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NETGEAR Nighthawk XR700 Pro Gaming Router Review

By Christopher Coke on February 08, 2019 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

NETGEAR Nighthawk XR700 Pro Gaming Router Review

As gamers, we require a lot from our WiFi routers. We need good speeds that take advantage of our internet. We need low latency for miniscule pings, even when other people are using the internet. We need more control than the average user will ever even investigate, forwarding ports and optimizing connections to their very best. Today, we’re looking at the NETGEAR Nighthawk XR700, a premium WiFi router custom-made for gamers. It’s packed with features intended to take your gaming to the next level but do they? Find out with us in our official review.

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Specifications

  • Current Price: $498.71 (Amazon)
  • Key Features
    • Gaming Dashboard—Customizable view of real-time bandwidth utilization by device, ping, etc.
    • Geo-Filter—Control your lag by limiting distance to game servers or other players
    • Network Monitor—Check bandwidthhogging devices and identify what causes lag
    • Quad Stream & 160MHz for faster speeds
    • Quality of Service—Prioritize gaming devices and allocate bandwidth by device
    • Beamforming+ for more reliable connections
    • ReadySHARE® USB to share your USB hard drive & printer
    • ReadySHARE® Vault—PC software for automatic backup to USB hard drive connected to the router
    • 10 Gigabit SFP+ Port—Connect to NETGEAR SX10 gaming switch for lower latency wired gaming, or use for up to 10Gig Internet connectivity. Requires compatible SFP+ module or DAC (not included)
    • Plex Media Server—All your movie, TV show, music, video, and photo collections at your fingertips. Anywhere you go, on the devices you love
    • Nighthawk App—The Nighthawk App makes it easy to set up your router and get more out of your WiFi
    • Amazon Cloud Backup
    • MU-MIMO—Simultaneous streaming of data for up to three devices
  • AD7200 WiFi
    • Band 1: 800Mbps @2.4GHz — 256QAM
    • Band 2: 1733Mbps @5GHz — 256QAM
    • Band 3: 4600Mbps @60GHz — SC
  • Powerful Quad-Core 1.7GHz processor
  • Memory: 512MB NAND Flash and 1GB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Enhanced Active Antennas with high powered amplifiers
  • Explicit Beamforming for 2.4 & 5GHz bands
  • Seven (7) 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit
  • Ethernet ports
    • 1 WAN & 6 LAN
    • Dual Gigabit Ethernet Port Aggregation
  • 10G LAN SFP+ port connection for low-latency LAN gaming parties
  • Two (2) USB 3.0 ports
  • IPv6 Support (Internet Protocol Version 6)
  • On/Off LED light switch
  • Standards
    • Two (2) USB 3.0 ports IEEE 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz + 256 QAM support
    • IEEE 802.11 a/n/ac 5.0GHz
    • Seven (7) 10/100/1000Mbps—(1 WAN & 6 LAN) Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • Security
    • VPN support—secure remote access
    • Standards-based WiFi Security: (802.11i, 128-bit AES encryption with PSK)
    • Double firewall protection (SPI and NAT)
    • Denial-of-service (DoS) attack prevention
  • Dimensions: 12.7” x 9.6” x 2.5

Feature Rich, Made to Game

The XR700 comes to market at the high end of the pricing spectrum for WiFi routers. At nearly $500, it makes sense that NETGEAR is bringing a lot to the table with this one, specifically targeted at giving gamers the best possible connection (wired or wireless) and more control over their network than ever before. It features six gigabit ethernet ports with a link aggregation feature, a gigabit WAN connection, and a ten gigabit SPF+ LAN port to high speed switches and, frankly, the internet connections of tomorrow. It also features wireless AD, which offers incredibly fast transfer rates for your local media, assuming you’re in the same room. Taken as a whole, the XR700 is very forward looking and will likely be the only router purchase you’ll need to make for years to come.

Under the hood, the XR700 is packing an impressive set of specs. It features a quad-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz - just think, there are laptops being released today with less capable processors. The unit also has 1GB of DDR3 memory and 512MB of NAND flash for rapid-access storage. As we look deeper at the capabilities of the router, these reason for these kinds of specs will crystalize, but the emphasis here is on delivering everything the modern tech enthusiast would expect: beamforming, quality MU-MIMO (multi-device) support, and an array of software features that intelligently direct network bandwidth to make sure that you, the gamer, never suffer a lag spike because someone else is watching Netflix.

If you look close at the left side of the grill in the picture above, you’ll see that the XR700 requires active cooling. It makes sense since it’s essentially a small, purpose-built computer but remarkable no less. I was a bit concerned about noise but it’s not audible unless you’re leaning directly over top. Why do I mention this? It honestly makes no difference but I find it pretty remarkable that routers have advanced to the point where they need active cooling. Neat, right?

Anyhow, getting back on track, the XR700 is an AD7200 router. The 7200 in that title is based on the maximum throughput of each of its three bands. The 2.4GHz band is capable of speeds of 800 Mbps, the 5GHz band tops out at 1733Mbps, and the 60GHz band pushes speeds up to 4600Mbps. The connection radius is big, more than enough for my two story, 2000 sq. ft. home.

Even at the farthest distance I could move inside my house, I was able to maintain a solid, stable 5GHz connection. The farther out from the router you get, speeds on this band fall precipitously; however, even at the farthest point, traveling down to the first floor, I speeds still topped the 2.4GHz band, so I never had a good reason to swap bands. The XR700 also supports 160MHz WiFi, which doubles the 5GHz band’s bandwidth. I connected my laptop, two smart phones, three consoles, and my smart TV to the 5GHz band and never had a signal stall out or drop.  The XR700, like the XR500 before it, is a very reliable, consistent router.

60GHz, or Wireless AD/802.11ad, is extremely fast - triple wireless AC, in fact. The best scenario is for file transfers, if you’re backing up to a NAS or transferring large files between machines. If you make YouTube videos and need to shift from a desktop to a laptop, or want to copy a Steam directory onto a new machine, the 60GHz band is the one you want to be using.

That said, it’s also new and every client will need to have hardware support for it. That’s a big limitation unless you’ve recently bought new hardware and made a point to look out for this feature. Likewise, 60GHz is extremely easy to block; it won’t travel through walls and, in fact, takes a performance hit if anything blocks line of sight (including your body). That means the XR700 should ideally be wall mounted or, better, attached to the ceiling in the room you’re planning on using it in.       

The router also includes a two-port USB 3.0 hub. By attaching a thumb drive or other external storage, the XR700 can act as a remote drive for any device on your network. There is 512MB of built-in storage available for this purpose but we would highly recommend to expand the capacity to make the most of its storage, streaming, and cloud capabilities. The XR700 supports automatic cloud back-ups to Amazon Drive and can act as a PLEX media server for your whole network.

DumaOS and Gaming-Centric Features

Like the XR500 before it, the XR700 uses DumaOS - a true operating system capable of pushing out updates and feature additions just like your Windows or Mac. Duma is extremely full featured and easy to use with a number of features directly targeted at making your gaming experience the best it can be.

Here you can see the dashboard. All of your key information is immediately apparent. Network usage is laid out in an easy to interpret graph, the status of your three bands and guest WiFi network and which apps you’ve installed. The real-time monitoring available here also proves useful when you’re trying to track down suspicious usage and programs that may be drawing on your network without your knowledge. The Device Manager tab also gives you a map of you different connected devices and how they’re routing to the XR700, which is also useful if you have multiple connections at any given time.

The router also features exceptionally good Quality of Service management. In the top of the above picture, you can see a section for to manage its Anti-Bufferbloat settings. Anti-Bufferbloat, in essence, allows you to prevent lag spikes when your significant other starts streaming Hulu mid-game. The XR700 is intelligent enough to prioritize devices and use-cases to deliver a solid connection to both without any impact on your game.

Down below is where you manage bandwidth allocation in a larger sense. It represents your different devices graphically, allowing you to prioritize which devices should get the most throughput. If you’re gaming, the XR700 will favor you unless you direct it otherwise.

The other neat feature is the ability to set a radius for who you’ll connect to in multiplayer games. We’ve all found ourselves connecting to overseas servers at some point in time, rubber banding around the map or missing shots we know we made. That’s because of connection lag. With the geo-filter, you can make sure that those situations will never happen again at the expense of fewer potential games. To be frank, though, if you’re using this feature, you didn’t want those games anyway and this just makes everything a lot more fair.

DumaOS is a powerful suite and we’ve really only scratched the surface here. Gaming features or not, it’s simply the most fully featured router interface I’ve ever used.

Transfer Testing

When looking at high speed routers like the XR700, it’s important that we have a way to check manufacturer’s claims. For our purposes, we look at storage performance and wireless performance. As it happens, we’ve reviewed a pair of Nighthawk routers in the recent past, the R8000P Nighthawk X6S and Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500.

We first began by looking at transfer speeds along the 5GHz band. For this test, we used NetPerf to simulate a client-server relationship. Many variables can affect these speeds, but they should provide you with a good indication of relative performance.

Using the 5GHz connection, the improved specs on the XR700 give it the edge in our file transfer testing. It improves on the LOS throughout of the XR500 by about 9% and the long-range speeds by just over 10%. Compared to the X6S, it’s also a noteworthy improvement.

For storage assessment, we connected the XR700, XR500, and X6S to an external hard drive via the USB 3.0 port and measured both read and write throughput on a laptop in the other room (approximately 15 feet away). The improvement here isn’t quite so drastic but still an increase over either prior Nighthawk models.

Final Thoughts

The XR700 is unquestionably a very good WiFi router. It’s a wholesale improvement on the XR500 which we reviewed positively last October. DumaOS remains king of the router interfaces and the gaming-centric features aren’t gimmicks. Features like the Duma’s improved QoS, Anti-Bufferbloat, realtime network monitoring and management, and Geo-Filtering offer you faster, more reliable connections when you’re playing games. The XR700 delivers on its promises: it’s a great gaming router.

Wireless AD, on the other hand, is a harder sell, especially when it’s likely to have accounted for some of the high cost. It’s a forward thinking connection and has real benefits, the lack of support for the format and extremely limited range mean that many gamers won’t take advantage of it, at least until hardware support is more readily available.

At $498, the Netgear Nighthawk XR700 Pro Gaming Router doesn’t come cheap. It’s for users in busy houses that need more control than other routers can offer and for gamers who need every extra millisecond they can grab. That’s clearly not everybody but for users who want the best, the XR700 ranks high on the list.

Pros

  • Improved speeds over prior XR500 model
  • 10 gigabit ethernet
  • Plentiful gigabit LAN ports with link aggregation
  • Can act as a PLEX Media Server
  • DumaOS offers a number of features that actually benefit gamers
  • 802.11AD support

Cons

  • Quite expensive
  • 802.11AD compatibility is still growing in the market

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review

Christopher Coke / Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight