The Netgear AC1900-Nighthawk (EX7000) is the fastest Wi-Fi extender Netgear has produced yet, boasting a top speed of 600Mbps at 2.4GHz and 1,300Mbps at 5GHz. It also packs in a host of extra features, making it perhaps the ultimate Wi-Fi extender for home and small-business use.
Like other top-end Wi-Fi extenders, the EX7000 is a large device. It's shaped like a router, with a separate power supply and multiple external aerials – it’s a far cry from the all-in-one plug units such as the ZyXEL WRE2205.
As a result, you’ll need 252 x 174 x 31mm of space to accommodate it – though it does come with an optional stand for mounting it vertically to keep its footprint to a minimum.
Largely built from plastic, the Netgear EX7000 is light for its size at just 635g. It isn’t the toughest design, although it’s not the sort of device that should take many knocks. It looks nice enough, featuring a glossy black and grey finish throughout. Realistically, though, The EX7000 isn't the sort of thing you’ll ever want to make a centrepiece.
Related: Linksys EX6200 Wi-Fi extender
The headline feature of this extender is its ability to reach AC1900 transfer speeds of 600Mbps at 2.4GHz and 1,300Mbps at 5GHz – it's able to keep both connections going simultaneously.
To get these speeds you will of course have to combine it with an AC1900 router – such as Netgear’s own Nighthawk range – so be sure to make that upgrade first.
With the extender then playing host to five Ethernet ports, it means you can hook up a whole extra building/floor/room to a really fast connection, without having to worry about each computer having Wi-Fi.
It's in this scenario that I’d recommend such a product, since the Wi-Fi on most client devices (laptops, tablets, phones) isn’t fast enough to make the most of that speed. As such, if you’re not going to be using those Ethernet ports, it's somewhat overkill, though you do still get far better overall range than with lesser units.
Joining the Ethernet socket on the back are the reset button, WPS button and power switch, along with the power connection.
Upfront is a USB 3.0 port, which can be used to share files from a USB storage device or attach a printer. For such a premium device it would have been nice to see two such ports included – but it’s a minor quibble.
If you have a WPS-enabled router – and who doesn’t these days – then setup of the EX7000 is simple. Just plug it in, tap the WPS buttons on each device and it’ll take care of the rest.
The new extended networks use the same name as your existing network but with the addition of an “EXT”, and the passwords should be the same.
If you don’t have WPS then you'll have to connect to the router directly, either through an Ethernet port or using its default Wi-Fi network. That’s fairly typical, but once you reach the webpage for setting up the device, you'll be prompted to sign up for Netgear’s online service before it allows you to proceed.
While Netgear’s service is free and quite useful – allowing for remote access and the like – I don’t like that you’re forced to sign up right there and then.
The standard Wi-Fi extender test sees the extender set up at a distance of around 5m from the router, with two walls in between. The speed from the extended networks is then recorded using a laptop equipped with an AC600 speed adapter, at a distance of 2m through a wooden floor (upstairs, above the extender) and 10m with another brick wall in the way (at the bottom of the garden).
Using this setup, the EX7000 absolutely blitzed the competition. It delivered 36Mbps on 2.4GHz at 2m and 23Mbps at 10m. At 5GHz, these figures leaped up to 100Mbps and 85.6Mbps. The next fastest extender I’ve tested achieves only 44.8Mbps and 28Mbps in the same test.
There’s no doubting that with the right hardware in place, the EX7000 is an exceedingly fast Wi-Fi extender – and I found it to be reliable too.
If you’re in the market for a device that will allow you to stretch your high-speed network between two buildings or an area where it’s simply impractical to lay cable – and you require that network to then connect to a host of other devices – then the EX7000 is ideal.
It’s fast, reliable and has enough features to support a small office of computers – or one very busy household. However, for simply ensuring that you can can use your iPad at the bottom of the garden, it is probably overkill.
Priced at around £125, all this performance doesn’t come cheap, and if you’re willing to step down a little in performance, the Linksys RE6500 is available for £89 and still packs a performance punch.
Moreover, for such an expensive bit of kit, I’d prefer to see more than a one-year warranty, especially since home-networking kit is notorious for just suddenly giving up the ghost after a year or two.
If you need the utmost in performance from an extended Wi-Fi network, plus the ability to connect a host of devices to it, then the Netgear EX7000 fits the bill perfectly. It is probably overkill for most households, though, and the one-year warranty is disappointing.
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