The Netgear Nighthawk X8 is everything you could ever want in a router and so much more, but will Netgear’s sluggish Genie software platform keep it from attaining its well-deserved status among the greats?
Keep reading my Netgear Nighthawk X8 review to find out.
Summary: The Nighthawk X8 AC5300 is fast, gorgeous, and put quite simply: one of the best routers we’ve tested to date.
Model Number: R8500-100NAS
What We Liked
- Insane performance in every scenario
- Unique design sets it apart from the pack
- Reliable and consistent connection at any distance
What We Didn’t
- Priced out of most consumer budgets
- Genie software configuration lacks polish
Nighthawk X8 R8500 Specs
|Processor||Dual core 1.4GHz processor|
Simultaneous Tri-Band WiFi - Tx/Rx 4x4 (2.4GHz) + 4x4 (5GHz) + 4x4 (5GHz)
|128-bit Wireless Encryption|
|Ethernet Ports||7 Gigabit (6 Ethernet, 1 WAN)|
|USB Inputs||1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0|
Most routers these days are all about standing out, making a statement, or at the very least; trying to catch your eye on shelves.
The Netgear Nighthawk X8 does none of these things, and for that much it should be respected among the competition. This is a router that comes with a sticker price that says “we mean business”, and its shell matches that mission perfectly. Slim, yet audacious. Nuanced – but somehow loud at the same time – the Nighthawk X8 is the ultimate exercise in restraint, but still manages to show off with a few accents and wavy lines that let users know it’s here to get the job done first, and impress dinner guests second.
There isn’t a category to put the design of the X8 in, if only for the fact that it hasn’t been invented yet. Get rid of racecar red, do away with the hyper-sleek lines of the Netgear X6, this is what we want in a router. Something that looks good without coming off as brazen, confident enough in its performance to let the results speak for themselves.
Like the X6, the X8 is bound to the “Genie” platform for router access and settings configuration. As we’ve already mentioned, the Genie platform is fine, but it’s not exactly revolutionary the way that Linksys’ Smart WiFi is either. Does it get the job done? Absolutely. Does it make the process of opening specific ports, disabling firewall rules, or creating new UPnP pathways as easy as it possibly could be?
Not really. The Genie is fine for what it is, but it’s also a reminder of everything we dislike about router dashboards from 10 years ago, five years ago, and yesterday. If Netgear wants to remain competitive in this space against the likes of Linksys, it’s going to have to start from the ground up (i.e., software), in order to make the long-term investment worth the race to the top overall.
Speed & Distance Tests
At $349.99 retail, the sticker price of the Netgear Nighthawk X8 alone places the router in a tier that’s occupied by few. This is the high-end of the high-end, the crème de la crème, and it performed as exceptionally as any other router in its limited class of competition, bar none.
On both 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums, the Nighthawk X8 AC5300 screamed through our tests, providing speed and reliability that is simply unrivaled by any other router we’ve tested thus far. At a distance of 5ft on 2.4GHz, the router maxed out what the spectrum was capable of putting out, with 91.32Mb/s down, and 105Mb/s up.
Extended to a range of 30ft on 2.4GHz, this figure (expectedly) dropped about 25% overall, to 71.61Mb/s download and 82.20Mb/s upload.
Of course, speeds quickly accelerated from there once we hopped on the 5GHz spectrum, with its increased maximum throughput and overall signal reliability. At the same distance of 5ft with no obstacles, we achieved a download rate of 288.97Mb/s, with an earth-shattering upload speed of 348.33Mb/s.
This achievement just goes to show that when the boys at Netgear put their heads to it, anything (or any speed) is possible.
At a distance of 30ft with multiple obstacles we did see a slight dropoff, but nothing that’s worth noticing. With two doors and a wall in the way, we were still able to pull a massive score of 216.49 Mb/s download and 200.58 Mb/s upload out of the X8, which for all intents and purposes, is more than you’d ever need to stream games, Netflix, or 4K content in less time than it took to read this sentence.
The Nighthawk X8 is, without mincing words, a masterpiece. Slim, stylish, and sexy on the outside with a substantial engine under the hood to boot, it’s hard to imagine what else you could want from a home router without going overboard as a result. The X8 has everything you need, and nothing you don’t, and for that much it should be acknowledged as the undisputed leader in its class.
If there were one area we had to fault it, it would be on the lacksidasical addition of Netgear’s ubiquitious Genie software configuration tools. This isn’t a slight on the X8 as much as it is on Netgear as a whole, and if there’s anything we would change about the X8 it would be that it’s bound to such a clunky, unintuitive dashboard which is better served to routers a fraction of its cost. Otherwise, the X8 is aperfect representation of what consumers and prosumers should want out of a router, outperforming everything in its path with a design aesthetic that just can’t be beat.