The first thing anyone will notice about Netgear’s latest Nighthawk router, the Nighthawk Pro XR500, is that it’s certainly a sight to behold. Not only is it larger than the average router — and even most gaming routers I’ve seen — but it also has a cool look that I can only describe as alien hyper tech chic.
It looks like a miniature model suped-up spaceship with antennas. Simply put: it’s super cool-looking.
But more importantly than how this router looks, of course, is how it performs. And, man, does this baby purr. It’s an AC2600 router, and it shows. It actually extended my Wi-Fi to my home’s back porch without the need for an extender. In fact, I saw a ~10% speed increase while using the XR500 in this specific location (roughly 45 feet away from the router and through a glass door).
I also compared with a friend’s Linksys WRT32X, which is the XR500’s closest competitor, and the results were eye-opening, to say the least. Most notably, the XR500’s speed was far superior to the WRT32X’s, coming in at 120Mbps higher than the competition when standing 30 feet away. Solid.
I’ll note that my home is 2800 sq. foot with four different levels. With the XR500 placed just about in the center of my home, I had coverage in the entire house without the need for an extender. I had a full connection in the basement and a full connection in the upstairs bedrooms. This means that browsing in an upstairs bedroom on my Chromebook felt the same as browsing downstairs on my office desktop. The range was tested with the WiFiman app, and it held connection to my network for 120 feet.
The XR500 also uses WPA2 encryption, so you can be fully satisfied knowing that your connection is super secure.
One of the most impressive aspects of the XR500 is actually the incredibly useful QOS software, the DumaOS. It’s a much more visual-oriented bit of software than the X6S’s software, and that makes the tweaks that much easier to understand to less advanced users. And when you dig deep into the software, there are quite a few tweaks and options that allow you to tailor your router’s capabilities to your type of internet use. You can essentially assign levels of importance to all of your home’s devices.
Of course, I’ll note that you might want to actually rename your devices properly before getting into the software because it made me realize how much of a hot mess my network device setup actually was.
You can also set the router to Hyper Mode, which places browsing and downloading at the top of the packet priority over email software, Netflix queues, and music streaming.
Another super cool tweak that I haven’t seen before is the XR500’s geo-filtering options, which allows you to essentially force connections to closer gaming servers based on your location, blocking out the connection to servers that are X kilometers away from where you are. This drops the latency in your games, and in practice, it seemed to work with most popular games (tested with Black Ops 4, Fortnite, and PUBG).
Of course, the usual other router options are easily found in the software as well, including port forwarding and network monitoring.
The Nighthawk XR500’s only real downfalls are its size (which is larger than the average bear, for sure) and its price (which is a hefty price tag to swallow when it’s essentially overkill for most current household gaming setups, anyway). The box will tell you that it can handle speeds of up to 2.6Gbps, but unfortunately, we have no way to test that claim. Honestly, we wouldn’t doubt it, though.
But if you’re the type to spring for the overkill setup just in case you need it (or, in a rare case, you actually need it), the XR500 is a strong router with an impressive Wi-Fi range. You really do get what you pay for in the router market, and if you’re looking for the creme de la creme of gaming routers, the Netgear Nighthawk XR500 is our #1 recommendation in 2018.
Overall Rating: 4.7 out of 5.0
+Faster Than Closest Competition