NETGEAR Announces Nighthawk X4 AC2350 Router

Subject: General Tech, Networking | September 2, 2014 - 08:31 AM |
Tagged: nighthawk x4, netgear, mu-mimo, 802.11ac

Today, NETGEAR has announced the Nighthawk X4 802.11ac router. It is dual-band, with up to 1733 Mbps of bandwidth (four channels of 433 Mbps) on 5.0 GHz and up to 600 Mbps (three channels of 200 Mbps) on 2.4 GHz. Compared to the Nighthawk X6, released earlier in the year, the X4 is design for fewer users who demand more performance.

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The first thing that stood out for me was its processor...s. The router contains two of them. Its main CPU is a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon-based (Update - Sept 2nd @ 5:20pm EDT: "Snapdragon-based" is unclear and misleading. It has "Snapdragon DNA with dual Krait cores". It is from their Qualcomm Internet Processors (IPQ) line, as mentioned in the following sentence.) ARM processor, clocked at 1.4 GHz. It is from their Qualcomm Internet Processors (IPQ) line, so it is not directly comparable to an SoC from their mobile line-up. NETGEAR also added a second, dualcore processor, clocked at 500 MHz, that is dedicated to deal with WiFi-related tasks as an "offload".

The reason why I found this interesting was that, not too many years ago, routers did not advertise their processor and RAM. There was once a niche who would create their own routers out of old PCs and an x86-compatible firmware (like OpenWRT). The push was to cheap routers with high bandwidth ratings. When I asked NETGEAR at what point did the industry decide to take the internal hardware seriously, their response was that about 73% of customers are repeat buyers. They upgraded their router because they were not happy with the performance that they were getting. Users have changed. HD video is going to numerous devices all over the home at the same time as games and downloads do their thing. The extra performance is necessary to keep the potential bandwidth in line with its usage.

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One feature about this router that NETGEAR was promoting is Dynamic QoS. Using the extra processing power, mentioned in the two paragraphs above, the device identifies applications and allocates bandwidth accordingly. One example that they gave is YouTube versus Netflix. While both stream, Netflix will only grab what it needs while YouTube will load as quickly as possible to buffer ahead. If resources are tight, and Netflix is attempting to coexist with YouTube at any given time, the router will throttle the YouTube stream to provide it with at least enough bandwidth to stream, but not buffer, like, ten times faster than real time and choke out Netflix into a lower bit rate. If necessary, it will also prioritize the larger screen (TV) with the higher bit rate Netflix connection, where it will be more noticeable (than the smaller screen of a tablet, for instance).

And yes, QoS has been present in routers for more than a dog's age. They claim that it is typically a feature that users turn on, dislike, then turn right back off again. They believe that their new implementation will actually win you over.

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The router will also feature two USB 3.0 ports and an eSATA connection. It will allow networked PC backup to an external hard drive and streaming media (photos, music, and videos) to TVs by DLNA.

The NETGEAR Nighthawk X4 AC2350 (R7500) is available now for $279.99.


September 2, 2014 | 08:58 AM - Posted by Bri (not verified)

Seriously, this wifi router is capable of flooding the entire 2.4Ghz spectrum! I guarantee that 99% of consumers haven't got a clue about this either so it's downright irresponsible to add to WiFi congestion. Thankfully they're limiting the 5Ghz channels to 4 simultaneous channels, but who knows if we won't see that increased eventually.

September 2, 2014 | 11:02 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

At Least the first 4 minutes of YouTube needs to be non throttled, so people can quickly skip the intros to some half hour shows/Episodes, I hate it when there is not enough bandwidth coming from the streaming service to at least be able to skip beyond the intro, and still have enough buffered to watch the YouTube/whatever video without annoying pauses. What about Ethernet channel aggregation to/from the server PC/HTPC? that would be helpful, to go along with Google fiber, and a little extra capacity above 1GB to assure packet delivery on the first try. Maybe PCPer can get one and benchmark it, for multi-game streaming to tablets/Laptops.

September 2, 2014 | 04:49 PM - Posted by Patrick3D (not verified)

I'm sticking with a free router I got from the FCC "SamKnows" broadband measurement program for now, but it's interesting to see them showing the technical specs. Last time I was browsing routers in a store they listed how many devices the router could handle simultaneously which was a bit surprising to see something close to being honest, even if it was for marketing purposes to up-sell someone on the more expensive model(s). From a design standpoint, I like how they are looking more like a Star Destroyer these days. Add a few more angles, some shield generators, a hangar bay, and paint it white, then I might just buy one.

September 2, 2014 | 07:26 PM - Posted by razor512

Seems great, though I would like to see some open source support, or at least better openvpn support. with a proper setup wizard that will generate config files for multiple users, in addition to being able to create preconfigured installers like what openvpn wizards for untangle will do. the router is fast enough to handle that.

September 2, 2014 | 08:08 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

I actually asked about open source firmware support. They are intending to release a compatible DD-WRT version on My Open Router. Not sure when.

September 2, 2014 | 09:52 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Heh, yeah, Netgear is probably correct about QoS. It can be a pain in the ass to set up (correctly) and the default settings have typically been terrible. Once it is configured correctly, QoS is a great feature, but it is that gap between out-of-box and good QoS where a lot of users likely give up and blame the router. Here's hoping their dynamic solution is good, there is definitely room for improvement in this space!

September 4, 2014 | 07:48 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

the prblm with qos is that sometmes you want the work files to go ASAP le other times a slow backup to somewhere online is fine. why not inc homplug av650 six gigabit ports and 2 usb3 ports? esata is mesolithic ..pah.

September 4, 2014 | 11:21 PM - Posted by PerfectShot (not verified)

Mesolithic - had to look that one up... E-sata? yes please!

I've got a 12 TB raid unit that I'd like to continue for a bit longer... The E-sata / USB 3 combo had a very short life span on laptops... Sigh.

This does look interesting - especially if I'm going to switch over to fiber... Glad I checked back on PCPER. Yeah!

October 17, 2014 | 10:20 PM - Posted by PerfectShot (not verified)

Scratch that, I forgot I was as dumb as dogshit.