Netgear is synonymous with home and small business grade networking hardware. They are a fierce competitor to other brands producing top-of-the-line WiFi routers, but like in the Lord Of The Rings, there can only be one. The ONE might just be Netgear’s Nighthawk R7000 Gigabit WiFi router.
The company has taken a positive stance on what firmware can be flashed on their newest router. They are allowing the ability to install open-source software so that users can adjust and add future capabilities.Gigabit WiFi, as the Nighthawk includes, is orders of magnitude of an improvement over what many of us are using in our homes and offices today. Devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets with the 802.11ac specification built-in are finally being produced with more on the way.
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 802.11ac Extreme WiFi Router Unboxing
Netgear’s Nighthawk AC1900 Smart WiFi Router R7000 has a big name and is larger in physical size than most other WiFi routers on the market, weighing in at 1.6 pounds. The size helps to balance its large three external attachable antennas and provide a counterbalance to a fully connected router.
A larger case size is necessary as it includes the powerful dual-core 1GHz processor, 256MB of RAM and 128MB of flash memory. These great specs support up to 600Mbps at 2.4GHz and an extremely fast 1300Mbps at 5GHz.
Wireless devices that use the 2.4GHz WiFi radio band should see a good speed improvement with the R7000 as it supports 256-QAM or quadrature amplitude modulation over the normal 64-QAM. A considerable WiFi speed increase on the 5GHz band isn’t the only upgrade to this router. A much faster USB 3.0 port was added as well.
The USB 3.0 port on the front and USB 2.0 port on the back both support printer sharing and external storage. Netgear placed the faster USB port on the front to reduce interference with WiFi signals, while allowing faster USB 3.0 drives enough room to cool themselves. The USB 3.0 port is fast enough that it makes a dedicated Network Attached Storage or NAS drive somewhat unnecessary. Routers tend to run warm when in constant use and this model is no different.
Three large antennas on the back of the Nighthawk router support beam forming in the 5GHz radio. Beam forming technology is where both the router and client device figure out the best way to exchange signals. There are hints that Netgear may add some type of beam forming support to the R7000’s 2.4GHz range in a future update.
To take full advantage of the 802.11ac capabilities of the Nighthawk, a WiFi adapter that supports the same 802.11ac specification is required. Once an adapter is installed however, you can expect a significant increase in speed and range in the 5GHz mode over a standard 802.11n connection at 2.4GHz. The 5GHz radio band is better at dealing with interference and the R7000’s beam forming technology takes that a step further.
A Nighthawk AC1900 Smart WiFi router was tested in a standard router configuration and a second router was placed into bridge mode to stream video files from my media center. Streaming HD video to three devices on the 5GHz band from the media center, while streaming an additional video from the Internet yielded no lag.
I took the video test a step further by streaming a live show via two Nighthawk routers, one in bridge mode, while walking in between two floors. The bandwidth only dropped slightly and the perceived video quality did not adjust. Remotely controlling the live video stream resulted in faster adjustments than what I experienced with my previous 802.11n router at 5GHz.
Changing settings in the Netgear genie was easy with all details laid out in boxes and grids. Setting up FTP, DLNA media, OpenVPN and iTunes music servers can be completed in just a few clicks. Time Machine is used to backup Mac clients connected to this router. Windows PCs can backup through the Nighthawk via free ReadyShare Vault software from Netgear.
Quality of Service or QoS is a hot topic with WiFi routers because of their ability to prioritize the traffic going through it. The R7000 is capable of upstream and downstream QoS that’s not seen in many other routers. This router is able to properly assign traffic via its connection to a cloud-based registry of data types and services. Netgear involved Microsoft to better recognize Xbox video and game data and will continue to work with other device manufacturers to make their QoS the greatest for consumers.
The Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Smart WiFi R7000 router is simply the best I have ever tested or used in my complex setup with a range of wireless clients. If you are having any video-streaming issues, its downstream QoS may solve all of them. Anyone with an 802.11n WiFi router should definitely upgrade to the Nighthawk. Future firmware releases may add even more compelling features like beam forming in the 2.4GHz band. At $200 from online retailers, this is a great buy.
- Beam forming improved performance & range
- Large external antennas and amplifies extend range even further
- Downstream QoS worked extremely well
- Open-source firmware compatible
- Super fast USB 3.0 port for external storage
- Reboot process takes abnormally long
- Bridge mode could be easier to setup
- New 802.11ac adapters are required to take full advantage of speed & range
Disclaimer: Two Netgear Nighthawk 7000 routers were provided for review. Photos are courtesy of Netgear. This review has been written in an objective and unbiased fashion.