• Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 by Kyle "Rumble" Bousquet

    Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500
    By Kyle “Rumble” Bousquet

    Something I have noticed over the past few years is networking companies producing a lot of routers and switches they market to gamers, but the underlying tech and functionality isn’t really gamer-centric. They produce routers with essentially the same firmware and menus as their business class and consumer class routers. Most routers touting an uninspired design
    . Netgear has changed all that with the release of the Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 router. Long name, but it says a few things right off the bat. Netgear is adding to its Nighthawk line, it’s “Pro” equipment and for “Gaming”. The Nighthawk line has a pretty great track record for routers with high end stats and performance, but how’s the XR500? Let’s see:

    Steam Patches and what the server does with them-xr500-jpg

    Appearance & Setup

    Netgear isn't a stranger to sleek looking routers and switches. In a company that produces its fair share of generic blue boxes for the business side of things, they have no problems also producing routers with a fast and almost sports-car-like profile. Upon seeing the XR500 I thought about the front ends of the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini. It's not hard to imagine some headlights on the front of the router and some wheels. This isn't anything new for Netgear. The last few Nighthawks they have released have had similar profiles. I did like that there is little to no branding on the face of the router itself save a single Netgear logo along the left angle of the front. The router itself has a smooth finish in flat black. There is some air venting along the front along with a series of LEDs for network connectivity and port usage.

    Before I speak about the setup, I will clarify that I had an engineering sample (as denoted by a large sticker on the plain white box) so I can't speak to the actual retail packaging or the internal contents of the retail version of the box. That said, the contents of the box were pretty straightforward. The router, power cable, Ethernet cable and a small pamphlet were inside. The pamphlet was just a quick "how to" on setting up a router. It is unremarkable compared to any other router I have set up, in that I just hooked up the Ethernet and power cables and switched it on. Once I was inside the configuration page on my computers web browser everything was very easy to follow and get working.

    There are times as a reviewer that I have criticized some manufacturers for not including some pretty simple things to their products that would tailor them to the audience of gamers and enthusiasts. One such instance was my review of the Nighthawk X10 by Netgear. It was disappointing that such an expensive router, which they admittedly marketed to gamers, had a generic user interface, in the same washed out generic colors every other Netgear router used. This is not the case with the XR500. I feel like my criticism and suggestions they use a more aggressive color scheme were heard. Companies use a lot of black and red with gaming-centric hardware, and finally someone who makes a router has taken that color scheme and applied it to the user interface. There are a lot of gaming specific features about this router that you can tweak and turn off and on, but I’ll cover those a little later. In terms of just setting up the router itself things are quick, simple and not very time consuming. I couldn't be happier with the look and setup.

    Features and Performance

    Netgear really listened to gamers and reviewers who wanted more gaming features in their network hardware. The XR500 includes 5 Gigabit Ethernet ports (4 LAN and 1 LAN). To take full advantage of this you'll want CAT6 cables, which luckily my network is already using. The brains of the routers is a Dual-core 1.7GHz processor. Needless to say, the thing is fast. I don't know if it would have been better served with the Quad-core processor in the X10, but I didn't really see anything to indicate the two fewer cores were leaving it lacking in any way. Maybe it's Netgear's plan to later introduce an even higher end version of the XR500 with the Quad-core cpu. WiFi is supplied in 802.11ac giving you a 2.6Gbps, MIMO, simultaneous dual-band experience. We have 4 gamers in my house and all but myself use the WiFi for gaming. There were no slowdowns or problems with bandwidth using this router. There are four antennas on the router and they are more in line with the X4 in size and design. Again, I am surprised they aren't more like the X10 or X8 antennas, but maybe that's reserved for future releases.

    Steam Patches and what the server does with them-dumaos-dashboard-png

    So gaming on the Ethernet side of things was perfect out of the box, or as perfect as you could expect. But Netgear has a lot up their sleeve with this router. What is going on under the hood is pretty amazing, and caters to a lot of things we have been asking for in online gaming for a long time. The XR500 is using the DumaOS. It's designed from the ground up for better user experience and makes setup very intuitive. Some of the features include:

    · The QoS toolkit includes things like Anti-Bufferbloat which in laymen’s terms makes sure even if a number of household members are using the router simultaneously they won't cause each other to lag.
    · Bandwidth Allocation lets you pick how much of the bandwidth you give to each device on your network. This can be done by percentages. So if you want the gaming rig or your PS4 to have 50% of the bandwidth and then just let everything else share the other 50%, it’s just a matter of a couple clicks. You can even drag with bandwidth map with the mouse and stretch it however you like.
    · Traffic Prioritization makes sure gaming traffic never gets queued. The system automatically detects low-latency apps like games and uses enterprise level Deep Packet Inspection.

    Another nice thing about the DumaOS on this router is how interactive it is. The OS is designed for you to tweak and work with almost daily to get the experience you want out of the router. I'll be honest, even with the Nighthawk X10 I very rarely logged into the router unless something was going wrong on my network or with my gaming. With the XR500 I was keeping it on my second screen in the 1/4 screen window. I would ramp up the amount of bandwidth I was using while gaming, then scale it back after I finished. I would also increase my PS4 Pro's bandwidth allocation when I was going to 4K Netflix. It worked great. The more I tweaked depending on what I was doing, the happier I was with my network and the performance of gaming and streaming on it. I won't lie, being able to limit my kids to 1.5mbps was kinda fun, telling them "This is how I had to game when we had DSL." It's the little things in life.

    Other Considerations?

    So I am in fact convinced that Netgear is planning on releasing a much higher end version of the XR500 if the sales are high enough. The overall design of the router is sound. It checks off all the boxes for both look and performance. It's clear though that the higher quality antennas of the X10, the better processor and some other things would lead anyone to the conclusion that there is a bigger, badder version of this router coming. That said I think any real gamer who wants complete control over the traffic on their network should go out immediately and buy one. This has everything you'll need to really tweak and control how the bandwidth your hard earned cash paid for is used. Imagine if you have roommates or family in your home and you pay for the internet but they are constantly on Netflix throwing a monkey wrench into your Call of Duty or PUBG? This router completely solves that problem in an easy to use GUI. There are other routers out there with robust QoS schemes but to be honest I always struggled to configure them the way I wanted and the XR500 just made it all so easy.

    Steam Patches and what the server does with them-netgear-xr500-ces-jpg

    My final thought is this; I chose the Nighthawk X10 as my router of choice after reviewing it because of all the features it had. I had a few gripes about the user interface and the QoS lacking what I needed. All of that is fixed here. The things that are most important to me are the things they fixed and so now the XR500 is my router of choice. It does what I want it to do, it makes it really easy to change things on-the-fly, and it just looks badass.


    Performance: 10
    Appearance: 9
    Quality of Construction: 10
    Tech and Features: 10
    Overall: 9.75

    Although nothing in this life is perfect I think if a X10 level version of the XR500 comes out it might get a perfect score from me. It was just a couple of things I liked better about the X10's look over the XR500 that lost a point. I have to applaud Netgear for really not just saying they want to market to gamers, but designing for gamers. They didn't just put a new coat of paint on an existing router design, they worked with DumaOS to get a ground up new router that truly is designed FOR gamers. Good job Netgear.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 by Kyle "Rumble" Bousquet started by Rumble View original post