Netgear Nighthawk X4S D7800 review

Given that Netgear only just released its first 1,300Mbps 802.11ac ADSL router a few months back, this new 1,733Mbps ‘Wave 2′ model came as something of a surprise.

It’s not the first ‘Wave 2’ 802.11ac device to market, that was arguably ASUS’s RT-AC87U router (featured in our roundup here) which hit shelves earlier this year, but it is the first to have integrated ADSL… and that also perhaps helps explain its $549 price tag.

Wave 2 is the next phase of 802.11ac Wi-Fi tech, and one which could ultimately see routers reaching 6.93Gbps transfer speeds — four times as fast as the 1.73Gbps on offer here. That’ll require entirely new hardware however — this is more just a first step.

netgear D7800_Back_HiResAnd it’s really the high-end hardware in the D7800 that you’re paying for here — in terms of software configuration options, they’re exactly the same as other recent Netgear routers, including the D7000. What this new model adds is an extra 433Mbps of wireless bandwidth, helped along by a dedicated fourth antenna.

Mind you, it’s otherwise nearly identical to Netter’s other Nighthawks in terms of external design — some add-on ports have been shuffled around (there are two USB 3.0s for attaching storage or printers, plus a dedicated eSATA port), but you still get five Gigabit Ethernet ports in back and one for the ADSL/VDSL phone line.

Now, at present 1,733Mbps Wi-Fi is a bit of a pain in the butt to test — apart from the routers themselves, there are few devices that support this standard; it’s not built into any smartphones or laptops, and you won’t find a single USB dongle or even PCIe card to let you add it.

We managed to secure an ASUS wireless bridge which does have 1,733Mbps (the EA-AC87), but we couldn’t get it to play ball with the D7800 within our deadline. The two devices connected fine, but the ASUS refused to let our test PC see any other devices on the local network — meaning we couldn’t test transfer speeds.

Even with that testing limitation, however, the D7800 offered some seriously impressive performance — particularly at longer distances. In tests of the latter, this one’s dedicated 4T4R (four transmit and four receive) antenna setup help it blitz every other 802.11ac router we’ve tested.

In our read test (pulling data from the router to a laptop) most of the competition manages speeds of 30-40MB/s. The D7800 blew past that at 52.9MB/s — only a few MB/s slower than our close-range test.

Our write test was a more in line with others however — 25.1MB/s, or basically average.

netgear D7800_Hero_HiResWhat’s more, those high speeds held up when we switched to 2.4GHz 802.11n — they were only marginally lower than close range, at 9.5/10.8MB/s for reads/writes respectively.

Also splendid was its very high sync speed — again the highest we’ve got on record at 17.8Mbps, a full megabit above our lower scorers, netting you roughly 100KB/s extra download speed.

The D7800 could be better in some respects, especially considering its $550 asking price. While it ticks all the basics (automatic or manual QoS, OpenVPN support, guest networks, dynamic DNS, external storage and so on) we would have like to have seen more detailed, per-user bandwidth controls — like what competing Fritz!Box devices offer.

As it is, you can limit the entire network to a monthly allowance, but not throttle or limit individual devices.

Verdict: You may not be able to use 1,733Mbps in many places, but the long-range performance is phenomenal.

Price: $549
From: Netgear

Rating: 4 stars out of 5