Netgear Nighthawk XR500
There was a time when if you wanted wireless internet or WiFi in your home you needed to connect a secondary router to the modem, that little box supplied your internet provider circa sometime in the 2000s. In the year 2019, connecting to an internet service – or in the case of this review, the NBN – installation and setup includes being provided with a router with inbuilt WiFi capabilities as standard.
So then, for companies like Netgear the question then becomes, why spend money on a second router – one that will handle all wired and wireless network activity? The answer to that of course is that compared to a standard router or box supplied the Netgear Nighthawk XR500 Gaming Router is designed to not only increase the range and strength of a WiFi signal so it can reach a wider space but also provide detailed tools and an intuitive interface that allows you to prioritise traffic across each device, and even enable geo-targeting so it only connects to local low-ping servers when gaming online.
Many routers on the market offer improvements over the cheaper or basic models supplied by ISPs, and advanced capabilities to monitor and manage traffic - where the Nighthawk XR500 excels is in its ease of use and just how intuitive it makes normally complicated networking concepts easy to understand. Thanks to the game-changing DumaOS the XR500 proves that the right software to match the right hardware can make all the difference.
Design and Features
With four antennas and an angular design the Netgear Nighthawk XR500 has that gaming look, a futuristic almost sci-fi design that is one-part high-tech do-dad and one-part spaceship about to go stealth and infiltrate the trenches of the Death Star. The size accommodates features both visible and underneath the hood, from five gigabit Ethernet ports (with one reserved for) to simultaneous Dual Band WiFi, support for 5GHz streaming, incredibly fast 2.6Gbps WiFi speeds (AC2600 rated), a dual-core processor, and even internal storage to house DumaOS and its apps.
The Dual Band WiFi of the XR500 not only means a smoother overall service when multiple devices are connected, and in the age of the smartphone this means it’s tech that has almost become a necessity, but it allows for the OS to offer the versatile tools that it does. The only area where out of the box that the XR500 seems to be lacking on that front is in the media department, with no built-in Plex or media server functionality – features that are limited to the higher end XR700 model. That said, the XR500 has clearly been designed as a router for gamers – from the look to the features, functionality, high-speed wireless capabilities and the custom DumaOS software that brings it all together.
- WiFi Rating: AC2600 (802.11ac)
- CPU/Memory/Storage: Qualcomm dual-core 1.7GHz/512MB/256MB
- Dimensions: 12.7" x 9.6" x 2.2"
- Weight: 0.80 Kg
Quality of Service or QoS is a feature that enables a device or router to manage network traffic and prioritise bandwidth across a wide range of devices and usage. In the realm of low latency network activity, such as gaming, this means that a PC or Xbox One or PS4 connected to a server or peer should have priority over say a phone or tablet device simply browsing the web or checking in on social media. QoS is a feature that has been a part of several Netgear devices for a number of years, but where the XR500 has the edge is just how easy it makes monitoring traffic and being able to tweak the priority that say a Gaming PC or an Xbox One X might have over a tablet, laptop, or smartphone across uploads and downloads.
It also works - and streaming stuff like 4K video can be done whilst multiple other devices are conducting their own light usage. Out of the box the XR500 and the DumaOS is configured to recognise and prioritise gaming traffic – which is does a great job of, after an easy-to-follow browser-based setup that only takes a few minutes. DumaOS is so easy and intuitive to use the only downside was that we assumed that a smartphone app would be available to interface with the router when console gaming. Being limited to a web browser on the same network is not a deal breaker in any sense, it just doesn’t feel as forward thinking as the entire XR500 package.
So, you’re probably wondering how the whole Geo Filter thing might work. Well, with a few games already recognised by the router it’s a simple matter of distance. One of the great features of DumaOS is just how visual it is with charts and diagrams and graphs. During setup you select your location in the world and with geo-targeting simply select a region from a world map that dictates where to connect – which then considers your actual internet speeds and pings. Exceptions and fine tuning are available, and for online games where local servers are available – like say with Battlefield V – it removes the situation of being put onto an overseas server.
Performance and Conclusion
Although AC2600 rated over 5GHz wireless, this high-end bandwidth – as seen in many devices in recent years – loses considerable strength after a few metres. After connecting to XR500 for devices a great distance away (greater than 10 metres) 2.4 Ghz was the way to go, where the XR500 managed to keep almost full speeds no matter whether we were in the same room or three or four walls away. Which is also a relief because seeing the four sturdy antennas and sci-fi design of the XR500, it’s the sort of performance you’d expect.
For those looking to extend the 5GHz band to make full use of the latest in WiFi tech, there’s the ability to seamlessly pair the XR500 with something like the Netgear Nighthawk X6
extender – which itself is AC2200 rated and with a unit provided to AusGamers alongside the XR500 for testing having the two together resulted in full WiFi across a large space of tens of metres.
In the end the Netgear Nighthawk XR500 feels essential thanks to the implementation of DumaOS, which offers in-depth networking tools and key information that is easy to read, understand, and tweak. Paired with the underlying tech and the stable and reliable WiFi it’s a great choice for gaming on high-speed internet where multiple devices are connected to a single service. With the XR500 there’s no need to consider wired for streaming or even competitive play across titles like Apex Legends, it all just works. And you get to see the charts, graphs, and readouts that prove it.