Netgear Nighthawk X6 Tri-Band Wi-Fi router

Netgear Nighthawk X6 Tri-Band Wi-Fi router

Bristling with six antennas and an industrial design big on angles and LEDs, Netgear's latest router looks fierce. It is touted as the first tri-band 802.11ac router in the market with an aggregate speed of 3,200Mbps.

Put simply, it means that this router supports three access points - a single 2.4GHz network supporting 802.11b/g/n devices (up to 600Mbps) for backward compatibility and two 5GHz networks (up to 1,300Mbps each) for the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard.

That is one 5GHz network more than the typical 802.11ac router. It also explains how Netgear derives the 3,200Mbps number - the company simply adds the maximum theoretical speeds for all three networks. But the highest theoretical speed provided by this router to a single 802.11ac client remains the same as that of its rivals.

The extra access point means that the X6 can support more 802.11ac clients. A Smart Connect feature claims to load balance the clients between the two access points so that connected devices get the best speeds.

But the 802.11ac standard is not yet widely adopted. So, unless you are operating a Wi-Fi hot spot catering only to 802.11ac devices, the extra network seems unnecessary.

In other words, the X6 is like the original Nighthawk, but with an extra access point. It even shares the design traits of its predecessor. But it has double the number of antennas. The ones on the X6 can also be folded inward to make it easier to carry or stow the router.

To keep the innards of the router cool, the top of the device has a mesh for ventilation. The router's motherboard was visible through the vents, so you should probably place it away from liquids.

The router has an abundance of LED indicators, which can really brighten a dark room. Most of them, thankfully, can be switched off using its Web interface, which appears mostly unchanged from older Netgear models.

It is user-friendly enough, with basic and advanced settings on separate tabs so as not to overwhelm users. While functional, the interface is not as attractive as those of competing routers.

In terms of features, the X6 is right up there with its rivals. From guest networks to parental controls, this router has got it all covered. It is the least you would expect from such an expensive device.

In my testing, download speed was around 260Mbps, which is about 50Mbps slower than the original Nighthawk, albeit with a different test laptop.

While this is packed with features, you are better off with Netgear's older 802.11ac routers unless you are one of the few early adopters with an abundance of 802.11ac devices.

This article was first published on September 17, 2014.
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