Netgear XR500 Gaming Router Review

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Everything you could possibly want in a router, but at a price!

by Greg Hook Nov 14, 2018 at 7:43 AM

  • Tech review

    17

    Netgear XR500 Gaming Router Review
    SRP: £249.99

    What is the Netgear XR500 Gaming Router?

    For most people, the thought of paying out good money for another router when you are given one for free from your ISP is usually not very high on the list of household spending priorities. Whether you are with Sky, BT or even TalkTalk, the router provided normally does what it needs to do with the minimum of effort and user input. Together with lifetime support (of varying levels of quality, of course) as the router is typically owned by the ISP.

    But, whilst the ISP provided free router is normally fine, an increasing number of users are looking for something that offers better features, improved customisability and performance. Especially when the modern home is stocked full of Wi-Fi demanding devices such as tablets, phones and games consoles. The options available if you are looking to change your stock router are huge, with a wide range of alternatives from the likes of Netgear, TP-LINK, ASUS and Linksys to name just a few, ranging from the low budget at £25 up to over £300 for the wallet busting, top end units.

    Our item for review here is from one of the most common brands in networking devices, Netgear. Their XR500 Gaming Router from Netgear’s Nighthawk Pro Gaming range is available for around £240 and offers, on paper, everything you could possibly want from a router and then some. Features such as fast 2.6Ghz Wi-Fi speeds, Gigabit Ethernet ports, Dual Core 1.7Ghz processor are all backed up by Netgear’s DumaOS operating system which claims to allow competitive gamers to stay ahead of the game. Read on to see if this is all really worth £240……

    Design and Specifications

    A few years ago, a router used to be just a simple box with perhaps an antenna or two. Not anything fancy as it just sits in a corner doing its thing. But then someone thought, let's make the router look like it is ready to attack you at any moment and let’s have multiple antennae coming out at all angles. Those people are clearly still around and are most likely working at Netgear.
    Netgear XR500 Gaming Router Design and Specifications
    The XR500 is one of the most aggressive looking routers we’ve come across. Which is strange to say about a router, but it really does look like it is sitting there plotting your demise and, whilst sleeping, will attack you with its spiky antennae of doom. It is an all-black device with 4 antennae, two to the rear and one on each side along with a menacing row of white LED lights to the front. It’s also one of the largest routers we’ve seen measuring 310mm wide x 220mm deep x 55mm high, with a weight of 801g.

    To the rear, we have the 5 Gigabit Ethernet ports (4 LAN, 1 WAN), power connection, power button, factory reset and a switch to turn the row of demonic LED lights off. To the left side, we have two USB 3.0 ports for the Netgear ReadySHARE feature which is used to share a USB hard drive or printer to any connected devices. Netgear also include their free ReadySHARE Vault software for automatic PC backup to a USB hard drive connected to the router.
    Netgear XR500 Gaming Router Design and Specifications
      Specification and Features

    • 2.4Ghz 4x4 256 QAM, up to 800Mbps
    • 5Ghz 4x4 up to 1733Mbps
    • 4 high performance external antennae
    • Additional DFS channels (15 more channels) in 5Ghz for interference free gaming experience
    • Powerful Dual-Core 1.7Ghz processor
    • Five Gigabit Ethernet Ports (1 WAN, 4 LAN)
    • Two USB 3.0 Ports
    • DumaOS customisable gaming dashboard
    • ReadySHARE USB
    • ReadySHARE Vault for automatic PC backup
    • Quad Stream
    • MU-MIMO
    • Beamforming

    Installation and Features

    Networking devices are usually amongst the easiest and quickest of any technology to setup and here the XR500 is no different. Firstly, it’s important to note that the XR500 is a router only. It does not include a modem, so for those on BT Infinity with the later Homehubs with integrated modem, for example, you will still have to use the BT Modem/Router and then connect the XR500 to that via the WAN port.

    You simply power up the XR500 and connect it to your existing modem (or Modem/Router). Once ready, launch a web browser window and the installation assistant will automatically start, no need to enter a web address, it will helpfully start all on its own. The installation assistant is very easy to follow and in just a couple of minutes, it is all set up and ready to go.
    Netgear XR500 Gaming Router Installation and Features
    Once this simple and quick installation process has finished you get presented with the DumaOS interface. This is where you have access to all of the router’s many settings plus the Pro Gaming features which include the Gaming Dashboard, Geo-Filter, Quality of Service, Gaming VPN Client and Network Monitor.

    Starting with the Gaming Dashboard, this is a fully configurable layout of all the router’s information, such as bandwidth usage, CPU usage, wireless status and many more. All are available in individual windows which can be moved around, resized or even turned off, so you only have exactly the information you want to see in the dashboard.

    Then moving onto the other features such as the Geo-Filter. This can be enabled on a per device basis and to a per game type too. You can add the same device multiple times to cover a range of games. It has two main modes, spectating and filtering. As most PC games do not require filtering, the default is spectating mode which will show you the server you have connected to and your ping, but it will not be blocked. This can be very useful if you are concerned with your ping, you can easily see which server you are connected to.
    Netgear XR500 Gaming Router Installation and Features
    Filtering mode is less useful in that allows you to set up a maximum area that you will allow a game’s server to be located in. That sounds fine in theory but, in practice, we found on all the games we tested it with, they refused to work with the filtering enabled, unless you set it to maximum.

    Then onto the Quality of Service feature which allows you to configure the bandwidth allocation across all your connected devices and a setting called Anti-BufferBloat, which is a way to control the total bandwidth that devices can consume, thereby allowing bandwidth to be available for less hungry devices. The Network Monitor is another useful feature which shows all the devices currently connected to the Router and what bandwidth they are using. Then finally, the Gaming VPN client which has the VPN HideMyAss predefined, but you will have to buy a licence to use this feature. You can also set up a VPN to access your own network using a client to gateway tunnel.
    Netgear XR500 Gaming Router Installation and Features
    In addition to these features, the router has every setting you could possibly want and probably a lot more you won’t ever use or need. To name just a few you have Port Forwarding, Port Triggering, Dynamic DNS, Remote Management, Static Routes, UPnP, IPv6 and VLAN/Bridge Settings. Then on the filtering side, you have website and services blocking including setting a schedule as to when the blocking is enabled and finally monitoring such as Traffic Meter, Logs and Statistics. If we say this router has every feature and setting you could possibly ever need, we are sure one of our readers will find a feature it is missing, but from what we have experienced it does offer everything you could possibly need in a router.

    How well does it perform?

    The testing is carried out in a standard 4 bed detached house. As we have BT Infinity and a HomeHub which has an integrated modem, the XR500 Router automatically configured the IP address to avoid conflicts. We initially tested using a PC connected via Gigabit Ethernet to our existing BT HomeHub Modem/Router and with a laptop connected via wireless to our 802.11ac capable laptop. We then repeated the tests using the XR500 Router. During our testing, we turned off all other wireless transmitters to avoid any interference.

    We used a program called LANSpeedTest by Totusoft which is a simple but powerful tool for measuring Local Area Network (LAN) speeds. It does this by building a file in memory, then transfers it both ways (without the effects of Windows file caching) while keeping track of the time, and then does the calculations for you. This gives us the results of transferring files between our PC and the Laptop using the Orbi network.
    Test: 2 x 1GB files transferred simultaneously.

    Location 1 is on the same floor, 3 metres from the Router and through one wall.
    Location 2 is on the same floor, 5 metres from the Router and through two walls.
    Location 3 is in a room directly above the Router, 2-3 metres away.
    Location 4 is in a room one floor above the Router, 7 metres away.

    BT Infinity HomeHub Write Read
    Location 1 100.83 Mbps 165.16 Mbps
    Location 2 112.48 Mbps 200.03 Mbps
    Location 3 144.88 Mbps 269.40 Mbps
    Location 4 20.74 Mbps 27.90 Mbps

    Netgear XR500 Router Write Read
    Location 1 112.68 Mbps 226.49 Mbps
    Location 2 22.43 Mbps 7.18 Mbps
    Location 3 104.70 Mbps 212.77 Mbps
    Location 4 15.59 Mbps 13.24 Mbps

    In addition to the above tests, we carried out an internet speedtest on our PC connected via Gigabit Ethernet to both routers. With our existing BT HomeHub we received an average 31.63Mbps down and 9.48Mbps up with a ping of 7ms. Using the Netgear XR500 our download dropped ever so slightly to 31.53Mbps, upload to 9.28Mbps and ping remained the same at 7ms.

    The internet speedtest results show barely any difference at all which we would expect, a new router can’t magically increase our speed. We did hope for much better results with the wireless tests as shown in the table above, but these were inconsistent and no real improvements overall were seen when compared to our BT HomeHub. Despite the claims of much increased speed and range, it seems our test location continues to offer a very tough test for wireless devices.

    Conclusion

    7
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Very easy to install and configure
    • DumaOS gaming dashboard
    • Excellent features
    • Superb specification

    Cons

    • Expensive
    • Geo-filter not compatible with some games
    You own this Total 0
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    Netgear XR500 Gaming Router Review

    Is the Netgear XR500 Gaming Router worth buying?

    If you are looking for a router that does everything you could possibly wish for a router to do and plenty of things you haven’t even thought of, then you can’t go wrong with the XR500. But, that comes at a cost. When most people use the free router that their ISP provides, shelling out £240 for an alternative is not an option to be taken lightly.

    For that £240 you get a very tasty specification including both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz wireless with the latter theoretically offering up to 1733Mbps speeds along with 4 high performance antennae, Netgear ReadySHARE features and plenty of Ethernet ports. What sets the XR500 apart though is the Pro Gaming features. The customisable gaming dashboard using Netgear’s DumaOS offers an impressive array of features such as a Network Monitor, Geo-location filtering, Quality of Service and VPN client support. If you have the knowledge, you can configure this router to do exactly what you want it to do. You can’t really ask for more than that.

    What is the competition?

    At this price range, there are a few alternatives to Netgear’s wallet busting XR500. TP-LINK’s rather strange looking Tri-Band Archer C5400 and the router/piece of art that is the Gryphon Consumer Secure Family Router, both available for £220 and both offering very similar specifications and greater in some areas.
    If you don’t mind the £240 price tag, the XR500 Gaming Router is feature rich with a superb specification and offers everything you could possibly need in a router, but do you really need it?


    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £249.99

    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    9

    Connectivity

    9

    Ease of Use

    10

    Connection Speed

    8

    Value for Money

    7

    Verdict

    7

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