Net­gear XR500 Nighthawk Pro

WHETHER YOU’RE A GAM­ING FANATIC OR NOT, THE XR500 NIGHTHAWK PRO IS AN EX­CEL­LENT CHOICE OF ROUTER

PC & Tech Authority - - REVIEWS INTRO -

There’s a fa­mil­ial re­sem­blance be­tween this Nighthawk router and the top-ofthe-line X10. Not only do both come in low-pro le cases with four an­ten­nae, they each sport the same pair of USB 3 sock­ets tucked away on the left-hand side, along with Wi-Fi and WPS but­tons on the top and a switch at the back to dis­able the sta­tus LEDs.

The XR500 is a slightly dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion to its high-end sib­ling, how­ever. For a start, it es­chews the 60GHz ra­dio, sub­sti­tut­ing a sec­ond 5GHz ra­dio for bet­ter per­for­mance un­der high load. It also loses the 10-Gi­ga­bit Eth­er­net port, which is prob­a­bly wise, and cuts the reg­u­lar Eth­er­net ports down from six to four. All of this has a salu­tary ef­fect on the price: the XR500 Nighthawk Pro is a full $295 cheaper than the X10.

If the dif­fer­ences stopped there, the XR500 would be a tempt­ing buy. How­ever, there are two other things you need to be aware of. First, its an­ten­nae aren’t as hefty as the X10’s, and we found that 5GHz pen­e­tra­tion wasn’t as good. In our tests, the XR500 de­liv­ered a strong 27MB/sec at close range, but dropped off more sharply than the X10 as we moved away.

Sec­ond, the XR500 Nighthawk Pro is de­signed as a “gam­ing router”, and in this case that doesn’t just mean fancy ash­ing lights. Rather than re­ly­ing on its own-brand

rmware, Net­gear has li­censed the Lin­uxbased, gamer-ori­ented Du­maOS: open up the web por­tal and you’ll be greeted by a brood­ing, blood-red dash­board show­ing a live over­view of key net­work statis­tics, with panes that you can drag around and re­size to suit your pref­er­ences.

Du­maOS equips the XR500 with some unique fea­tures. For one, its geo- lter func­tion lets you black­list hosts more than a cer­tain dis­tance away. There are also graph­i­cal band­width al­lo­ca­tion tools, de­signed to make sure other net­work users can’t bog down your con­nec­tion; you can tell the router to au­to­mat­i­cally pre­vent in­di­vid­ual ap­pli­ca­tions from sat­u­rat­ing the link, click and drag to man­u­ally di­vide up the avail­able band­width be­tween reg­is­tered clients, and nom­i­nate de­vices, ports and ser­vices to pri­ori­tise.

If you’re a keen gamer, such abil­i­ties may be music to your ears. Or, you might not care about them at all – but, hey, you’re un­der no obli­ga­tion to use them. And the good news is that you don’t miss out on the reg­u­lar router func­tions: click the Set­tings link at the side of the Du­maOS por­tal and a fa­mil­iar sub­pane opens, ex­pos­ing very nearly all the same con gu­ra­tion op­tions as found on the X10.

This rep­re­sents a pretty de­cent set of ev­ery­day net­work­ing fea­tures, and in­cludes sup­port for VPN con­nec­tions, dy­namic DNS and even a mod­icum of Alexa in­te­gra­tion, al­low­ing you to check set­tings, con­trol the guest net­work and re­boot the router with a voice com­mand. Plug in a USB hard disk or ash drive and you can ac­cess your les at home and over the in­ter­net, us­ing Net­gear ReadyShare.

There are a few notable ab­sences, though. The XR500 doesn’t run Plex – you’ll have to make do with or­di­nary DLNA stream­ing, or use the built-in iTunes server. Net­gear’s cat­e­gory-based web­site

lter­ing ser­vice isn’t avail­able ei­ther, pre­sum­ably be­cause the third-party

rmware doesn’t sup­port it. And while you can block in­di­vid­ual sites, or re­strict in­di­vid­ual de­vices’ in­ter­net ac­cess to a pre­set sched­ule, timetabling re­mains so in ex­i­ble as to be al­most use­less. Fi­nally, the Net­gear con gu­ra­tion pages aren’t pre­sented in their orig­i­nal form: most of the graph­i­cal and struc­tural el­e­ments have been stripped out, leav­ing you with a at, text-heavy ex­pe­ri­ence.

But those is­sues won’t be deal­break­ers for most peo­ple. If you’re an avid gamer forced to share your net­work with friends and fam­ily, the clever ca­pa­bil­i­ties of Du­maOS make this a great choice of router. Even for non-gamers, the XR500 gives you most of the use­ful fea­tures of the Nighthawk X10 for a much lower price. Be­fore you buy, though, weigh it up against the Synol­ogy RT2600ac, or the Linksys EA9500, which have bet­ter long-range per­for­mance. $429 • www.net­gear.com.au

Du­maOS of­fers gamer-friendly fea­tures such as ge­ofil­ter­ing

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