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