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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  • SUOrangeman - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    I have a two-level home with no decent wiring throughout. I am currently using one DD-WRT WNDR-3700 as my main router connected directly to my FiOS router (only using FiOS router to provide Ethernet) and a second DD-WRT WNDR-3700 in my home office on the other end of a 100ft CAT6 cable. The office router handles all of the wireless traffic.

    I'd really like a solution that would allow me to stream HD video wirelessly to rooms that currently have no connectivity (not even coax) as well as extending my wireless range. I was initially considering replacing everything with R7000s and adding one or two more R7000s. Perhaps with multiple 5GHz connections, I may want one R8000 as the main distribution router and R7000s as wireless bridge endpoints and range extenders. Ideally, I'd finally move to TiVo Roamio and TiVo Minis ... connecting them wirelessly via AC1300. I'd even like to go one step better by isolating the video devices on one VLAN, perhaps building up a home automation environment on another VLAN, while maintaining a true Internet-connected VLAN. (Yes, I realize that some of those "isolated" video and home automation devices will require a little Internet access, so routing tricks will have to be used.)

    Now, if I were only ready to spend a thousand dollars or two to make this all happen. (:
  • 457R4LDR34DKN07 - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    FWIW I used a ceton infinitv4 & echo wireless over n wifi 450mbs with minimal issues. The TiVo Roamio is nice but with a subscription costly. What your trying to do may be cheaper than you think...
  • SUOrangeman - Thursday, June 26, 2014 - link

    I currently have the HDHomeRun Prime and two Xbox 360s as extenders, with that same 100ft cable between the tuner and the Windows Media Center PC where I maintain the recordings. While this solution works for me, I think the Roamio+Minis configuration (all with lifetime subscriptions; not doing monthlies) is a bit easier for the family (wife, kids, visiting family and friends). I just don't have the wiring infrastructure currently in place, so I'm willing to investigate using wireless to distribute the content.
  • tokyojerry - Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - link

    I was thinking of ordering this product. I currently use Apple's latest Airport Extreme which has the 802.11ac protocol. The reason for considering this Netgear Nighthawk R8000 was to function as a signal booster or extender to my front room. The signal sometimes becomes weak or lose a connection to the AirPort Extreme which is in another room in the house. There are no interfering walls and I am separated by about 10-15 meters in the living room to where the AirPort Extreme is located. It's an all Mac environment with a MacBook Pro retina, MacBook Air, Macmini, and a couple iPad airs.

    Would getting this router be overkill just to get a better signal in the living room? Or, is it better I wait a bit longer until new offerings come out in the fall? After reading some of the comments posted here, they seem to be less the positive for this product and also being defined as an overpriced router.

    Thanks in advance.
  • oloap88 - Saturday, July 19, 2014 - link

    not sure what is the use of two separate radios, especially since i see no devices around with 11ac standard yet.
    link aggregation is no easy thing to do and i don't really see the need for home grade devices, not many people can afford or want to run enterprise grade equipements at home and i dont really see this changing anytime soon.
    people who does need it will use enterprise grade networking equipments (as i do), moreover if you have complexity in your network you do not want an AIO device like this..
    I personally use a 24p cisco 3750 as core switch and an IBM X server as a VMware host (both used ofc!), a cisco 2800 series as a firewall and various cheap n AP on each floor.
    tbh i could get rid of the router but i don't want to overload the switch.
    this is to say i wouldn't go for this if i relly needed performance, and i guess i spent 300/400 for all this stuff on ebay..

    Don't get fooled by the stealthy look, imho is still consumer crap...
  • dhenderson002 - Thursday, May 28, 2015 - link

    This router is amazing. It is constantly switching devices around on the 2 5ghz chanels in order to make sure everything is running as fast as possible. I used to download a video game in 8 hours. I now do it in 1. Netflix used to lag and stop and start. Now it runs smoothly. To stream a rental or purchased movie from iTunes used to take a minimum of 30 minutes for the initial load. The movies now start in about a minute and run flawlessly.

    I do recommend that if you are using an Apple TV, do not upgrade the firmware to version After the upgrade, Netflix on the apple TV would abruptly knock me back to the menu screen when watching an episode of a show. Stick with firmware version It works flawlessly with no issues I have detected. I upgraded and then switched back.

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