Netgear Nighthawk X4 R7500 review

This is a nippy 802.11ac router, but it's far from cheap

Netgear Nighthawk X4 R7500
Netgear Nighthawk X4 R7500

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We liked

The Nighthawk X4 is capable of delivering record-breaking wireless speeds over 802.11ac, and is a further example of what a great improvement this new wireless standard is over previous generations. The performance at range is also a lot better.

At triple-stream speeds, the Nighthawk X4 is a great performer too, matching or beating most of its competitors.

The style of the router is excellent, with the inclusion of fast eSATA and USB 3.0 ports, and its striking black angled design. This matters to a lot of people, given the fact that a router is often placed in a big open space in their home.

We disliked

A year ago, 802.11ac was a white-hot technology, with high prices across the board. It's a bit more mature now though, and you can pick up routers for less than £100 (around $150, or AU$200), which makes the Nighthawk X4 seem really expensive. A little too much maybe, for what amounts to fairly slim performance improvements.

The real killer feature it offers is only supported by a small number of devices right now. While I'm sure more laptops will arrive with built-in 4x4 wireless throughout 2015, as of the time of writing it's only something scribbled onto the box rather than a truly useful asset.

And while I beat nearly every networking company with this same stick, the software really could do with a more modern appearance and design.

Final verdict

Although the Nighthawk X4 is undoubtedly fast, and worth considering if you don't mind spending considerably more for the very fastest possible performance, I'd hesitate to recommend it over any other router on the market. Its biggest advantage is a feature that, right now, nobody can make use of, improves speeds only by a small margin, but adds considerably to the price.

If you're reading this article in 2016, then there will hopefully be plenty of laptops and USB adaptors that support quad-channel 802.11ac to choose from, rendering this point somewhat moot. But it seems like the market for 802.11ac wireless kit will be fragmented with some devices getting slower speeds, given that routers seem to be improving performance faster than clients can catch up.

And the speed difference isn't all that great anyway. The Nighthawk X4 is fast, but it isn't a huge leap ahead of most 3x3 routers, some of which can be found for less than half the price.

Although the software could be slightly better, it's solid and the USB 3.0 performance is excellent. It adds to the feeling that the Nighthawk X4 deserves a tentative recommendation, but I'd argue that if you're desperate for faster 802.11ac it might make sense to wait and see how good the quad-channel routers from other networking firms are in the coming months.