Netgear R7000 Nighthawk Router Review

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Is Netgear's Nighthawk the solution to all those wireless devices in the modern home?

by Lee Bryan Mar 14, 2014 at 4:43 PM

  • Tech review

    8

    Netgear R7000 Nighthawk Router Review
    SRP: £160.00

    Introduction

    The home networking demand is growing on a daily basis, so at AVForums we decided to put the new 'Nighthawk' Wireless router under the microscope. Will it pass muster?

    As an avid enthusiast for anything internet related I jumped at the chance to review the latest Wi-Fi router from Netgear. Having had plenty of experience with aftermarket routers in the past, from custom firmware on the classic Linksys WRT54G to a newer TP Link router. Any budding techno Internet/PC enthusiast will know that the free modem/routers that most ISPs offer are far from top-of-the-range. They are free after all. Everybody in the modern world is looking for that extra speed from their home network, especially with a plethora of networked devices in the modern home. TV’s, BluRay players, consoles, portable consoles, smartphones, tablets, PCs and even Hi-Fis can all use your wireless bandwidth. It really is becoming a saturated network for many homes.
    As a young lad, I remember going from 56K dialup over to the first release of cable in the UK when I moved to a 0.5Mbps connection. I was so excited, it revolutionised the Internet for myself and many others. I used Virgin Media (previously Telewest) faithfully until January 2012 when I moved house, I didn’t think to check my new property for Virgin Media catchment as I was only moving 2 miles away, but once I moved, I found that my new house was not a Virgin Media enabled area. I was gutted, especially as BT only offered ASDL and the estimated speed was 2Mbps – I was previously getting 100Mbps from Virgin Media. So for the short term I was on, what I considered to be, Stone Age Internet speeds.


    Luckily, 2 months later BT enabled my property with Infinity 2 and now I have a speed of about 53Mbps, which is perfectly acceptable. When I was with Virgin Media I didn’t use the SuperHub that they provided as it was a very entry level modem/router (I believe it was a rebranded D-Link product). I used this unit for the modem functionality and completely disabled the router function and used a Netgear DGN2000 which was far superior to the free Virgin Media option. When I moved and realised that I needed to move to ADSL I gave that router away to a friend of mine. So for two months I was using ASDL by BT and their free Home Hub which was fine for the limited internet connection speed of 2Mbps. Around two months later I was overjoyed when the Infinity engineer came and installed the newly setup fibre optic Internet for my area. Instantly I decided that the BT Home Hub was not up to scratch so and I purchased a TP-Link WDR3600 router. This router allowed me to obtain better customisation for my home Network. So for the past 9 months I've been rocking a mid-range router.

    My Home Network

    Moving onto my home Network – I have quite an extensive number of connective devices.
    • My gaming PC – connection via Gigabit cable
    • My Synology dual bay NAS box – connection via Gigabit cable
    • Wife’s gaming PC – connection via Gigabit cable
    • Sons gaming PC – connection via Powerline 200Mbps Adapter
    • My work laptop – connection via Wi-Fi
    • PS3 – connection via Wi-Fi
    • Lounge HTPC – connection via Wi-Fi
    • My Samsung Note 3 Phone– connection via Wi-Fi
    • Wife’s iPhone 5 – connection via Wi-Fi
    • Sons HTC Desire HD – connection via Wi-Fi
    • Sons Xbox 360 – connection via Wi-Fi
    • Sons PS Vita – connection via Wi-Fi
    • Sons Motorola Zoom Tablet – connection via Wi-Fi
    • Household printer – connection via USB to the router
    So as you can see my network is quite heavily loaded for one at home, which is fairly typical of any modern family nowadays.

    First Impressions

    Netgear R7000 First Impressions

    Packaging – The box felt fairly thin and I would have liked to have seen something sturdier for a product with such a high price point. The box print does boast a 1GHz dual core processor and claims to offer extreme speed and range. The front of the box also points out that this router is designed for gaming and streaming and has a statement of “100% faster for mobile devices” I look forward to testing that theory out. The inner packaging is better than the outer box, with very sturdy cardboard innards , which means the unit is very well protected. So my initial concerns about the outer box were a little unfounded.

    Product – The router has a very distinctive design with sharp angular lines and the main unit is wedge shaped, much like a Nighthawk airplane - hence the name - giving it a gamer style which is perfect for the target audience. The Wi-Fi antennas are large and also follow the wedge shaped theme, again, looking very adept for the styling. The front of the router has an array of LED lights which indicate many different functions . There is also a USB3.0 port on the bottom front of the unit allowing easy access for USB storage devices. It is actually semi-hidden at the front of an angled base which is great for a clean look.

    The rear of the router has the usual ports that most routers have, 1 x WAN port, 4 x LAN ports, 1 x USB 2.0 port, an on/off switch, a power socket and 3 screw ports for the antenna’s. The base of the router has 4 quite large rubberised feet to ensure it can remain stable and in place on any smooth surface. There are also 2 screw mount points if you wish to wall mount the router. Overall we like the look of the router; it has a nice clean memorable design to it, so a big thumbs up from us.

    The main unit has a very distinctive design with sharp angular lines and a wedge shape, much like a Nighthawk airplane.

    Setup / Installation

    Netgear R7000 Setup / Installation

    I plugged in the router and powered it up. A setup wizard screen popped up on my PC asking me if I wanted an auto setup or go manual – for the purpose of the review I decided to test the auto wizard. It auto detected my internet connection immediately and configured it all on its own. It did ask for a PPPoE username and password – of course you will need to know this information, but for BT Infinity the username is [email protected] and there is no password. I entered this information and two minutes later the setup was fully complete – the setup wizard finally gave me the 2.4GHz and 5GHz SSID on screen with the random passwords it generated in setup – it also gave me the option to change these and print the details off. A nice easy setup.

    Wi-Fi Capabilities

    My home network has a number of wireless devices so for my needs Wi-Fi is very important. My impressions of my TP Link router was quite good as it offered me a much better signal over the built in BT Home Hub – but I believed that to be down to the fact the Home Hub had no external antenna. So pitting the TP Link router against the Netgear Nighthawk would be a far more balanced test.

    My testing methodology was to use my Samsung Note 3 and an app called Wi-Fi analyser – this shows the signal strength of all Wi-Fi connections on a bar graph. I also tested using speedtest.net, again using the Wi-Fi connection on my phone. In order to get an accurate catchment I decided to test the connection from 5 points within my home- which is a typical 4 bedroom semi-detached house. The router is installed in my home office/gaming room, which is upstairs. I work from home so having a dedicated office is a must for me.
    • Test Location 1 – Sat at my desk in my office, approx. 1.5m from the router (front of house)
    • Test Location 2 – Bedroom next to my office, approx. 6m from the router (front of house)
    • Test Location 3 – Bottom of my staircase. approx. 9m away from the router and 1 floor underneath the router (middle of house)
    • Test Location 4 – Dining room. Approx. 14m away from the router and 1 floor underneath the router (rear of the house)
    • Test Location 5 – Rear Garden. Approx. 22m away from the router and 1 floor underneath the router (rear of the property outside)
    Using the Wi-Fi analyser software on my Samsung Note 3 phone (or tablet - lets not get into that discussion here) I obtained the following results:-

    Netgear R7000
    Outside my property in my rear garden the Netgear's 2.4GHz signal and speed is perfectly usable for streaming music and video.

    Netgear R7000


    Netgear R7000

    So the Netgear Nighthawk did have better signal strength compared to my trusty TP-Link router. But how does this compare to real world speeds? I ran speedtest.net on my Samsung Note 3 smartphone from all of the same locations using both bands on each router and the results clearly speak for themselves.

    Netgear R7000

    The Netgear router maintained greater speeds for a much further range compared to the TP-Link router both with the 2.4Ghz band and the 5GHz band. Both bands on the Netgear remained at full speed for a much longer distance and only started to lose speed at a range of 16meters and further. The TP-Link strength was almost none existant at 16meters on the 5GHz band but the Netgear speed was still strong. Outside my property, in my rear garden, the Netgear's 2.4GHz signal and speed is perfectly usable for streaming music and video to my phone, however my TP-Link router kept losing signal completely when playing music and video so was totally unplayable.

    At 5GHz the range was not good enough to keep a constant signal for any type of testing at all whilst outside. In summertime I use my garden for entertaining; parties, BBQs etc, I use my phone to stream to a Bluetooth wireless speaker which is fine, but my phone has a finite storage space so my library of music is limited. However, using the Netgear router on the 2.4GHz connection I can stream my entire music collection from my home NAS storage box to my phone or even stream from one of the many audio sites, so I have much more freedom with the Netgear router. Something I have not been able to do with my old TP-Link router.

    Gaming/Streaming and QoS

    QoS (Quality of Service) is a system a network router has that allows data transference to be prioritised. So gaming which requires a fast ping but only has a small bandwidth will be given a high priority. Streaming video’s will also be given a higher priority, but non-speed sensitive transfers like file downloads in browsers or even P2P network transfers are given a lesser priority. This service ensures that games and video viewing is kept smooth when required, by prioritising the data process order. In terms of gaming and streaming I have spent around 1 week testing this with a mixture of personal gaming for myself, my son mixing between youtube streaming, gaming and Netflix on his PC at the same time, whilst my wife has also been streaming via Netflix at the same time.

    The Nighthawk does have a very advanced QoS system which did give me better stability for pings for online gaming. Netflix was flawless at the same time. One thing I did notice was that if I tried to download a large file whilst any major streaming activity was running the file transfer speed would drop down a little – this is clear evidence of the QoS kicking in. I have never seen any evidence of QoS being active in the past even on routers with QoS advertised features. So based on my experience, I believe this is one of the best QoS systems on any router. The menu system within the router has a pre-determined QoS priority list with likes for gaming, Skype, MSN, FTP etc all listed so you can customise the priority to suit your own needs, you can also even add new services to the list which are not included by default. Many routers do not offer this level of detailing.

    Conclusion

    7
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Design
    • Wi-Fi Range
    • Briiliant QoS

    Cons

    • Price
    You own this Total 2
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    Netgear R7000 Nighthawk Router Review

    The R7000 Nighthawk router does indeed offer great capabilities for any household, with the signal strength on the Wi-Fi and the QoS advanced service being the best I have ever seen on any domestic based router, however with a price tag of around £150-£180 this is not a product that would be a worthy purchase for every household. I do believe that this is a top of the range home router, so if you have a home which has a poor Wi-Fi coverage currently, or you just have a really large property and require good Wi-Fi signal for all area's of your home then this is definitely a router that I would recommend. If you are just looking for an average router which offers slightly better options over the router that your ISP has given you, then there will be lower priced products which maybe more suitable for your requirements.


    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £160.00

    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    7

    Connectivity

    9

    Ease of Use

    9

    Connection Speed

    8

    Value for Money

    6

    Verdict

    7

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