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Easy to set up
Netgear's Orbi Mesh Wi-Fi is the company's first specifically-made mesh router system, with a pair of units that act as a base station and a "satellite" unit to provide corner-to-corner coverage in up to a 5,000 square foot home. The system is really simple to set up via Netgear's Orbi smartphone app, so you can get online within minutes of plugging it in.
The tri-band coverage offers lightning-fast performance, thanks to technologies like MU-MIMO and six internal antennas, reaching speeds of up to 1,733Mbps on the 5GHz band and 833Mbps on the 2.4GHz side. The Orbi also works with Amazon Alexa voice commands and the smartphone application allows for parental controls powered by Circle. There's even the ability to set up guest Wi-Fi networks, as well as connect new devices.
Wi-Fi 6 support
Ethernet ports are a little too close
If you're looking to invest in a router that will keep you ahead of the technology curve, then you'll want a router that supports Wi-Fi 6, the newest 802.11ax standard that not only offers better performance, but also manages large device networks much more efficiently. Even if your PCs and gaming consoles aren't ready for Wi-Fi 6 yet, the RAX80 still provides up to 2,500 square feet of coverage for your 5GHz 802.11ac and older 2.4GHz devices with throughput of up to 4.8Gbps and 1.2Gbps on each of its bands, respectively, thanks to the four antennas encased in its hawk-like wings.
With support for MU-MIMO and eight simultaneous 160MHz channels, plus a 64-bit 1.8GHz quad-core CPU, more devices can use maximum Wi-Fi speeds at the same time, so you don’t need to worry about your family members or roommates slowing down your connection. It's also more than capable of handling even the more tricked-out smart homes, and thanks to WAN port aggregation, it can even handle Multi-Gig internet plans up to 2Gbps.
Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, is still a fairly new standard, so not all of your devices may support it yet, but it's worth upgrading your PCs or gaming consoles if you have a lot of devices on your network or simply want maximum performance for things like gaming.
Wi-Fi 6 Support
Tri-band Wi-Fi with 12 streams
Advanced Wireless Features
Few devices available yet take to advantage of it
If you're looking to pull out all of the stops and invest in one of the most future-proof Netgear routers that you can buy right now, the Nighthawk RAX200 is it. This beast promises to provide all of the performance you need for years to come, including support for the latest 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 protocol that will give you wireless speeds in excess of 1Gbps for each of your devices, with an astounding 12 simultaneous streams for offering ultra-high-speed Wi-Fi to all of your PCs, gaming consoles, and smartphones.
Driven by a 64-bit 1.8GHz quad-core CPU, there's more than enough power to spare here, and even if you don't have a lot of ultra-fast 802.11ax devices yet, the tri-band Wi-Fi still offers great 802.11ac performance on the two 5GHz bands and even solid 2.4GHz speeds for your older 802.11n clients. Support for MU-MIMO and 4.8Gbps of total bandwidth on the 5GHz side means that network congestion won't be a problem even in the busiest households.
The RAX200 also supports the newest WPA3 security standard to protect your wireless network from hackers, along with the usual set of firewall capabilities, parental controls, and even has a VPN server built right in so you can securely get at your home network while you're on the road and two USB 3.0 ports for high-speed file sharing from external hard drives.
Solid Tri-Band Wi-Fi
Simplified set up
Easy guest access
The Netgear Nighthawk X6 is integrated with Amazon Alexa for voice command prompts and features six external high-performance antennas that combine with tri-band Wi-Fi for increased performance and signal strength. A 1GHz dual-core processor works alongside three offload processors to maintain network performance, while Netgear's Smart Connect software works to allow each device to connect to the strongest signal.
Beamforming+ technology helps to improve on existing signals by directing unused bandwidth directly at each connected device. And setting up the X6 is a snap, thanks to the downloadable Netgear Up smartphone app that's available for both Android and iOS and can connect you to your home network with just a few taps. With a total speed of 3.2Gbps across the 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11ac bands, the X6 just smiles at online gaming or 4K streaming.
Very configurable for gamers
Good 2.4GHz performance
Poor longer range performance
One of the best-reviewed gaming routers on the market, Netgear's Nighthawk XR500 is built specifically with gamers in mind. The hardware includes gaming-specific features such as QoS for prioritizing gaming devices on the network for the best possible signal and allocating any extra bandwidth to eliminate lag. A gaming dashboard helps to show real-time bandwidth use, so users can help minimize ping times, while a gaming VPN allows instant connection to any VPN client to maintain security and privacy.
Monitoring network strength is easy via the downloadable Netgear smartphone application and the dual-core 1.7Ghz processor helps to maintain the hardware performance and support the demands of online gaming traffic. With four external antennas for increased signal strength, the XR500 adds MU-MIMO and Quad-Stream technologies for even more of a gaming boost. Add in a total network speed of 2.6Gbps across the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands and you've found a gaming router worthy of its price tag.
Solid 802.11ac performance
Advanced features like QoS
Weaker 2.4GHz speeds
Compatible with 802.11ac, the Netgear Nighthawk R6700 provides speeds up to 450Mbps on the 2.4Ghz band and up to 1,300Mbps on the 5GHz band. Capable of simultaneously supporting up to 12 devices at a time, the Nighthawk offers an incredibly easy setup with the company’s smartphone application. There, parents can find a slew of parental controls and options to create guest networks, as well as updating the router with the latest firmware for up to date security and performance.
Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for voice command usage, the Nighthawk has a dual-core processor inside that powers the hardware to help maintain steady performance. The three external high-performance antennas can be directed toward device locations (i.e. a desktop or television) for improved signal strength and range.
Good 5GHz performance
Two USB 3.0 ports
Poor USB performance
If you're a big streamer you'll want to take a closer look at the Netgear Nighthawk X4S. With speeds of up to 800Mbps on the 2.4Ghz band and up to 1,733Mbps on the 5Ghz band, the X4S adds Dynamic QoS for lag-free gaming, plus stable 4K video streaming. The inclusion of MU-MIMO technology adds even more signal stability during 4K video streams by directing performance at devices using increased bandwidth to maintain signal strength.
Setting up the X4S is super straightforward using the downloadable smartphone app, so users can be up and running within minutes of first connecting the X4S to a home network. The four high-gain external antennas pair with Netgear's Beamforming+ technology for increasing signal range and strength, which comes in handy for any medium to large size home.
10 Gbps SFP+ port for fibre and NAS connections
Ultrafast 802.11ad support
Integrated Plex Media Server
Client devices need to support 802.11ad for maximum speeds
When it comes to performance for the price, the Netgear Nighthawk X10 is more than equal to the task. With eye-popping speeds, the X10 is among the fastest routers available, with 60GHz 802.11ad connectivity that allows it to reach speeds of 4.6Gbps on the 5Ghz band, while still also offering support for more common 802.11ac devices at speeds of up to 1,733Mbps. The internal hardware is driven by a quad-core 1.7Ghz processor that handles 4K streaming, VR gaming, web browsing, and pretty much anything else.
The inclusion of Dynamic QoS provides an additional performance boost by prioritizing bandwidth availability by application and directing any unused signal strength at bandwidth-heavy tasks, offering increased speeds for gaming and 4K streaming. Additional extras include MU-MIMO for supporting simultaneous connections and helping to double Wi-Fi speeds for mobile devices. The X10 also features a built-in Plex Media Server which can share media content from external hard drives connected to either of the two USB 3.0 ports or even a high-speed NAS device connected to the 10Gbps SFP+ port.
"WiGig" 802.11ad routers offer some extremely fast Wi-Fi speeds, but they operate on the 60GHz frequency, limiting their range to around 30 feet. Further, unless you have 802.11ad network adapters in your PCs or gaming consoles, you won't really be able to take advantage of the extra performance.
Ports - The point of a wireless router is to provide a wireless network connection, but there are a lot of cases where it’s better to plug a computer, game console, or another device into an Ethernet port. Count all of the devices that you want to connect via Ethernet, and look for a Netgear router that can accommodate your setup. The alternative is to invest in an additional Ethernet switch later on.
Multiple antennas - Unless you live in a tiny studio apartment, you’re going to need a Netgear router that comes with multiple antennas. Three is enough for most houses and small businesses, but you’ll need four or more if you have a big, multi-story house or a large office.
Multiple bands - You can get by with a single-band router for most basic usage but look for a dual- or tri-band Netgear router if you want to connect a lot of devices at once. Some dual-band routers can provide a solid connection to up to 20 devices at once, and tri-band routers give you even more options.