Just a few years ago, a Wi-Fi connection needed to support only a few devices. For each person in the house, it normally included 1 computer and perhaps a phone or tablet. But enter modern day where almost anything can be connected to the ‘net. For example in my house, I have an XBox One, a Samsung Smart TV, Apple TV, Roku 3 plus my new Nest thermostat and Belkin WeMo accessories that make my home “smart”.
These connected devices mean at any point in time, I have up to 20 little machines accessing the network even when I’m not on my computer or phone using the Internet. My Comcast cable modem has a wireless router built in to it, but I’ve found issues with it. With dropped connections and needing to be reset constantly, it shows its weakness. Also, even though it’s an 802.11n router, the wireless range of it is weak at best.
This is why today I take a look at the NETGEAR Nighthawk X6. Let’s analyze this beast and see how it stacks up against the 2015 modern-day household.
Unboxing and first impressions
At first glance, the Nighthawk X6 looks like a hovering bug out of a sci-fi movie. It’s slick black design is dominated by 6 pop-out antennas that swivel out from the top. You can arrange these antennas for optimum signal quality. The rectangular chassis isn’t ugly by any means but it might turn some folks off if you desire to put this in an area of your house where it’ll be seen. However, it is a router though, so function should be over form, right?
On the insides of the Nighthawk X6 you’ll find a dual-core 1Ghz processor, 128mb of flash memory and 256mb of RAM, meaning this router is built to handle the load of your wireless networking needs. The Nighthawk X6 supports network speeds up to 600Mbps on the 2.4Ghz signal and up to 1,300 Mbps on the 5Ghz band. Also, I should mention that the Nighthawk supports 2 5Ghz bands to load-balance heavy-need devices such as tablets watching Netflix movies.
On the back of the Nighthawk X6 you’ll find every connection type you’ll need including a USB 2.0 and 3.0, both of which support printers and external hard drives. There’s also a WAN port and 4 LAN Ethernet ports. The Nighthawk X6 weighs about 1.6 pounds and is kind of large with the antennas extended. In my house, I have the Nighthawk X6 on top of my entertainment center, where it is positioned to broadcast the signal but it’s also out of sight.
Set up and install
I like to say that a consumer electronics company has nailed set up only if they’ve made it so easy that my mom could set up a new piece of hardware without calling me. In Netgear’s case, they’ve nailed it. The Nighthawk X6 comes with color diagrams of what cables to plug in where on the router. When you first turn on the Nighthawk, the Netgear Genie software suite guides you through setting up the router for you.
For advanced users who want to set your own WAN DNS server, enable a SAN or forward ports, of course this is easy, but for the less tech inclined, Netgear has made it easy for you too.
As the Netgear Nighthawk X6 has 3 wireless networks it can use (1 2.4Ghz and the 2 4Ghz ones), this can be very confusing to anyone trying to connect or configure this router. Netgear has built Smart Connect for that reason. Enable this setting in the NETGEAR Genie setup and it combines the 2 Ghz networks in to one and smartly decides which particular network is right for your device. I’ve tested this mode and it’s surprisingly smart.
Range and Performance
My biggest gripe with wireless routers typically is range. I want to be able to use my MacBook Pro and mobile devices throughout my house without having to worry about the signal dropping out. To set context, my house is 2,100 square feet and is 2 floors.
So, I have a moderate sized but not huge house. On the opposite side of the ground floor is my office and in that room is a Roku 3. My existing wireless router, the one in my Comcast router cannot serve this Roku 3 and therefore my ability to watch ESPN and Netflix in that room is limited.
However, with the Netgear Nighthawk X6, these worries don’t exist. Those powerful antennas make me able to stream to that room with NO issue and no drop outs. It’s amazing. And as I roam round my house with My MacBook Pro, there are no areas of my house where I can’t conduct a video call on Skype or Lync with no issue.
I also have a Nest thermostat, Sonos music system set up and WeMo lights set up around my house. With all this usage along with my daughters’ Kindle Fire tablets, we never have an issue streaming or playing games.
So, as advertised, the Nighthawk X6 is our perfect at-home wireless router capable of supporting my smart home and my smart devices.
In trialing the Netgear Nighthawk X6, I sought a wireless router that could put up with my heavy data usage throughout my house and could deliver video to multiple devices simultaneously. I wanted a router that was technically able to perform but was also easy to set up without the need to be rebooted every few days.
The Nighthawk X6 has exceeded my expectations. It was super-easy to get up and running and has been a flawless performer in the weeks following its installation.
Currently the Netgear Nighthawk X6 is available on Amazon for about $277. If you’re looking for a solid performing wireless router for your demanding needs – be sure to check it out!
Disclosure: This Netgear Nighthawk X6 was provided for consideration of this review by Netgear. I received no compensation for this post but the router was provided for this review.
Thanks to Netgear for facilitating my ability to review the Netgear Nighthawk X6!