Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware upgrade

Web-interface

Testing

Conclusion

Introduction

Almost half a year ago our pages presented a review on NETGEAR R7500 wireless router, which allows user traffic transmitting via a wireless network at the speed up to 2,33 Gbps. Even then the vendor intrigued us with a new model that was just awaiting its arrival to Russia. And today we finally have the opportunity to acquaint our readers with a new wireless router, NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 R8000, which can work within three bands simultaneously and raises the bar of wireless speeds up to the value of 3,2 Gbps. There are still two frequency ranges (2,4 and 5,0 GHz) supported by the device, but within the second range the transmitter works with two independent bands that allows decreasing the mutual influence of wireless clients on each other. Okay, let’s get started!

External design and hardware

NETGEAR R8000 wireless router comes in a black plastic case with the dimensions of 296х227х55 mm (with folded antennae) and a weight of 1,1 kg. Frankly speaking, the size of the case is not small at all. The appearance of the router resembles a spacecraft of the future. To work properly, the device needs an external adapter (included in the box) with the following characteristics: 12V and 5A.

The significant part of the router upper panel is a ventilation grate. In addition, six external folded antennae and eleven LEDs, indicating operating of the whole device, its wired interfaces, USB ports and wireless modules are located here. Apart from that, there are WPS and wireless network ON/OFF buttons located here.

The front panel and sides are not remarkable at all.

Located on the bottom panel of the router, there is a sticker with brief information about the device and four rubber legs for desktop mounting of the router. In addition, there are two holes used for mounting the device on the wall placed here.

The rear panel has five Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, a socket for a power adapter connection together with a power ON/OFF button, recessed Reset button, and a switch for turning on/off LEDs indication on the upper panel.

Now let’s have a look at the insides of the case.

The hardware platform of NETGEAR R8000 wireless router consists of two textolite plates: a motherboard and an auxiliary one responsible only for LEDs indication.

Unfortunately, all main elements are concealed under metal screens and are not accessible for review.

That’s where we proceed to completion of the review of the router hardware and pass on to its software capabilities.

Firmware upgrade

Changing the firmware version is performed with the help of Router Upgrade menu item of Administration group in WPS Wizard tab. Upgrade may be carried out both in manual and semi-automatic mode. To perform the procedure in semi-automatic mode, the device, certainly, should be connected to the global network. Manual upgrade is not more difficult: one should just select the upgrade file preliminary downloaded from the vendor’s website. The whole upgrade process takes approximately two minutes.

In fairness, it’s worth noting that not only firmware upgrade in semi-automatic mode requires Internet connection, but also this connection is necessary for changing the language of the web-interface. We consider this a bit strange, because Internet access appears after the router is configured, but localization is usually needed during the initial settings.

That’s where we draw the part devoted to firmware upgrade procedure to a close and pass on to reviewing the router web-interface.

Web-interface

We will not describe all capabilities of the device web-interface in detail, but focus our attention on the most interesting of them. We will also try not to miss new functions added to the web-interface since the review on R7500 was published.

The device web-interface is available to users in two modes: basic (BASIC tab) and advanced (ADVANCED tab).

Wireless menu item of the basic mode allows settings operation parameters for all three wireless modules: one works within 2,4 GHz and two others work within 5 GHz range.

The new feature is SmartConnect that allows automatically connecting users to different radio modules within 5 GHz range. So wireless users can see only one network within this range, their distribution to the frequency bands is performed automatically. Without using this function, the user discovers two different SSIDs in 5 GHz frequency range and selects SSID s/he wants to connect by her/himself.

The list of wired and wireless clients is presented in Attached Devices menu item.

Managing of a device connected via USB is carried out with the help of ReadySHARE item.

Internet Setup item of Setup group in ADVANCED tab is used for settings parameters for connection to a provider. Apart from static and dynamic connections, the following tunnel protocols are supported: PPTP, PPPoE and L2TP.

Additional settings of WAN port are collected in WAN Setup item of the same group.

Settings of LAN port of the router, DHCP server and RIP dynamic routing protocol are gathered in LAN Setup item.

Managing of the parameters for user access to an external USB drive is performed with the help of Advanced Settings and Media Server menu items of USB Storage group. To be fair, it’s worth noting that the testing router allows an administrator to specify which USB devices can be connected and which cannot (USB Settings item of Advanced Setup group).

Additional settings of the wireless network are collected in Wireless Settings item of Advanced Setup group. For example, here one can enable/disable BEAMFORMING function that manages the beam forming and allows increasing the coverage of the wireless network.

NETGEAR R8000 wireless router supports VPN-concentrator function and allows remote users to connect to it via OpenVPN tunnels. Unfortunately, other types of tunnels are not supported. Corresponding settings are available in VPN Service menu item.

Like previous models, Nighthawk X6 supports working with IPv6. The parameters of IPv6 support are presented in the menu item of the same name.

If necessary, the administrator can enable a limitation on the amount of transmitting traffic or time for connection to the global network. Traffic calculations and limitations setting are carried out with the help of Traffic Meter item.

One of the novelties that came in the last firmware versions is the support of IPTV consoles. The described support means that a particular LAN port or wireless network is connected to a WAN port with the help of a bridge (switch), so the traffic between these ports is not routed but switched. If necessary, the administrator can specify a virtual network (VLAN) which traffic should be transmitted between ports.

That’s where we bring the brief review of the web-interface of NETGEAR R8000 wireless router to a close and pass directly on to testing the device.

Testing

The first test we traditionally begin this part with is estimating the booting time of the device, which is a time interval starting with the moment when the power is on until the first echo reply is received through ICMP. NETGEAR R8000 wireless router boots in 89 seconds. We consider this a normal result.

The second no less than standard test is a security scanning procedure of the device, performing with the help of a security scanner Positive Technologies XSpider 7.7 (Demo build 3100). On the whole, there were eleven open ports discovered. The most interesting data are presented below.

Before getting down to performance tests we would like to get our readers familiar with the main parameters of the test stand we used.

Component PC Notebook
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VI Extreme ASUS M60J
CPU Intel Core i7 4790K 4 ГГц Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 ГГц
RAM DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 32 Гбайта DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 16 Гбайт
NIC Intel PRO/1000 PT
ASUS PCE-AC68
Atheros AR8131
NETGEAR A6200
OS Windows Server 2012 R2 Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

 

The first performance test we carried out was measuring throughput of user traffic during NAT translations.

The connection to most Internet providers in Russia and on the post-Soviet space is still performed via VPN. The diagram below presents the throughput of NETGEAR R8000 wireless router during its work with the use of PPTP. Only PPTP tunnels without encryption are supported.

Apart from connection to the operator via tunnels, R8000 has a built-in VPN server that allows performing remote connections of clients to the local network behind the device with the use of OpenVPN protocol. Naturally, we measured the throughput of the router during its operating in this mode.

Apart from IPv4, the testing router also supports the next version of IP – IPv6.

Finally, we came to measuring the throughput of the wireless segment. NETGEAR R8000 provides wireless clients with data transmission speed up to 3,2 Gbps. But it’s worth to mention that, at first, it’s the maximum theoretical transmission speed. Secondly, this is the total transmission speed available to several wireless clients working simultaneously. R8000 creates wireless channels within three bands: one connection within 2,4 GHz range and two others for 5 GHz range. The maximum transmission speed can be gained if one connects three wireless clients, each for its own band. A similar way of calculations we have already seen earlier for wireless routers working within two frequency bands, now there are three such bands.

At first, we measured the throughput of the wireless client working in 2,4 GHz range.

Similar measurements were also performed for 5GHz wireless range for two different clients.

Then we checked throughput with the same wireless clients during their simultaneous operating and connection to different SSIDs, so clients were working within different frequency channels in 5GHz range.

NETGEAR R8000 wireless router supports SmartConnect functionality that allows separating wireless clients connected to the same SSID to different frequency bands for excluding their mutual influence. Naturally, we cannot help but test operating of this function.

We didn’t set a goal to get maximum wireless transmission speed in this test. The only goal we set was to check that wireless clients (with enabled SmartConnect function) don’t influence each other.

NETGEAR R8000 wireless router has two USB ports: USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, to which we consistently connected our testing external hardware drive Transcend StoreJet 25M3 of 750 Gbytes with a partition consistently formatted to the following file systems: FAT32, NTFS and EXT3. At the diagram below one can see measurements of access speed to user files located on the drive. Intel NASPT utility of 1.7.1 version was used for testing. For the time of performing the test we were decreasing amount of RAM available to the operating system with the help of msconfig utility to correspond Intel’s recommendations and avoid (or decrease) the effects of cashing.

That’s where we complete testing part and pass on to summing it all up.

Conclusion

On the whole, we are pleased with tested NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 R8000 wireless router that raises the bar for the speed of the wireless segment up to an unbelievable height of 3,2 Gbps due to three independent frequency bands and the support of AC3200 (IEEE 802.11ac). As we have mentioned before, 3,2 Gbps is the maximum theoretical transmission speed that can be gained only by simultaneous using of minimum three wireless clients: one works within 2,4 GHz range and two others have connections within 5 GHz range. One of the advantages of the presence of three wireless bands is SmartConnect feature that allows organizing one SSID for two independent in frequency connections. This function allows automatically spreading wireless clients to bands to minimize their influence on each other.

The strength areas of NETGEAR R8000 wireless router are listed below.

  • High user data transmission speeds in the wireless segment
  • Powerful CPU
  • Support of VPN server functionality
  • IPv6 support
  • Ability to create guest wireless networks
  • Good access speeds to data located on an external hard drive
  • Support of three independent wireless bands
  • High data transmission speeds via PPTP tunnel

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention discovered drawbacks of the device.

  • The web-interface is not completely translated, and to change localization Internet connection is needed
  • Relatively high price
  • IPv6 and OpenVPN cannot be used simultaneously

When this review was being written, the price of Nighthawk X6 R8000 wireless router from NETGEAR’s authorized partners was 17990 roubles.

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