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Lifewire / Andrew Hayward
Excellent 5GHz range
4 GB Ethernet ports
Seamless mesh networking
App setup is clunky
The Nighthawk X6S might be worth the investment if you demand strong 5GHz reception throughout your home and want to link in a few wired devices.
Netgear offers a shockingly large number of Wi-Fi extenders across every price range and level of performance—and the Nighthawk X6S Tri-Band Wi-Fi Mesh Extender (EX8000) is definitely on the higher end of both of those scales.
It’s built for top-end performance, accommodating up to 3Gbps in speed with tri-band Wi-Fi capabilities and up to 2,800 square feet of additional coverage for your home. It also has four Ethernet ports on the back, making this an ideal extender to place next to your entertainment center for hooking up multiple game consoles and streaming devices. Of course, power comes at a price, and you’ll want to be sure that you actually need all of these bells and whistles.
I tested the Nighthawk X6S for several days in my house, putting it through its paces across gaming, streaming media, and my everyday work routine, as well as testing the speeds around the house and at a distance.
Compared to some of the pint-sized, plug-in Wi-Fi range extenders on the market, the Nighthawk X6S almost stands like a towering monolith. That’s all relative, of course: it’s only 9 inches tall, but that still makes this a pretty considerable home device that won’t fade into the background as easily as some others.
Compared to some of the pint-sized, plug-in Wi-Fi range extenders on the market, the Nighthawk X6S Tri-Band Wi-Fi Mesh Extender almost stands like a towering monolith.
Luckily, it’s pretty minimal in design overall. It’s a black rectangle that stands up thanks to a fixed base, and it has curved and tapered elements to give it just a hint of style. On the front is simply a silver Netgear logo along with a handful of LED lights that indicate details such as the status of your Wi-Fi reception and speed, activity on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, and other info.
On the bottom of the backside are the ports: four Gigabit Ethernet ports to connect in multiple wired devices, as well as a USB port and a DC port for the power cable. There’s also a power button here as well as a WPS button for easy connectivity to your router.
You’ll begin by plugging in the Nighthawk X6S within a close range of your router. As with other Netgear Nighthawk extenders, you have three options for initial setup: WPS, the mobile app, or a web browser.
WPS is the easiest option if your router supports it. Essentially, you’ll just press the WPS button on your router and then do the same on the Wi-Fi extender within two minutes. If all goes according to plan, the devices will sync up automatically and you’ll be up and running. Easy as pie.
Both the mobile app and web browser options are detailed in the instructions and require you to follow the prompts until your Wi-Fi networks are synced onto the extender. I used the Nighthawk app, and as experienced with other Netgear devices, it was a clunky experience at times. It’s not always responsive and often won’t connect to the network it’s trying to during initial setup, but I persisted and eventually got through the hitches.
Once setup is complete, your task then is to unplug the extender and find a new spot for it. The ideal location is typically about halfway between the router and the Wi-Fi dead zone that you’re trying to fix, so you may need to experiment a bit before you find a spot that gives you the coverage boost that you’re expecting.
The Netgear Nighthawk X6S is a tri-band device, which means it actually has two separate 5GHz bands alongside the 2.4GHz band. The additional 5GHz band serves as a dedicated backhaul to ensure speedy connectivity with the router at up to 1.733Gbps, while the other 5GHz band ranges up to 866Mbps and the 2.4GHz band hits 400Mbps.
Aside from that enhancement, the Nighthawk X6S uses beamforming and MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple inputs multiple outputs) technologies to deliver the speediest possible connections around your home, with support for up to 55 simultaneous devices. With the four Ethernet ports, this is an ideal extender for plugging in game consoles, computers, and other devices that require steady bandwidth.
What’s especially great about the Netgear Nighthawk X6S is the ability to use the same Wi-Fi SSID as your router, ensuring seamless mesh networking around your home. That’s true regardless of router brand or capabilities, as it worked perfectly with my few-years-old TP-Link router. I could clearly tell the difference in reception when the Nighthawk X6S was powered on, boosting my office 5GHz Wi-Fi signal from its usual two bars to a full four.
With the four Ethernet ports, this is an ideal extender for plugging in game consoles, computers, and other devices that require steady bandwidth.
I saw consistently strong speeds from the Netgear Nighthawk X6S over the 5GHz spectrum, and excellent range. In one test, I measured the download speed of 185Mbps right next to the extender and then went into my large backyard to measure the speed at approximate distance intervals. Amazingly, the speed barely changed: it actually went up at the first two intervals. I saw 193Mbps at 25 feet, 194Mbps at 50 feet, and 181Mbps at 75 feet. That’s great news for anyone with an especially large home or property, although obstructions such as walls and furniture will surely impact your results.
The 2.4GHz spectrum—which typically offers a better range than 5GHz Wi-Fi—actually saw a bigger drop as I walked away from the extender. I measured 58Mbps down while in the same room, but then 49Mbps at 25 feet, 36Mbps at 50 feet, and 28Mbps at 75 feet. That’s actually more in line with the kind of speed drop I’ve seen while testing other extenders; the 5GHz results were a lot more surprising and atypical with the Netgear Nighthawk X6S.
Everything ran super smoothly while playing the game Rocket League on PC, whether on 2.4GHz or 5GHz or using one of the wired Ethernet connections. It felt as smooth as a wired connection, which typically isn’t the case with Wi-Fi and particularly so in my office, where the Wi-Fi usually suffers without an extender in place.
At $200, the Netgear Nighthawk X6S requires a more considerable investment than many Wi-Fi extenders. The upside is that it comes with four Ethernet ports, has dedicated 5GHz backhaul, and excellent range from the other 5GHz band. If you demand peak performance from your internet-connected devices, then this top-end extender is worth the added cost.
If you demand peak performance from your internet-connected devices, then this top-end extender is worth the added cost.
If you don’t need all of those Ethernet ports, then consider the Netgear Nighthawk X4 Wi-Fi Mesh Extender (see on Best Buy) instead. It’s a smaller plug-in model that still does a great job of delivering 5GHz and 2.4GHz speeds. Although it lacks the third band, it still uses MU-MIMO and beamforming technology and showed great speed retention in my testing. It’s typically found for $70 less than the Nighthawk X6S, but the X6S does top it in peak performance.
It’s ideal for gaming, 4K streaming, and anything that requires high-performance bandwidth.
The Netgear Nighthawk X6S (EX8000) does an excellent job of extending high-performance Wi-Fi connectivity throughout your home, with impressive 5GHz speeds and range, not to mention four Ethernet ports ideal for game consoles and computers. It’s both larger and pricier than most of the competition, but it’s a worthy investment if you want to make the most of your Wi-Fi network for gaming and streaming needs.