Review Price £189.99
This is Netgear’s long awaited ‘AC1900 Wi-Fi' rival to current top dogs the Linksys EA6900 and Asus RT-AC68U. We say "long awaited" because this sassily named router actually launched at the same time as its rivals in the US, but we have waited five months for it to appear in the UK. So having had the biggest of build ups is the R7000 worth the wait?
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Having been named like no other Netgear router it is somewhat apt the R7000 Nighthawk looks like no other Netgear router either. Without sounding cruel, this is a good thing. Whereas Netgear’s routers are famously sensible and functional, the R7000 has some much needed swagger and bravado.
It’s sleek, angular lines and matt black finish make it look like something a Cylon might pilot and its three thick external antennas add an element of aggression that conveys Netgear means business. That is carried over to the build quality with a durable and surprisingly heavyweight (750g) construction that at 285 x 184 x 50mm also makes for the widest router we’ve seen.
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Despite a mass of activity lights (power, Internet, 2.4GHz WiFi, 5GHz WiFi, WPS and 2x USB and 4x Ethernet ports) Netgear also keeps things classy with white activity lights.
There’s a practical element to this style as well with Netgear choosing to front mount a USB 3.0 port for the easy addition of USB storage. This will be a handy feature for many, though if you permanently keep two devices connected over USB the fact it leaves just one at the back will make keeping your cables tidy more difficult. Regardless, Netgear has nailed the design.
The R7000 isn’t short on features either. The obvious talking point is the ‘AC1900’ branding which – like the EA6900 and RT-AC68U – means it is fitted with the Broadcom BCM4708A chipset. The big news about this chipset is it brings ‘Turbo QAM’ – a proprietary technology that boosts 802.11n 2.4GHz speeds from a previous theoretical maximum of 450Mbps to 600Mbps. When combined with the 1300Mbps theoretical maximum of 802.11ac you get the 1900Mbps figure only this trio of routers can claim.
Netgear isn’t prepared to just match its rivals on theory though. More practically it raises the bar on their dual core 800MHz ARM Cortex A9 processors clocking its own pair at 1GHz, making it the first router to break this milestone. Meanwhile it packs the same 128MB of native flash memory and 256MB of RAM.
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Crucially the R7000 also comes with Beamforming, which enables the router to recognise where connected devices are and boost signal in their direction rather than throwing it out equally in all directions. In addition there’s WPA/WPA2 security, the aforementioned WPS, VPN and guest network support, QoS and even a customised free URL for those wanting to setup a personal FTP server.
But the R7000 doesn’t tick every box. It’s four Gigabit Ethernet ports are joined by just one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port, rather than a pair of USB 3.0 ports as on the EA6900. It cannot work as a bridge like the RT-AC68U and it doesn’t pack any remote Cloud access like Linksys’ latest routers and, to a lesser extent, Asus and D-Link.
In short the R7000 was built with a simple purpose: to be the fastest, rangiest wireless router available.
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