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Lifewire / Yoona Wagener
User-friendly mobile app
Three bands for optimal multi-device Wi-Fi support
Meant for 4K streaming and gaming
Advanced parental controls
Takes up a lot of space
Some performance drops
Buggy initial setup
The Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 is a capable tri-band router meant to deliver fast speeds to large homes, but while it’s relatively user-friendly, performance may not always match the hefty price tag.
If you have a growing family or a growing list of devices competing for bandwidth in your home, you’ve probably experienced jockeying for a signal here or there. That’s where a capable tri-band router like the Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Router comes in handy. This router boasts high-speed Wi-Fi of up to 3.2Gbps and three different Wi-Fi bands that work simultaneously to deliver the connectivity all your family members and devices require.
We used this tri-band router and observed various aspects starting with the setup process, software ease of use, and performance power when performing typical streaming and browsing activities.
The Nighthawk X6 router is aptly named for its six antennas that are fixed to both sides of the face of the device. While you can easily fold these antennas flat, for easy moving to and from one spot to another, you’ll need to place them upright in order to maximize the signal strength.
Aside from the unique antenna design, all the indicator lights are also presented in a sort of stylish way right down the middle of the router. All the lights flash white and the Wi-Fi on/off and WPS buttons are set off on their own at the bottom with triangular buttons. The main body of the router is box-like in shape and skews larger with dimensions of 11.63 x 8.92 x 2.14 inches (HWD). Some shoppers may like the aeronautic design of the router, inspired by the Nighthawk stealth fighter plane, which also looks somewhat futuristic. If you’re looking for a router that’s unassuming, you won’t find that here.
All the ports are easy to locate at the back of the device. These include four LAN ports, one WAN port, and one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 port. You’ll also find the power button and DC power input in the same row.
Unboxing the Nighthawk X6 R8000, we were reminded several times to download the companion Nighthawk mobile app to complete the setup process. There is a sticker on top of the router with a QR code that the app can use to detect the router and launches a quick setup process, but we couldn’t get this code to register. Instead, we went to the App Store and manually downloaded the mobile app.
The Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Router is poised to deliver fast and reliable speed to a larger home full of devices.
The first thing we had to do when we launched the Nighthawk app was to create a Netgear account. Then we chose the “New Setup” option and were directed to reboot our modem and then attach the provided Ethernet cable into the router and our modem. Almost instantly we were able to connect to the default network using the credentials the manufacturer provided. We returned to the app to set up another line of defense to the router admin login credentials with security questions and customize our system network and password.
After these changes, we had to reconnect to the network which went off without a hitch. We further chose to apply the firmware update that was recommended. That took several minutes and also required rebooting the router. At this point, we noticed that the second 5GHz connection was lost. After several attempts to make things right by resetting the router and the modem and router, the only step that resolved it was a factory reset. We suspect this could have been an issue with the firmware update, but once all of that was finally resolved we were able to connect to our 150Mbps Xfinity service on all three bands.
Overall, minus the hitch that tacked on an additional 10-15 minutes of troubleshooting, we found the guided setup to be straightforward, quick, and easy to follow.
This is an 802.11ac tri-band router, meaning it supports three frequencies: one 2.4GHz and two 5GHz channels on the 802.11ac wireless standard. The advantage here is that unlike older single- or dual-band routers that operate on older Wi-Fi standards or even newer dual-band options functioning on the most current Wi-Fi 5 standard, there’s additional support for more devices and less competition over bandwidth.
That’s supported by beamforming technology, which is a feature all 802.11ac routers support. This technology sends targeted Wi-Fi signals to your devices rather than sending them in every direction. Ultimately, this means a stronger direct signal to your laptop, TV, or other devices, and potentially more consistent and stronger connections.
Since this router is classified as an AC3200 device, that means it has the potential to deliver up to 600Mbps (megabit per second) on the 2.4GHz spectrum and up to 1300Mbps on the 5GHz channels. This Wi-Fi speed rating doesn’t guarantee you’ll see these exact results in your home. It’s merely a number that describes the absolute potential performance power. In reality, the speeds you see will depend on the type of internet service plan you have and other environmental and network conditions that impact wireless performance.
The Nighthawk X6 R8000 also comes with Dynamic Quality of Service (QoS) technology, which is another tool for managing bandwidth by allocating signals in specific directions and based on your priorities. Netgear says that users who like to game and stream video (and have combined download and upload speeds of less than 300Mbps) could garner enhanced performance by enabling this feature, which you can do from the web interface—but not the app.
Using the Nighthawk app’s built-in speed test feature, which uses the Ookla SpeedTest technology, the best download speed registered at 95Mbps right after we set up the router. More typically, the output was around 88-95Mbps at varying points in the day.
We could consistently operate six to seven devices at once without any speed drops or major performance issues across all three bands.
We never experienced a completely dropped connection, but at times the 2.4GHz channel performed sluggishly with simple operations like checking email or online browsing. We connected TVs where we stream HD and 4K content and use a gaming console to the 5GHz networks and used the 2.4GHz channel for laptops, mobile devices, and a tablet. Distributing those devices across the other two bands seemed to ease some congestion, and we could consistently operate six to seven devices at once without any speed drops or major performance issues across all three bands. We also noticed a mild improvement in image clarity and loading speed of streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
Though we were unable to test the full range of this router, we had no issues in our 1,100-square-foot space. The manufacturer does say that this device can serve very large homes and there are six antennas that help boost this coverage, but the actual range—just like speed—will depend on factors like the thickness of your walls, router placement, and interference from other signals and devices.
Everything is laid out quite cleanly in the Nighthawk app in terms of guided setup and accessing the information most users will probably be interested in—like speed information, devices connected, Wi-Fi settings, and parental controls using the Circle with Disney app to monitor everyone’s screen time and activity. The app also comes with a 30-day trial of Netgear Armor security, which does the work of detecting threats from malware, bots, and any other network vulnerabilities.
The mobile app certainly skews more toward the general user with its uncomplicated layout, but that also means less control over more technical specifications which requires using the web interface. This information isn’t necessarily hidden, but it's only laid out in the user manual which is accessible from the Netgear site.
This router is equally friendly to the general user as well as the more tech-savvy customer.
While the Nighthawk X6 does come with built-in firewall protection, you can elevate security settings and personalize the router setup from the router’s web interface. From the web GUI’s advanced settings area, you can control access or block certain websites, set up security email notifications, establish VPN service, create a personal FTP server, or use Dynamic DNS. Other features of interest through the web GUI include setting up a USB device to perform Time Machine backups for Mac laptops and using the router’s media server capabilities to play music from the iTunes server.
In this respect, the Nighthawk X6 R8000 is equally friendly to the general user who doesn't want to delve into the technical deep end as well as the more tech-savvy customer who does.
The Nighthawk X6 R8000 has a list price of $270, which certainly places it in the high-end tier of wireless routers. And while it’s not the most expensive tri-band router on the market, your decision to make this investment could come down to factors like how large your home is, how many devices you’re working with, and how fast your internet service plan is. The tri-band Wi-Fi technology is impressive, and there are many attractive features: an intuitive and low-effort app, built-in security with Netgear Armor, as well as a detailed level of control over managing how everyone in the family spends their screen time, but there are equally capable as less expensive options on the market.
One of the strengths of the Nighthawk X6 R800 is how fast and simple it is to set up for even those who are tech-shy. But if you’re willing or interested in diving in deeper technically, paying less, and still obtaining impressive Wi-Fi performance, the Asus RT-AC3200 retails for $200 and overlaps with the Nighthawk X6 in a number of ways. Both feature three bands, six antennas, QoS and beamforming technologies, VPN and Time Machine support, and peace of mind with respective built-in security platforms.
The Asus router does require a little more technical know-how for managing the router via the app and web interface. Another factor that may influence whether you think this trade-off is worth it is your interest in integrating your router into a smart-home configuration. The Nighthawk X6 R8000, like many other Netgear routers does allow that with Amazon Alexa compatibility whereas the Asus RT-AC3200 does not.
An investment that could be worth it for the family with a smart home.
The Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Router is poised to deliver fast and reliable speed to a larger home full of devices. If you’re interested in spending less time with configuration and more time benefiting from the assurance that your network is protected, the Nighthawk X6 can fulfill those wants. You can also easily bring this device into the fold of your smart-home setup and keep a close eye on the online safety and activity of everyone in the family.
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