Nighthawk x8

R8500_Black1_NA_Front_HiRes

A huge thank you goes out to NETGEAR for sponsoring this review with sending me a test unit of the enthusiast brand Nighthawk router. This review will be unbiased and honest from beginning to end. Having tested lately other gaming routers, and previously using a x6, I am accustomed to understanding what these routers are marked and used for. The NETGEAR Nighthawk x8 also known as the AC5300 and 8500 models, stands out to be the best of gaming routers to date.

WiFi Band Simultaneous Tri-Band WiFi – Tx/Rx 4×4 (2.4GHz) + 4×4 (5GHz) + 4×4 (5GHz)
Beamforming Implicit & Explicit Beamforming for 2.4 & 5GHz bands
Number of Ethernet Ports Seven (7) 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet ports: 1 WAN & 6 LAN
Dual Gigabit Ethernet Port Aggregation
Number of USB Ports Two (2) USB ports: 1 USB 3.0 & 1 USB 2.0 port
Key Features Smart Connect intelligently selects the fastest WiFi band for every device
Load Balancing distributes WiFi devices ensuring usage of both 5GHz WiFi bands
MU-MIMO capable—simultaneous streaming of data for multiple devices
Eight (8) high performance antennas with high-powered amplifiers
Four (4) external Active Antennas enhance weak signals and reduce interference for best WiFi performance (patent pending)
Dynamic QoS prioritizes network traffic by application & device
ReadyCLOUD USB Access—Personal & secure cloud access to USB storage anytime, anywhere
ReadySHARE Vault—PC software for automatic backup to USB hard drive connected to the router
DLNA server to find & play your media on TVs & game consoles
VPN support—secure remote access to your home network & Internet
Enhanced Parental Controls to manage web filtering & accessibility by profiles or devices
NETGEAR genie home network manager includes remote access to manage your network away from home
Security 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
Processor Powerful dual core 1.4GHz processor
Memory 128 MB Flash and 512 MB RAM
Physical Specifications Dimensions: 12.44 x 10.39 x 2.40 in (316 x 264 x 61 mm)
Weight: 3.70 lb (1680 g)
Package Content Nighthawk X8 AC5300 Router (R8500)
Ethernet cable
Quick install guide
Power adapter
Standards Two (2) USB ports: 1 USB 3.0 & 1 USB 2.0 port
IEEE 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz 1024QAM support
IEEE 802.11 a/n/ac 5GHz1024QAM support
Seven (7) 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet ports: 1 WAN & 6 LAN

nighthawkx8-top

The NETGEAR Nighthawk x8 is literally huge. Physically it is 12.44 x 10.39 x 2.40 in. Its weight is nearly 4 lbs at 3.70 lb’s. Unpacking the unit you can tell how well it was designed by its feature sets. This router is one of the first second generation wireless AC routers to date. This is what we like to call wave 2 of wireless AC. Instead of using the older 3×3 antennas this beast packs a 4×4 configuration. With four internal antennas and 4 external antennas. This will allow the router to amplify the antennas reducing signal loss and crosstalk with modern PCB’s. Each radio is given a 5 GHz channel at 2.1 Gbps compared to last gen 1.3 Gbps. The 2.4 Ghz channel is increased from 600 Mbps to 1Gbps. Whats great about these channels is the Nighthawks ability to use a feature called smart connect. This essentially chooses the best channel automatically for your devices.

One of the huge features that make the Nighthawk x8 so unique is its support for MU-MIMO technology. This stands for Multi-User Multiple-Input Multiple-Output. This basically is what we have seen in previous 80211 N routers, but improves using multiple channels. NETGEAR has created the industries first active antenna. They achieved this by moving the amplifier’s to the top of the antennas vs having them on the motherboard.

Another great feature of this router is the six LAN port’s provided on the unit. This can be useful for great features like Link Aggregation which allows multiple units connected to the router to go beyond gigabit.

The  rear ports consist of the above 6 LAN ports, on/off switch, and reset switch. On the side there is one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port. The front has push-button support for WI-FI, LED’S, and the WPS button.

The feature set is rich with promise. In addition to the features listed above, NETGEAR’S beam forming technology is included, DLNA support, Dynamic QoS, and support for ready cloud devices.

To setup and use this device couldn’t be easier. I especially enjoy how easy the firmware was to use. They have basic options for easy setup, or more advanced options for customers who know what settings to configure themselves. You can even run your own speed tests right from within the interface. One major selling point for enthusiasts is the ability for custom firmware support. Netgear doesn’t officially support custom firmware options, but for the courageous customers who are interested in things like DDWRT, there is firmware available for this unit. As always just be sure to use the latest firmware from Netgear as previous firmware’s have been known to be unstable with the new beam-forming and active antennas.Basic_Dynamic_QoS

To test this device I used a gaming PC running windows 10 Pro 64-bit, XBOX ONE, PS3, three tablets, and three iPhones. You have to remember that you are limited to your internet connection, but I was only able to achieve  50 percent saturation. This is great because I was still not able to over saturate my network which means the Nighthawk was doing its job. Even with all these devices I only came close to half the routers performance.The Unit was able to fully saturate the speed of my bandwidth as well. Here in a speed test I received 100 percent of my current Time Warner connection.

Test

I was able to reach these speeds in every room. Anyone with a standard size home will have no issue with WiFi at any given point. With the smart antennas sharing out bandwidth, your major bandwidth hungry devices will always get the faster speeds and less congested Channels first.

The Nighthawk x8 8500 sells for $ 349 on Amazon. This is definitely a great price for the performance you get from both the software , firmware, and hardware of the unit. If you want only the best then this router definitely performs top-notch. Gaming on this router is a dream, and still has plenty to offer beyond that. There is plenty of room for bandwidth and your games and devices will love you for it.

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Nighthawk x8

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