Netgear's AC1900 router, the R7000 Nighthawk, has been well-received by the market. Since that launch, the 802.11ac market has seen a number of announcements from chipset vendors. While Qualcomm Atheros and Quantenna were busy launching 802.11ac Wave 2 silicon, Broadcom seemed to be lagging behind. In April, they launched 5G Wi-Fi XStream a six stream 802.11ac MIMO platform, which was essentially two discrete 3x3 802.11ac radios. SemiAccurate saw through the marketing talk and called it out for what it really was. Despite seeing Asus demonstrate a model at Computex, I assumed that devices based on the platform would appear in the market in late Q3 or Q4.

Netgear is springing a nice surprise by launching the Nighthawk X6 (R8000) with Broadcom's 5G WiFi XStream platform today.

The R8000 is being marketed as a Tri-band router theoretically capable of delivering up to 3.2 Gbps of network throughput (600 Mbps in the 3x3 802.11n 2.4 GHz band, 1300 Mbps in the first 3x3 802.11ac 5 GHz band and another 1300 Mbps in the second 3x3 802.11ac 5 GHz band). The unit includes 6 antennae. Internally, the platform has the same host SoC as that of the R7000, the BCM4709 which sports a dual core Cortex-A9 processor running at 1 GHz. However, the radios have been updated to offload some of the workload, freeing up CPU cycles for other aspects. Netgear claims they are now able to get around 60 - 70 MBps over USB 3.0 (compared to 30 MBps in the R7000). The VPN client is also being talked up by Netgear in the R8000, signifying that it is going to perform substantially better than in the R7000. Like the R7000, the R8000 also comes with four GbE ports (in addition to the WAN port) and two USB ports (1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0).

Netgear's value adds on top of the 5G WiFi XStream platform include 'Smart Connect' - a feature through which client devices are allotted to a particular Wi-Fi channel depending on its characteristics and location - and load balancing - where newer clients are allotted a less busy channel if 'Smart Connect' decisions happen to overload one of the channels. Other aspects of Netgear's firmware include a comprehensive network storage feature set (with DLNA & AirPlay support, along with backup to a shared USB drive). Netgear also seems to have brought in a variant of the snapshotting feature of the ReadyNAS lineup into this router as the 'ReadySHARE VAULT' backup solution for devices running Windows.

The product is available for pre-order today, and will ship in early July. It is priced at $300. Consumers with a large number of Wi-Fi devices might be tempted to upgrade to the R8000, particularly if they are yet to hop on to the 802.11ac bandwagon. On the other hand, users who already have a 802.11ac router (and paid the premium to buy into a first / second generation product) might find it hard to justify a $300 upgrade - particularly when the platform doesn't have any of the important Wave 2 features such as MU-MIMO or 160 MHz usage with a single radio. Make no mistake, the R8000 does appear to solve problems arising from a large number of wireless clients in a practical manner. More importantly, it is available today (compared to Wave2 routers based on silicon from other vendors which are yet to hit the market). Is it worth the premium? That is for the market to decide. Readers, feel free to sound off in the comments section.

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  • decompiled - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    A word of warning on the R8000. The R7000 has been plagued with issues. Check out the netgear forums to see a multitude of ac1900 adopters having very little support from technical staff. The real support for the N7000 ac1900 comes from tomato and dd-wrt teams. When it works, the N7000 is great but anything with a 300 price point that is not dependable will not get my hard earned dollars. Reply
  • izdlang - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    As an owner of an R7000, yup what he said. Really wish I hadn't purchased it now. It's got some problems and they don't seem very concerned about pushing out firmware.. for instance in this article "he VPN client is also being talked up by Netgear in the R8000, signifying that it is going to perform substantially better than in the R7000." Umm thats just software and firmware, why can't they upgrade the R7000 to have the same, oh wait they can, but then they might lose a sale on the R8000. Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    "thats just software and firmware"

    As I mentioned in the article, the R8000 offloads some of the network processing tasks to the Wi-Fi radios which also integrate ARM cores now. This is freeing up CPU cycles. The extra performance is what is causing USB 3.0 to perform better, and the VPN client to provide more performance.

    There is an internal hardware change involved.
    Reply
  • BadCommand - Friday, June 27, 2014 - link

    It's been an outstanding router for me- especially with wireless. As a matter of fact I've dropped Intel AC wireless cards in all my laptops and haven't missed the wired connections a bit. All my streaming (netflix, amazon, hului, youtube) has been flawless as well to all my wireless streaming devices. The nerd in me can't wait to get ahold of this new model. The realist in me is asking why when the R7000 is working so well. Reply
  • imaheadcase - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    Never had any issues with it myself. It was only $180 fyi now. Reply
  • leetruski - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    No issues to report since updating the firmware back in march-april. Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    That is what I thought too.. Had very slow transfer speeds over Wi-Fi and some other strange behaviour with the launch firmware, but, since updating, haven't faced any. In fact, it is our mini-PC testbed router. That said, the load on the unit is probably much lesser than average on mine since my main router is something else. Reply
  • alyarb - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    ac1900 is great on paper, just waiting on maturity. and perhaps linksys WRT1900AC+DDWRT Reply
  • madmaximinus - Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - link

    The Problem is that the WRT1900AC is not opensource search on internet about developpers abandonment for openWrt. Reply
  • Ipatinga - Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - link

    Someone help me here.

    This thing has two radios and each radio has three antennas, right? So the best possible simultaneous scenario is 3x3 AC + 3x3 AC, right?

    So, how can it be called AC3200? It should be AC1300+1300 or AC2600 (still misleading).... or somehow it is possible to run the 3x3 2.4GHz 11n while the other two ACs are running?

    I hate marketing teams...

    I will still wait for an AC Router with 3 or 4 streams, but WAVE 2.
    Reply

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