I am a NETGEAR Ambassador and I received this product in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion and review.
How old is your home WiFi setup? If it’s more than two years old, it’s probably time to replace it. The quality of home WiFi gear has been increasing dramatically. Isn’t it time to have WiFi that doesn’t suck?
NETGEAR’s Nighthawk X6 AC3200 (R8000) home WiFi router ups the WiFi arms race by putting three WiFi radios into a fully featured home access point (AP). The result is a WiFi AP that claims to provide a total transfer speed of up to 3.2 Gigabits per second.
Isn’t all WiFi created equal? Definitely not.
How fast is your WiFi?
The original WiFi standard was 802.11b and ran at speeds of up to 10 megabits a second. The standards have evolved and with the latest 802.11ac specifications, WiFi can theoretically go up to 1.3 gigabits per second. Your old WiFi access point at home probably only operates on the 2.4GHz radio spectrum, also known as WiFi channels 1 to 11. This frequency has been used by WiFi for about 15 years and it’s also shared with Bluetooth, some wireless speaker systems, microwave ovens, and ancient cordless phones.
Newer (and better) WiFi access points have 2 radios, supporting the original WiFi channels but also giving you access to WiFi over 5Ghz.
Does that make sense or did I lose you? I know that was a lot of numbers so here’s an analogy.
Old WiFi is Like a Freeway at Rush Hour
Think about it this way: 2.4Ghz is like the freeway at rush hour. It’s junked up with everyone-and-their-mother and a bunch of them are going incredibly slow and ruining it for everyone. The 5GHz WiFi bands are very quiet and pristine, even in places like Manhattan. Chances are that your neighbor doesn’t have 5GHz WiFi.
Using the freeway analogy, 5GHz is the freeway that just opened and most people haven’t found it yet.
If your home WiFi gear doesn’t support 802.11n, you should throw it in the trash immediately. If it supports 802.11n and is more than a couple of years old, it may be worth replacing it with one that supports dual-radios and 802.11ac.
Why You Need 802.11ac WiFi
The new 802.11ac standard improves speeds on 5Ghz and is also helping to put 5Ghz WiFi radios into more and more consumer devices like the iPhone 5 and 6, the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, and S5, and more and more Windows devices.
NETGEAR’s R8000 Access Point supports the 802.11ac standard and has 1 Radio on 2.4GHz, and 2 on 5Ghz. This allows you to support older 2.4Ghz WiFi devices and gives you two 4-lane freeways on the pristine 5GHz spectrum.
Better Bandwidth and Steaming Capabilities via NETGEAR R8000
More bandwidth for better streaming and online game playing. The R8000 is aimed at people who need lots of bandwidth within their house for applications like multiple-users of streaming HD content or multiple people playing online games. The two 5GHz radios are a bit excessive for many homes, but for gamers and bandwidth hogs, there should be plenty of bandwidth to go around.
Better bandwidth comes from the ability to send multiple streams of data. Another important feature of the R8000 is that all of the radios are “4 stream radios,” meaning that they can theoretically send up to 4 sets of data to the same WiFi client at the same time. While there aren’t any 4-stream clients available on the market currently, the 4th stream can also be used for beam-forming, a technique to improve coverage and speed to compatible WiFi clients.
More ports for more devices. In addition to the 3 WiFi radios, there are 4 gigabit ethernet ports on the router to connect your wired devices. There is also a USB 3 port that can be connected to a USB hard drive to be shared on the network.
NETGEAR R8000 Features
The configuration and setup of the R8000 is extremely simple thanks to NETGEAR Genie. The screens are well organized and after logging in, the main screen displays a quick status of the local and ISP networks as well as status of wired and wireless devices. NETGEAR Genie can be used to set up home wifi via a mobile app (iOS or Android) or a web browser.
The Genie software features include an integration with OpenDNS for parental controls. You can easily monitor, connect & control their home network from a PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone. There is also a setting to enable a Guest Network so that guests to your house can get on the WiFi, but can’t get access to your home network and connect/browse your local devices.
There is also an ability to do traffic limiting and monitor your monthly usage. Depending on your internet provider, this can be extremely useful to make sure you don’t run over a monthly bandwidth cap.
If you need to access your files remotely, the router also hosts its own VPN service. You can use an OpenVPN client on your laptop to connect back to your home router and gain access to your home network while on the road.
Once you hook a USB hard drive to the R8000’s USB3 port, the R8000 can be a DLNA streaming media server or an iTunes music server. You can also back up all of your home computers to the shared network drive, including Macs. The R8000 is TimeMachine compatible, an important subject if you have Macs in the house.
Real World Speed Tests (aka how fast IS it?)
So can you really get 3.2Gigabits of WiFi on this router? No. It’s marketing. But buckle up because here are some numbers from some real world speed tests to demonstrate why you need to upgrade to the NETGEAR R8000!
The fastest WiFi laptops can do up to 1.3 gigs of WiFi with 5GHz 802.11ac on paper. Multiply that by 2 for the 2 5Ghz radios, and then add in the 2.4 GHz radio (theoretically up to 600 mbps) if you had a 4 stream 2.4Ghz client, and that is where NETGEAR gets the 3.2Gbps number.
So what can you really get? I hooked up 4 Macs to the R8000, two of them with brand new 802.11ac radios and put the R8000 to the test.
One Mac with 802.11ac was on the first 5Ghz radio. The other Mac with 802.11ac was on the second 5GHz radio. I ran a traffic generator between them to force each radio to perform at maximum speed. A third Mac was put on the 2.4Ghz WiFi radio, receiving traffic from a 4th Mac on the Gigabit Ethernet port on the NETGEAR Router.
I got approximately 450 megs of TCP throughput on each of the 5Ghz radios and 150 megs on the 2.4Ghz radio. Is this bad? No.
NETGEAR’s competitors won’t do any better than this. It’s the difference between “speeds up to ___” and “what you’ll actually see in real life.” This is a ton of bandwidth, over 1 gigabit of total real world TCP throughput. This shows how much WiFi has evolved over the years and why you should toss your old WiFi access point.
Why You Need NETGEAR R8000
The R8000 is the Humvee of home WiFi access points. It is packed with features and incredibly impressive hardware specs, and retails for approximately $279. If you want to separate gamers onto multiple 5Ghz radios, or keep the kids on their own 5Ghz channel away from your streaming video, this is the Access Point for you.
Whatever NETGEAR home WiFi router you choose, you’ll get an extremely powerful WiFi AP, gigabit home router, media server, and VPN concentrator that will put your old home router to shame.
Now aren’t you ready to upgrade?
I received the NETGEAR R8000 system through my involvement as a Netgear Ambassador. All opinions are my own. Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. Images courtesy of NETGEAR.