Netgear boosts Nighthawk router with X4 model

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Dual-band 802.11ac router features dynamic QoS and speedy 1.4GHz processor

Netgear today launched the Nighthawk X4 (model R7500), a dual-band 802.11ac wireless router featuring an additional antenna (now four, up from three on the original Nighthawk, but less than six on its X6 model), a 1.4GHz dual-core processor (based on the Qualcomm Internet Processor) and a “Quad Stream Architecture” that aims to stream HD content with “greater clarity and less buffering” than before. The company is currently taking pre-orders of the $279.99 device, with shipments expected in about a week.

The X4 now sits between the original $200 Nighthawk model (aka the R7000) and the new Nighthawk X6 (the $300 router shipped a few months ago). Netgear says the X6 is aimed at “the Internet-connected family”, providing its “tri-band” router for the “fastest Wi-Fi performance for the maximum number of devices and users.” The X4, meanwhile, is aimed at the “die-hard gamer” segment, users looking for fast dual-band Wi-Fi but with also speedy and flexible network storage options (see chart).

Netgear Nighthawk family NETGEAR

These storage options include two USB 3.0 ports (one more than the original Nighthawk) and an eSATA port for attaching storage drives, providing PC users with automatic and incremental file backup through Netgear’s ReadySHARE Vault software (for Windows PCs). With a storage drive attached to the router, users can take advantage of the MyMedia app, which lets you play stored media from anywhere on the network, as well as DLNA-ready TVs or music players; the X4 also supports iTunes server support for playing music or media on AirPlay-enabled devices.

Netgear says the X4 supports 2.33 Gbps of bandwidth on the local network, and it breaks it down as such - in the 5.0 GHz frequency, it utilizes four streams of 433 Mbps bandwidth for a total of 1.733 Gbps (or 1733 Mbps if you prefer). On the 2.4Ghz frequency, it utilizes three streams of 200 Mbps bandwidth, for a total of 600 Mbps. Add up the 1733 and 600 figures, and you get the 2.33 Gbps figure. Of course, your speeds will likely vary less than these theoretical numbers, but compare these with other figures from other vendors and you’ll get a sense of the additional speeds provided with this router.

 

Netgear Nighthawk X4 back NETGEAR

The back side of the Netgear Nighthawk X4 features 5 Gigabit Ethernet ports (1 WAN, 4 LAN), as well as 2 USB 3.0 ports and one eSATA port for attaching storage drives.

The X4 also includes new Dynamic QoS technology, which identifies traffic based on the applications being used on the network and then prioritizing them based on their bandwidth needs. The technology can also prioritize traffic based on devices (such as giving priority to your wife’s MacBook Pro over the kids’ iPad), but Netgear says that priority is determined after the application QoS occurs (in other words, it won’t choke off Netflix if the prioritized notebook is just using Facebook). In addition, as new apps/games/services and devices come to market, Netgear says the router can update its database via the cloud to maintain the proper prioritization information.

Other details/features of the X4 include:

  • Beamforming+, which lets you focus the Wi-Fi signals directly at connected devices.
  • Five Gigabit Ethernet ports (1 WAN and 4 LAN) for users that still enjoy plugging things in via Ethernet cable.
  • VPN support for secure remote access, SPI and NAT firewall, parental controls and separate guest network access (table stakes for today’s wireless home routers).
  • Support for the Netgear Genie dashboard, which lets you install and monitor the home network from a PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet (iOS and Android apps available).

 We’re hoping to get our hands on an X4 pretty soon (either for the regular Cool Tools column or perhaps our holiday gift guide, so stay tuned for a review!). 

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