Netgear's new Nighthawk might not be for you.
After introducing the 802.11ac "1900" Nighthawk router last fall, Netgear is announcing the newest in what it's calling the "Nighthawk family": the Nighthawk X6 AC3200. Where the original Nighthawk staked its claim on its impressive range and local network speeds, the Nighthawk X6 is aimed beyond the gaming audience intended for its predecessor. Instead, the Nighthawk X6 will see the most use in households with multiple concurrent users.
According to Netgear marketing director Sandeep Harpalani, almost 20 percent of homes surveyed have nine or more active Wi-Fi-connected devices, which the company expects to increase considerably in the next year and beyond. The X6 will serve this growing audience by virtue of what Netgear is billing as the first tri-band router.
The concept behind tri-band routing is simple. In addition to the now standard 2.4 GHz radio and faster (but shorter-ranged) 5 GHz radios found in the Nighthawk, the Nighthawk X6 features an additional 5 GHz band. Typically, routers become bandwidth-limited based on the slowest device on each radio, leading to a precipitous drop in transfer speeds for faster devices connected on the same band. The Nighthawk X6's third radio, along with its dual-core processor, allows the router to intelligently delegate different devices to each of its different bands based on their maximum speeds, which in turn cuts down on the slowing effect older devices can have on a network.
Put simply: the cell phones and tablets in use frequently have slower wireless speeds than dedicated PCs, laptops and video game consoles, and having them all on the same wireless band can slow a network to a fraction of its theoretical maximum. For gamers living alone or with just one other person, this isn't much of an issue. For crowded roommate situations or moderately sized families or larger, though, the Nighthawk X6 may be just the thing.
That particular consumer will be paying a premium for the X6's improved service. The Nighthawk launched at an eye-opening $199.99 USD MSRP, and if that seemed steep, you may want to sit down. The Nighthawk X6 will launch in mid-July with an MSRP of $299.99. In every respect other than its tri-band radio, the X6 looks to be a match for the already-launched Nighthawk, the R7000. Harpalani says that the same performance and range that made the Nighthawk so impressive will be present in the X6. For existing Nighthawk customers, the X6 will likely be an unnecessary upgrade.
But for families with with a horde of wireless devices vying for airtime, it might be just the thing. We'll have hands-on impressions of the Nighthawk X6 next month.