Netgear's AC1900 router, the R7000 Nighthawk, has been well-received by the market. Since that launch, the 802.11ac market has seen a number of announcements from chipset vendors. While Qualcomm Atheros and Quantenna were busy launching 802.11ac Wave 2 silicon, Broadcom seemed to be lagging behind. In April, they launched 5G Wi-Fi XStream a six stream 802.11ac MIMO platform, which was essentially two discrete 3x3 802.11ac radios. SemiAccurate saw through the marketing talk and called it out for what it really was. Despite seeing Asus demonstrate a model at Computex, I assumed that devices based on the platform would appear in the market in late Q3 or Q4.

Netgear is springing a nice surprise by launching the Nighthawk X6 (R8000) with Broadcom's 5G WiFi XStream platform today.

The R8000 is being marketed as a Tri-band router theoretically capable of delivering up to 3.2 Gbps of network throughput (600 Mbps in the 3x3 802.11n 2.4 GHz band, 1300 Mbps in the first 3x3 802.11ac 5 GHz band and another 1300 Mbps in the second 3x3 802.11ac 5 GHz band). The unit includes 6 antennae. Internally, the platform has the same host SoC as that of the R7000, the BCM4709 which sports a dual core Cortex-A9 processor running at 1 GHz. However, the radios have been updated to offload some of the workload, freeing up CPU cycles for other aspects. Netgear claims they are now able to get around 60 - 70 MBps over USB 3.0 (compared to 30 MBps in the R7000). The VPN client is also being talked up by Netgear in the R8000, signifying that it is going to perform substantially better than in the R7000. Like the R7000, the R8000 also comes with four GbE ports (in addition to the WAN port) and two USB ports (1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0).

Netgear's value adds on top of the 5G WiFi XStream platform include 'Smart Connect' - a feature through which client devices are allotted to a particular Wi-Fi channel depending on its characteristics and location - and load balancing - where newer clients are allotted a less busy channel if 'Smart Connect' decisions happen to overload one of the channels. Other aspects of Netgear's firmware include a comprehensive network storage feature set (with DLNA & AirPlay support, along with backup to a shared USB drive). Netgear also seems to have brought in a variant of the snapshotting feature of the ReadyNAS lineup into this router as the 'ReadySHARE VAULT' backup solution for devices running Windows.

The product is available for pre-order today, and will ship in early July. It is priced at $300. Consumers with a large number of Wi-Fi devices might be tempted to upgrade to the R8000, particularly if they are yet to hop on to the 802.11ac bandwagon. On the other hand, users who already have a 802.11ac router (and paid the premium to buy into a first / second generation product) might find it hard to justify a $300 upgrade - particularly when the platform doesn't have any of the important Wave 2 features such as MU-MIMO or 160 MHz usage with a single radio. Make no mistake, the R8000 does appear to solve problems arising from a large number of wireless clients in a practical manner. More importantly, it is available today (compared to Wave2 routers based on silicon from other vendors which are yet to hit the market). Is it worth the premium? That is for the market to decide. Readers, feel free to sound off in the comments section.

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  • Ipatinga - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    Someone help me here.

    This thing has two radios and each radio has three antennas, right? So the best possible simultaneous scenario is 3x3 AC + 3x3 AC, right?

    So, how can it be called AC3200? It should be AC1300+1300 or AC2600 (still misleading).... or somehow it is possible to run the 3x3 2.4GHz 11n while the other two ACs are running?

    I hate marketing teams...

    I will still wait for an AC Router with 3 or 4 streams, but WAVE 2.
  • SunLord - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    Its adding in the 600 Mbps it gets on 2.4GHz so the 3200AC is just marketing crap just like it is now for the AC1900 which is just 1300AC 5GHz with 600N on 2.4GHz add on
  • 0ldman79 - Saturday, July 19, 2014 - link

    Where are they getting 600mbps from 3x3? Isn't that4x4 numbers?
  • 0ldman79 - Saturday, July 19, 2014 - link
  • azazel1024 - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    Yes, it can do concurrent 2.4GHz and both 5GHz. The setup uses 3 antennas for one 5GHz radio and 3 antennas for the other 5GHz radio and the 2.4GHz. You can transmit more than one frequency over an antenna at the same time. The issue is when you start looking at mulitple frequencies close to each other than discrimination and stuff becomes an issue.

    In theory it can link and do 600Mbps on 2.4GHz and 1300Mbps on both 5GHz at the same time.

    That said, if you had good connections that might be around ~1700Mbps net real payload between the 3 fuzzy chance you can do that unless it also include link aggregation as you are limited to the 1000Mbps of the wired gigabit port.

    That is something I'd like to see manufacturers start moving toward is link aggregation on these suckers. It is going to be sorely needed soon.

    As for how this works, XStream (since it isn't detailed here) basically allows the OEM to decide how to provision it or allow the end user to change provisioning. Basic idea behind it is one 5GHz radio works in the low channels and one works in the high channels and the router decides which devices to assign to which radio. It'll basically aggregate slower devices, like N150 and AC433 clients on one radio and aggregate the fast clients, like N300/450 and AC866/1300 clients on the other radio. This allows you to have additional bandwidth and because of the way Wifi works, it reduces the losses faster clients experience when there is a slower client connected on the same channel and working.

    Anyway, you can also set it up so that each 5GHz is a seperate SSID instead of letting the router pick and choose which device goes where and some other variations.

    It is a rather interesting idea, but it is not MU:MIMO. I'd be very curious to see if down the line any MU:MIMO routers actually adopt multiple 5GHz radios to be a melding of XStream and MU:MIMO. That said, a good implementation of MU:MIMO is likely to work a lot better than XStream and also obviate the real need for it.

    Still and all, link aggregation on higher end consumer routers please!!!
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    Thanks for getting more into the details :) The 1700 Mbps real-world throughput could be useful right away because of transfer within the internal network - from, say, a NAS on each of the 4x LAN ports to multiple mobile devices.
  • jdrch - Thursday, June 26, 2014 - link

    AFAIK link aggregation also requires client support.
  • azazel1024 - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    Oh, on the Link Aggregation, I realize that isn't a huge benefit to most users because if they are connecting to the internet, most users are going be in the tens or maybe low hundreds of Mbps at best and even connecting to a home server they are probably limited to the gigabit port on their home server or NAS.

    However, a few of us have more than a single gigabit port on their home server, plus storage that can handle well as mixing in going out to the internet at the same time and you have a scenario where >1,000Mbps on a LAN is very possible to accomplish and therefore 1,000Mbps single port on the router/Access Point is a real bottleneck.
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    There are a large number of link-aggregation capable switches in the market at a low price point. I remember purchasing a ZyXEL GS2200-24 couple of years back from Newegg. It is a 24-port managed GbE switch. At less than $200, it was a steal, and thankfully, it is still going strong.
  • 457R4LDR34DKN07 - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    It looks like nice router. $300 is too much unless you absolutely need 2 ac bands. I do like the appearance of this router better than the asus offering. I just upgraded from a netgear n900 to netgear r6300v2. The price of $80 is right for me. One thing that is sorely lacking is media bridges that can do 1300 ac. I ended up getting a Linksys WUMC710 for $40 which works like a cham. The closest I can find is a trendnet but that tops out at 867 mbs.

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