updated 05:32 am EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Smart Connect feature manages traffic across three network bands for optimum speeds
The newest version of the high-speed 802.11ac wireless Nighthawk routers was announced by Netgear today. The Nighthawk X6 Tri-Band Wi-Fi router (R8000) offers improvements over the previous version, introducing tri-band technology with Smart Connect to make network sharing more flexible. The Nighthawk X6 features a 1GHz dual-core processor with three offload processors to aid in the balancing of the high demand on data in the modern home.
Because of the inclusion of Broadcom's 5G Wi-Fi XStream platform, the Nighthawk X6 is able to achieve some of the fastest combined Wi-Fi speeds currently available. Utilizing two 5GHz bands, each at 1300Gbps, and a single 2.4GHz band at 600Gbps, speeds up to 3.2Gbps can be reached. Broadcom said the XStream platform allows for a 50 percent increase over existing 802.11ac routers when it announced it in April. The system utilizes six stream of 802.11ac over 160 MHz of bandwidth.
The unit uses intelligent auto-balancing to split up the load based on the speed of the devices connected to it. Netgear states that the intelligent balancing, or Smart Connect, aids in its support for the growing number of connected items. While doing the balancing for simultaneous-band usage, the router calculates the best band for a device to be put on. If one channel is full, the Nighthawk X6 assigns the next device to the open channel.
The assignment depends more on the bandwidth the speeds need, rather than the number of devices connected. Faster devices will be assigned to the appropriate channel, based on their capabilities. Activities requiring more data, such as network gaming or video streaming, could be placed on separate bands depending on overall load. At the same time, an older device with low demand or limited to 802.11n is placed on the 2.4GHz band.
Using six antennas and internal amplifiers, the Nighthawk X6 offers a large coverage area for homes utilizing a wealth of Internet-connected devices. With Beamforming+ technology, devices at longer ranges have up to 70 percent increased performance on either Wi-Fi band.
Even with the Nighthawk X6 focused on Wi-Fi connectivity, it still allows some standard features familiar to routers. The unit includes Gigabit Ethernet ports, with one assigned to a WAN. Network storage can be created by attaching a drive to the router through either the USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 port on the back.
Included software with the unit makes backing up files to connected USB media easy. ReadyShare can be used to setup automatic backups of PCs running Windows. Netgear MyMedia lets users find media on any machine connected to the network for listening or viewing on DLNA devices, without the need of a central server.
An easy-to-use network management dashboard called Genie is included, making everyday management and setup easier. Users can access the same tools with an Android or iOS app. Additionally, the Nighthawk X6 supports iTunes server with Airplay and OpenVPN tunnels for remote access.
While the Nighthawk X6 isn't in stores just yet, interested consumers can pre-order the router from Netgear. The Nighthawk X6 Tri-Band Wi-Fi routers is priced at an MSRP of $300.