NETGEAR Nighthawk XR500 Pro Gaming Router Review

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The NETGEAR Nighthawks Lamborghini-like appearance means that it is built for streaming.

Our version has the Duma router OS built-in, and we’re going to see what this router OS does and how well you can manage your traffic on this device.

This sells for around $299, which is $100 more than another NETGEAR router with the same hardware, the R7800.

This one, at least as far as we can tell, has almost the same specifications but a different operating system driving it.

So if you like what you see with the DumaOS, it looks like the price premium is about 100 bucks for that OS.

 

NETGEAR NIGHTHAWK XR500 PRO GAMING ROUTER

NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 WiFi Router with 4 Ethernet Ports and Wireless speeds up to 2.6 Gbps, AC2600, Optimized for Low ping

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Otherwise, you can get the other one and get pretty much the same performance, we would imagine, out of it.

On the front, you’ve got a bunch of LED lights. There is a way to shut them all off with the exception of the power button.

You also have a Wi-Fi cutoff switch if you want to get everybody off the Wi-Fi network right away. You have your WPS button for pairing up printers and other devices that support that push-button pairing with the router.

External Storage

On the left-hand side, you’ve got 2 USB 3.0 ports. These, you can attach to remote or external storage too and use it as remote storage.

So we have plugged in a super-fast SSD into this a little bit earlier. It showed up on our network as a NAS device would, but we’re not getting NAS speeds out of it.

We’d like to see about 100 megabytes per second of data transfer on a NAS, and we’re only getting about 60 megabytes per second or so out of the router.

But for dropping off documents or doing backups or something, it might be adequate for that kind of activity. You can attach 2 hard drives to this if you wish. But again, it’s no NAS replacement.

On the back, we’ve got our usual array of Ethernet ports. For a $300 router, we would like to see a few more than what we’re getting. There are four gigabit Ethernet ports plus a gigabit LAN port.

Gigabit Internet Support

We did some testing on our LAN, and the connection out to the Internet looks like it’ll support gigabit speeds up and down,

so it doesn’t look like there are any real hardware impediments to fast internet connections if you’re lucky enough to have one.

But again, we would like to see a few more ports for the LAN side of it just because we’ve seen some other routers that have eight versus four like this one does.

If you want to turn it off, you can shut it down physically with a gentle push button. On the other side, you’ve got the LED on/off button and what this will do is stop all the blinking lights on the front.

So we did that a little earlier. You can guess what happens when that switch is thrown. It turns off all the lights with the exception of the power light so that you know it is on.

4 by 4 AC Wireless Radio

Inside, it has a four by four AC wireless radio, which we’ll test the bandwidth of later in the review, so very nice to see a good number of AC wireless channels available.

It supports MIMO and all the other stuff that these high-end routers tend to support.

We did a range test a little bit earlier in the office, to see how this one compares to the other Wi-Fi devices we use around,

and we found on the 2.4 gigahertz spectrum that we were doing about 13 or 15% better than we were with our Synology router, the AC2600 we’ve been running with for the last year or two.

So definitely a good range on this one. Even the five gigahertz seemed to do slightly better than some of our other equipment in the office.

But we do like to remind people that wireless is different in every situation. We live in a very sparsely populated area where we don’t have a lot of competing Wi-Fi access points coming into the mix.

Large Wi-Fi Coverage

So generally, we get good Wi-Fi coverage throughout our office. But if we go out to New York City, for example, and visit some friends over there, there are a gazillion access points all within the same building that will interfere and reduce your overall range.

You also have other factors like the construction of your office. So you could be in a place like us, but if you’ve got a lot of concrete and stucco all over the place,

that might be absorbing those radio frequencies more than our wood-frame construction office might. You also run into a number of other scenarios too that will impact your overall performance.

So what we like to recommend, especially for streamers, is that you get yourself situated in such a way that you can get your computer hardwired into the Ethernet ports on these types of routers because you will get the best possible performance out of that.

Now, with that caveat out of the way, we’re going to run a real perfect-world simulation on the local network.

So we’ve got a MacBook Pro connected wirelessly to the router. It sat right next to it, and we ran a test called an iPerf test, which is measuring the amount of bandwidth we can push through the pipe.

What we’re doing is sending data wirelessly to the router and then out through this Ethernet cable that’s connected to a computer that is underneath our desk.

This is how we’re able to measure the potential speed of the wireless radio, at least with this configuration.

800 Megabit Wireless

We got about 800 megabits per second from the computer to the router over to the other computer that’s connected up via a wire.

That is a very nice amount of performance that we have as a potential. But remember, we’re on our local network.

Your mileage is going to vary. The further you get away from it, the less performance you’ll see. But this is what we see for its potential, and we are quite pleased with what it’s able to deliver.

Now, the real value to this we think is the DumaOS that’s built into it because it makes things very simple for sharing your internet connection with other people in the office.

That is something that many other routers do but don’t seem to do as well as this one does, at least from the standpoint of making it quick and easy to get it working and for you to be able to understand precisely how it works quickly.

Custom Bandwidth

If you ever had issues when everybody’s streaming and your game starts to drop off, there are some things that you can set up to carve out some bandwidth for yourself that doesn’t get shared with anybody.

So let’s take a look and see how that works.

When you first log into the router, you’ll see the DumaOS dashboard with its web-based control panel, and it looks beautiful. In fact, you can move everything around and adjust things.

You can grab these little applets from all the other options on-screen. So for example, if we wanted to drop the log section into the front dashboard; maybe, we have to click on a little pushpin.

Then, when we go back to the front page, you’ll see the logs will be there.

So you do have a lot of flexibility as to how you want the router to present information to you when you first log in.

We’re not going to jump through everything this does, but we’re going to focus on a few things of interest that are unique to this as well as a few things that we like that have been included with this as well,

So that you can get a feel for what some of your options are. Now, the least complete feature to us has been this a geofilter thing,

Generally, the way this works is that you can limit on a per-game basis where your computer connects to.

So if you’re playing Counter-Strike: GO, for example, and you only want to play with people within, for example, the United States or North America, you can set the boundaries.

Block Foreign Traffic

What it will do is basically block any traffic that falls outside of this area. So it won’t even connect to a server that’s not close to you geographically.

On the PC, a lot of games do this already, but this is another way to do it if you want.

They did say in the manual that it might be better suited for console games and that kind of thing. We honestly could not find anything on the PC that worked with this.

We did try to set up a couple of things, including some Unreal Engine games. We also decided to add in Counter-Strike as well.

So what you do to get this going is you first define which device is going to get this geofilter attached to it.

So we’re going to have our Alienware gaming laptop, for example, be the one that we focus on there. We’re going to select Source Engine and a click Done.

And what’ll happen is that any time that computer loads up a Source Engine game, it will apply this filter if we turn it on.

Here’s the problem that we’re having is that we can’t, in many of the games, activate this filtering mode, which makes this work.

So right now, it’s just set to looking at network traffic that one of these two games is generating and then showing us within the map where our fellow players are located.

But right now, we can’t get it to begin filtering. We think this is something that needs to get updated because it just doesn’t seem to be working at all for us right now.

We’re on the latest firmware, so maybe if they do make some improvements, we’ll come back and look at it again. We’re sure somebody will let us know in the comment section how we are not doing it correctly.

But for the moment, we can’t seem to get this feature operating. But there is something cool though related to the quality of service and how you can, again, make your gaming PC be the preferred computer on the network for network traffic going in and out.

Quality of Service

The quality of service is something that’s on a lot of other routers, but we found it to be straightforward to configure because it does a lot of the setup for you.

Typically, with quality of service, you need to know what your speeds up and down are. The router does that test automatically and adjusts things so that all you need to do is just move sliders around to get all of this working.

You can also jump into an individual device and adjust its percentage this way as well. So if you wanted to get a little more granular, maybe type in the number or something, you could do that too.

So that’s pretty helpful. Now, another neat feature of the router is its anti-buffer bloat protection, and you’ll find that on the QoS screen.

What this is useful for is for people like us that have limited upstream bandwidth. So our upstream, on a good day, is about 12 megabits per second.

If we’re streaming a game, and then our coworkers start uploading something to Twitch, and our HR sends out a huge big email attachment, that upstream connection is going to get saturated very quickly.

A lot of routers have a feature built into them to hang on to upstream packets until that upstream pipe gets a little freed up and then it releases those packets out to the Internet.

That works fine if you’re uploading an email attachment or something to FTP, but not so much in a streaming environment where you need all those packets coming back and forth in as close to real-time as possible.

So what you can do is enable this feature to prevent that buffering from happening, and they’ve got some options.

One is toturn it on so it’s always available to you, which might be useful if you’ve got a lot of crazy stuff going on in your network. They give you some excellent tips as to how to configure this properly.

So it told us that we needed to lower our sliders below 100% so that we don’t saturate our connection when we activate this feature.

So you might want to turn your upstream down to maybe 90% to have some room for this feature to activate.

The maximum bandwidth settings are based on the speed test that the router runs in the background.

So if you do not see your full connection speed, you might want to get everybody off the network and have it run that test again to get yourself to your natural bandwidth allocation.

But one feature that we thought was cool was the ability to use high-priority traffic detection, which doesn’t always turn on, this feature will enable when you’ve got something that should turn it on,

The way you do that is you go over to the traffic prioritization at the bottom of the dashboard.

What we did is add that Alienware gaming laptop again. What it’s got is a bunch of presets for a number of popular games.

So for example, if we want to make sure we never get this buffering when we’re playing our Counter-Strike session, we can click that and click on Done.

Then, when the router detects that we’ve got that Source Engine game running, it’s going to enable that anti-buffer bloat feature and give us priority to ensure that our packets,

first of all, getting delivered ahead of our HR email attachment, but we’re also not getting that buffering that would limit the ping rates for those packets as well.

It’s nice that you can do that on a per-game basis. It doesn’t have a lot of games built into this, but what you can do is also go into the advanced settings.

If you know the port ranges for the communication that you’re doing over the network, you can set it up for yourself manually as well.

But overall, these quality of service features are really well-executed and very easy to understand.

It automatically sets a lot of the features up for you, so it’s effortless to get the result you’re looking for without having to mess around with it too much.

Real-Time Network Monitoring

A couple of other things to check out. You’ve got an excellent real-time network monitor to see what’s going in and out of your network in real-time.

You also have the ability to very quickly find people on your network who might be abusing it and blocking them if you wish.

So you have that as an available option too — a couple of other things in the settings that caught our eye.

By the way, you do have guest network capabilities on like you have on most routers.

So you do have the ability to block sites and manage when the coworkers can come on, for example. So you do have the scheduling features for access and that sort of thing.

In the advanced settings are a couple of items that we found of most interest.

The first is that it does have an open VPN server that you can enable.

So that’s a very nice, secure way to get access to your local network when you’re streaming, and it also has downloadable packages to get all of this working.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like you can set up a separate SSID for a different VLAN tag. We don’t typically see a lot of routers with VLAN configuration like this built-in.

This one’s got it, which we thought was useful. And you can also do some other stuff like control how things blink on the LED on the front.

So lots of nice little options if you want to get into it. We think this is something that will improve overtime as this DumaOS continues to get worked on.

DumaOS

The folks behind DumaOS are a distinct company. They are focused on this, so they’re not making hardware, they’re making the operating system.

They have their router, but they have a licensed and paired up with NETGEAR on this one to get this thing going.

We think it’s going to improve quite a bit as this develops. Certainly, NETGEAR’s market reach is going to be useful for the company.

So all-in, we are quite pleased with this router and its performance. We liked the software quite a bit, but it does come at a premium price over that R7800 router we mentioned earlier,

which is essentially the same hardware yet costs $100 less. But if you are struggling to get your network under control, especially for streaming or other tasks where you want to prioritize your computer over others in the office,

we think this one might give you a more natural way to do that. Other routers do precisely what this one does with all those QoS features, but we did find the configuration on to be a lot easier than we’ve seen elsewhere.

We’re intrigued to see where this DumaOS goes next. A lot of people like the NETGEAR hardware quite a bit, and if you are looking for some easier management, this might be worth considering.

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