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Lifewire / Rebecca Isaacs
Versatile for both desktops and laptops
Confusing set-up process
Potentially dangerous magnetic dock
The Netgear Nighthawk A7000 is a hefty Wi-Fi adapter that provides solid speeds, allowing you to stream crisp, clear videos and smoothly play online games. It’s worth every penny despite its steep price.
Wi-Fi USB adapters can be a hit or miss component to any gamer’s PC. While some of them can be spotty and unreliable, others can be solid pieces that make a lovely addition to anyone’s gaming rig. The latter was the case with the Netgear Nighthawk. With over 2,000 Amazon ratings, it seemed like a solid choice to complement my brand new custom desktop. Though a large, clunky beast, the adapter breezed through six days of testing like it was just getting warmed up for the marathon. Read on for the finer details.
At first, I was very concerned with placing this adapter next to my precious PC. The adapter itself comes with a vertical docking port for laptop users, but my concern focused on the port’s magnetism that comes with bright yellow warning stickers plastered on it. The dock (4.9 x 4.28 x 1.22 inches (LWH)) is designed to be able to stick onto a magnetic surface, thus negating the need to use desktop space. Too close to any major computer parts though, and you could deal your PC some serious, irreversible internal damage. Take note before you set it on your tower.
If you’re an avid gamer who likes to slay hordes of undead zombies online, or if you simply want to catch up on Fortnite, this is the adapter for you.
Because the adapter itself is a chunky beast, I used the docking port and set it next to the desktop. Most desktop users will be fine using just the adapter. For laptop users, it’s imperative to use the docking port, as it’s impossible to use the adapter without it. The adapter itself measures 4.7 x 1.8 x 0.87 inches (LWH), which doesn’t sound that large until you don’t have any room on your desk for gaming snacks.
In case it already wasn’t big enough, the adapter also unfolds four beamforming antennas for ultimate adjustability. In case your signal needs that extra boost for speed and range, the Netgear has you covered.
Unfortunately, the Nighthawk is too complex to be a plug-and-play adapter. An accompanying CD needs to be inserted into the drive. When it auto-runs, a menu pops up, where you can either automatically connect to the internet or manually connect. From here, you have two options: you can either press the WBA button on the side, and run to your router, and press the reset button, thus “automatically” connecting the two within two minutes; or, you can manually enter in your information to connect.
My gaming rig is set up on the third floor of my space, so scurrying past pets and family members downstairs was not only mildly dangerous but impossible. So, I opted for a manual connection. Turns out, this method was much simpler. All I needed to do was scan for and identify the network, and type in the password. It then connected and was ready for a hefty online gaming session.
Long-range testing seemed to be the way to go first, especially since hauling a desktop around the house sounded like a pain. So popping over to Google, I ran the speed test. My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when the test came back with 92.4Mbps on a 2.4GHz network—the fastest Wi-Fi speed my computer had ever registered so far from the basement router. Considering three floors separate the router from the PC, this was a very pleasant surprise.
Testing co-op gameplay on 7 Days to Die also proved its reliability. There was absolutely zero rubber-banding or lag. In online gaming, any kind of lag can mean life or death, and the Netgear ensured if I died in-game, it would be operator error, not because of a poor connection. Swapping over to Lord of the Rings Online, I didn’t expect any drastic frame rate drops—and was ecstatic when the gameplay stayed static, even in heavily populated areas such as the Bree Auction House or the Hobbiton Party Tree.
My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when the test came back with 92.4Mbps on a 2.4GHz network—the fastest Wi-Fi speed my computer had ever registered so far from the basement router.
Finally, I trekked to Chicago to test it out in an area with higher connectivity options using my newer laptop. With the router only one room away, I plugged in the adapter and ran the speed test again. Instead of a dazzling jump in speed, the Nighthawk only gave me a 30Mbps boost, up to 126.1Mbps on a 250Mbps connection.
For an adapter that can go up to 1.9Gbps on the 5GHz network, this was a little disappointing. At the same time, when surfing the internet in Chicago, I experienced no drop-offs and no pixelation when I streamed some YouTube videos.
At $75, the Nighthawk is the top end of a Wi-Fi adapter in terms of price. However, this is one of the cases where the endless, fast streaming from such a strong adapter is worth the cost. There are other models out there, but few with the Nighthawk’s reliability. That said, if you refuse to pay that price, I can’t blame you. You can also watch Amazon to see if the price drops—I’ve seen it anywhere from $74 to $51, depending on the day.
For those looking into gamer-friendly Wi-Fi adapters, you could also look at the Asus USB-AC68 Wi-Fi Adapter (view on Amazon). While it’s definitely more pricey at around $86, you can sometimes get it for cheaper off of Amazon, though only by about $5-10.
One thing you must take into account when deciding between the two is the compatibility. When tested on a 2014 all-in-one PC, the Asus adapter nearly broke the system twice. Thankfully, the Nighthawk fared better, connecting with ease. The Nighthawk will definitely be the better choice for older PCs, but whatever you do, don’t get the Asus on an older machine.
If speed is more your priority, even then, the Nighthawk outshines the Asus USB-AC68. During speed testing in Chicago, the Asus only clocked in 105.3Mbps. The Nighthawk boasted 126.1Mbps, showing more reliability with no dropoffs—something the Asus couldn’t handle on the 2019 desktop. Unless you solely want the Asus’ fancy design, the Nighthawk is the best for your needs. It outperforms the Asus USB-AC68 in almost every regard.
One of the best on the market.
If you’re an avid gamer who likes to slay hordes of undead zombies online, or if you simply want to catch up on Fortnite, this is the adapter for you. The speeds alone demonstrate great connectivity, and the reliability means that you won’t lose your game because the internet cut out. Despite a funky design, I ended up using the Netgear Nighthawk as my main adapter at home.