 2.4GHz (up to 600Mpbs) and two at 5GHz (both up to 1.3Gbps). The 2.4GHz channel acts as the slow channel. There is a mid tier 5GHz channel that runs everything up to wireless n. Then there is the god channel, the wireless-ac 5GHz channel. This is where you will see the most impressive stats. Wireless-ac is the newest addition to the family of wireless protocols. It provides a huge upgrade to top speeds and range. The range being the most impressive in my opinion.

The NightHawk X6 also sports its very own processor and RAM that intelligently handles the traffic, sending the correct devices to their best possible channel. This guarantees that your wireless network will not be bottlenecked by any device.

Let's do some speed tests

PC - Cat6 Gigabit Ethernet

(Ping of 15ms)

This is just so you have a point of reference. This is the standard, this is what we are trying to beat.

Phone - Samsung Galaxy S3

This phone is not capable of handling wireless-ac, so I have connected it to the slow channel. This slow channel isn't anymore impressive than my old router, it just seems more stable to me.

Tablet - Samsung Galaxy Tab 4

This is capable of handling wireless-ac, streaming source quality Twitch streams while sitting on my back porch, oh how I love it. While I'm at it, can I just praise Samsung real quick for this awesome Galaxy Tab 4, way better than my iPad was.

So, here's the test results.

Way to knock that hardwired smirk right off my face NETGEAR. Well played, well played.

Yes everyone, you are actually looking at a tablet running faster download speeds wirelessly than my gaming PC does when hardwired directly into the network. Seriously NETGEAR, you've destroyed my world, I don't know what to do anymore.

It is only a difference of about 1Mbps, which has almost no noticeable effect on performance, but I still think that is amazing.

It's important to note that I did the speed tests at a practical range. I didn't cheat by just standing directly next to the router. If I do that, my Galaxy S3 will actually peak around 35Mbps. You don't see much improvement from proximity on the Tab 4 because it is already tapping the full potential of my internet connection with Verizon.

What about the range?

This absolutely blows my mind. I read reviews of the router on Newegg and I saw quite a few mentioning how insane the range is. When someone says "I had to walk to the end of my street to lose connection," you would expect them to just be exaggerating, right? Welp, they weren't. In fact I don't think they gave it enough credit.

I had to walk 5 houses down (or 6 if you count the other side of the street) to the end of my street before the routers signal finally died off.

Here's a screenshot of Google Maps I took so I could demonstrate the distance we are talking about here. The red box, yeah, that is where the router is and from this point, I would have still been connected.

I would say that it is about the same distance as a city block. I checked with Google Maps and it is telling me about 500ft. 500ft of range from a wireless router... To put that into perspective for you, it would cost you well over $100 to get a 500 foot long ethernet cable.

What's funny is, Cat6 ethernet has a max range of 328ft (100m), they just sell rolls of ethernet cable for wholesale prices. You would need a repeater to push ethernet up to 500ft. You do need to keep in mind that Ethernet at 300ft would not cause much effect on performance, 300ft away from the NightHawk and you see a pretty significant difference in speeds.

Once I reached the full range, just before it cuts out, I did a speed test and found it would barely tap 1Mbps, but that's not the point! It feels like I have my very own cell tower.

Ratings

8/10 for the non tech savvy

There are only two reasons why I only give it an 8 here.

First, the price. It's $300, I assume a large majority of consumers out there will not be willing to shell out that kind of money for a router. Though, you should still consider it because it is actually worth the money. You can finally tell Verizon (or whoever your ISP is) that you don't need their terrible router.

Second, you need to be pretty knowledgable to get the full 'umph' out of the router. Let's face it, networking is complicated. If you don't know the ins and outs, you will probably have trouble fully installing this router. The main reason for myself having issues was because of how Verizon has initially set up my network.

There is the box outside where the fiber optic cable comes in. In this box, it's converted over to a Multimedia Coax cable (MoCA). The MoCA then goes inside and up to my router closet. The MoCA then needs to be converted into ethernet with a modem. Verizon decided to come out with a router that also doubles as the modem. This is where the problems happen. Because the Verizon router has to also be my modem, I cannot cut it out of the picture. This means I cannot fully utilize the X6's ability to automatically choose the channel for each device.

I found this graphic that Verizon provides to explain it. You can see why there are some advantages to using MoCA. All the services provided by Verizon can be carried over that one wire, I believe phone service even runs through this cable now (I might be wrong).

What I have done then is make the two strong channels its own wireless access point and then the slow channel another. 

My point being, the advantages of the router are at least somewhat dependent upon your wallet and your knowledge. This is its only weakness.

Rating for the tech enthusiasts - 10/10

If you are a tech enthusiast like myself and know what you are doing, this is the router for you.

If you find that your router gets bogged down often, especially if you have a crowded house with lots of devices, this router will solve the problem.

I did some extra research just to be sure that I could say this. I am now confident in the following fact:

The NightHawk X6 is the best home wireless router

Thanks Jeremy, well said.

Our Rating
8
We all know wireless isn't the most reliable thing ever made. Well, not anymore!

Master O' Bugs

Hi everyone! I'm Brian Schaaf, keeper of bug reports and calmer of the GameSkinnians! I also play too many games. Lets play something, betcha I'll win.

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Published Dec. 12th 2014

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