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Great wireless performance
Seamless mesh networking
Smooth gaming speeds
App setup was a bit clunky
No outlet pass through
Netgear’s Nighthawk X4 is one of the best all-around Wi-Fi mesh extenders you can buy for your home.
Netgear’s Nighthawk X4 Wi-Fi Mesh Extender (EX7300v2) hits a sweet spot when it comes to Wi-Fi signal extenders. It has a wall-plug design yet hits higher speeds than some of the simpler plug-in models out there, however, it isn’t as large as some of the extenders that are nearly as sizable as routers themselves.
It also has advanced technologies such as MU-MIMO and beamforming, so it feels like a fully capable device. You’ll pay a bit more for this one compared to some of the entry-level plug-in Wi-Fi extenders, but if your home is plagued by wireless dead zones or you just want to ensure a more consistent high-speed signal throughout your dwelling, then this is a strong option. I tested the Netgear Nighthawk X4 for several days in my house for a variety of needs, including everyday work, playing online games, and streaming media.
At just over 6 inches tall and 3 inches wide, the Netgear Nighthawk X4 Wi-Fi Mesh Extender might look a little too large to hang from a wall outlet, but most of the weight is concentrated at the base where it plugs in. It’ll only take up one plug on an outlet, leaving the other free, and it stayed securely in place during use.
Netgear opted for an angular approach here with some tapered elements, and most of the sides are covered in tiny air vents to ensure that this powerful little plug-in has the ventilation that it needs. On the front are lights that indicate the strength of the signal and show network activity, as well as power and WPS switch indicators.
On the left side are On/Off and WPS connectivity buttons, as well as a switch that lets you swap between using the device as an extender (to repeat an existing Wi-Fi signal) or an access point, which would create a wireless network from a plugged-in Ethernet cable from your modem. That Ethernet port is on the bottom of the device, and when in the typical extender mode, you can use it to plug in a wired device to access the wireless network.
Setting up the Netgear Nighthawk X4 essentially means capturing the signal from your Wi-Fi router and then finding an ideal spot to place the extender to bring Wi-Fi into dead zones and areas with an inconsistent signal.
There are three ways to do this. Starting with the extender plugged in near your router, you can set it up by following the prompts in Netgear’s Nighthawk mobile app for iOS or Android, by doing the same via a web interface on your computer, or by using the WPS button on both the extender and router. The last option is the simplest, as the devices can automatically pair via a button found on the extender and basically any modern router.
While the setup process is straightforward, the Nighthawk mobile app itself was a bit wonky.
I set mine up using the iOS app, and while the process is straightforward, the Nighthawk app itself was a bit wonky. I had to try connecting to the router’s setup network several times before it went through, and it just seemed inconsistently responsive throughout. Ultimately, however, I was able to finish the setup process.
Once that is complete, you can unplug the extender and find a new place for it in your home. Netgear advises placing it about halfway between your router and the dead zone(s) that you’re trying to address, but you may need to play around with positioning based on the design of your home and potential obstructions that could weaken the signal. If you’re not getting the signal boost that you expect, then try another plug location.
The Netgear Nighthawk X4 worked as advertised, delivering strong speeds, improving upon the signal available from the router in the further corners of my house, and even holding a 5GHz signal pretty well when a fair distance away from the extender. The MU-MIMO (multiple user, multi-in multi-out) design allows for more simultaneous signals while beamforming helps hone a signal towards its requesting device. All told, these technological advancements seem to help deliver strong wireless performance.
Even though I paired it with a TP-Link router, the Netgear Nighthawk X4 maintained the same network names as my router uses. My smartphone and laptop automatically switched to the stronger signal when plugged in. Beyond the speed difference, I could tell when I plugged in the extender and saw the 5GHz network jump from a steady 2 bars to a full 4 bars once the extender was fully powered on.
Typically, 2.4GHz networks are slower but offer wider range, while the faster 5GHz networks don’t stretch quite as far. Luckily, the extender helps negate the latter issue and can give you more of that 5GHz speed in more places of your home. In my case, a speed test in my office with the extender in place revealed a download speed of 89Mbps with the 2.4GHz network, but then 203Mbps on the 5GHz network.
Technological advancements such as MU-MIMO and beamforming seem to help deliver strong wireless performance.
Distance testing revealed that the 5GHz network continued to provide strong speeds even approximately 75 feet away from the extender. Testing in my extended backyard with just one wall between my laptop and the extender, I saw download speeds of 38Mbps at 25 feet, 27Mbps at 50 feet, and 16Mbps at 75 feet on 2.4GHz. However, the 5GHz network gave me 132Mbps at 25 feet, 81Mbps at 50 feet, and 75Mbps at 75 feet.
Online gaming was also smooth across the board with the Netgear Nighthawk X4. I saw a typical ping of around 38 with both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz extended networks in Rocket League, and a couple points faster when plugged into the Ethernet port. I played several matches across the configuration options and encountered no sluggishness.
At an MSRP of $150 but often seen now for $130, the Netgear Nighthawk X4 Wi-Fi Mesh Extender costs a fair bit more than a simpler entry-level extender, but the strong performance—especially on the 5GHz band—makes it a worthy investment if you plan on playing online games or streaming extensive media. There are much cheaper Wi-Fi extenders out there, however (like the one below), if your needs aren’t very extensive.
TP-Link’s RE200 (see on Walmart) is similar in its plug-in approach, but it’s much smaller and costs a fraction of the price at $30. It also gave me solid connectivity on 2.4GHz, although the 5GHz performance left something to be desired.
The other annoyance was the fact that it creates separate wireless networks for the extender if you don’t have one of the recent, compatible TP-Link routers. That can cause headaches with needing to switch between networks based on where you are in your home. On the other hand, it’s $30. If you just want to push your Wi-Fi into an additional room or two for web browsing and Netflix, then don’t feel obligated to spend $100+ on an extender.
A strong mid-range Wi-Fi extender.
The Netgear Nighthawk X4 Wi-Fi Mesh Extender finds a pretty ideal middle ground in the Wi-Fi extender market, delivering a strong performance that’s better than what you’ll likely get from a cheap, entry-level extender. Better yet, it’s not as pricey as some of the higher-end devices out there. If you don’t want to commit to a full mesh network upgrade to your home and just want a strong, reliable extender to complement an existing Wi-Fi router, then this is the extender to buy.