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The Netgear Nighthawk X4S impresses on many levels, but will its minor missteps be enough to take it down completely? Read our TP-Link Archer C9 router review and check out what Netgear has to offer below.
Keep reading my Netgear Nighthawk X4S Review to find out why looks aren’t always the only thing that matter when it comes to choosing the best router
Summary: The Netgear Nighthawk X4S is a strong performer and a good looker, held back only by its comparatively dated Genie dashboard.
Price: $238.99 on AmazonAvailable: Jan 2016Model: Nighthawk X4S R7800-100NAS
What We Liked
What We Didn’t
Related: Find other popular devices in our Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 review
Of all the Netgear wireless routers we’ve tested in the Nighthawk line thus far, the design of the X4S is my favorite of the bunch. It’s reserved, modern, and the brushed steel-esque casing just oozes an aura of sophistication.
In a market that’s doing whatever it can to quite literally stand out on shelves, the X4S takes two steps back and three forward. It’s not ashamed to be anything but what it is or feel the need to blend in with your couch either.
Related: Check the Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Router review roundup
On a purely personal level, I prefer the lines and design decisions more on this router than anything else we’ve tested so far. It’s not gaudy or loud, and doesn’t rely on “extreme” accents to remind you it’s a router that’s built for maximum performance. Although, for another unit that performs well but looks like something out of Star Wars, check out the Netgear Nighthawk AX12.
I love the design of the X4S for all the same reasons I gushed about the WRT1900ACS: clean lines, unapologetic purpose, and an updated take on an old classic. If the Nighthawk X8 is too little and the X6 R8000 is too much, the X4S strikes Goldilocks and gets things just right.
Like its Nighthawk brothers, the X4S uses the Netgear “Genie” app to help users configure their router’s settings. The Genie’s dashboard isn’t exactly stylish or eye-grabbing, but it’s functional for what you need it to do. We’ve already mentioned the majority of what you get with the Genie in previous reviews, so we won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty of ReadySHARE or the other run-of-the-mill QoS/firewalls controls.
It’s hard not to compare the Genie to its sexier, more user-friendly competition in Linksys’ Smart Wi-Fi software, a dashboard that gets everything right on so many levels. Even so, the Genie looks to be a solid framework for what could one day evolve into the perfect router platform, as long as the engineers at Netgear can tighten up the bolts and talk to their graphic design department about a modern refresh of its outdated color scheme.
The Netgear Nighthawk X4S is a MU-MIMO tri-band router that’s targeted primarily at the gamer set, with marketing that says it’s made for multiplayer matches and “4K Gaming”, as though the quality of your screen somehow influenced how well your internet performs.
On the 2.4GHz network at a distance of 5ft, we achieved results that barely budge from the industry standard at this price point: 74.45Mbs download, and 109.24Mbps upload. There were a few noticeable gaps in reliability and performance once 30ft of distance was placed between us and the receiver, down to 59.33Mbps down to just 78.36Mbps up.
5GHz results hovered right around the expected range for this tier of product, which was perfectly reliable and level whether we were on the couch a few feet away or getting in a few rounds of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive on the back porch.
At a distance of 5ft, the Nighthawk X4S was able to top out at 241.70 Mbps download, and 348.86Mbps upload, which puts it in the running with some of the best routers we’ve tested in 2016. The same goes for our 30ft test, which rounded testing off with a score of 223.42Mbps down, and 169.15Mbps upload.
When plugged directly into the source, the C9 pumped out a staggering 556.59Mbps download/416.66Mbps. Just as it was with the X6, this is still a long way off from the 990Mbs down/897Mbps we get when piped directly into our fiber modem, but the router still shines brightly under the fact that it’s still significantly cheaper and faster than the competition without breaking a sweat.
The Netgear X4S may have some goofy advertisements that lean a little heavy on the “hey gamers this is the gaming router for 4K gamers like you” rhetoric, but thankfully it’s also got the performance to back its bark up.
Overall then, the Nighthawk X4S takes three steps forwards (design, performance, and reliability), with only one minor step back (aging software in dire need of an update).
Read Next: Check out our Mohu Bounce WiFi Enhancer review.