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Upgrade your home with these AC3200 wireless routers tested

By Kenny Yeo - 20 Nov 2016

Netgear Nighthawk X6

The Netgear Nighthawk X6

The Netgear Nighthawk X6 is still one of the most unusual looking routers around.

We previewed the Netgear Nighthawk X6 earlier last year and it stood out for its wacky design and large size. Even now, a year on, it remains radical and large, though it must be said that it is now being dwarfed by the simply monstrous AC5300 class routers. We are revisiting it today because a recent firmware update included new features like cloud storage functionality.

As befits its name, the Nighthawk X6 comes decked entirely in black and features six external antennas that rise from the angled sides. When fully extended, it makes the Nighthawk X6 look like a bug that’s been put on its back. It’s not a really pretty router, but it’s definitely unique and should make for an interesting showpiece in living rooms. One thing to note is that the antennas are non-removable, but they can be folded to create a more streamline and slightly less bulky silhouette.

A column of LED indicators let users quickly check on the router's operating status.

The antennas are non-removable but can be folded to make the Nighthawk X6 more compact.

Moving on, running across the top panel is a column of LED indicators to show the status of the router. This makes it easy for users to tell if anything is going wrong with the internet connection, network or even the Ethernet LAN ports. Below the indicators are buttons turn Wi-Fi on and off and also for WPS setups. The top panel is also vented to help heat escape to keep the router cool.

Users will find the usual single Gigabit Ethernet WAN port and four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports behind the Nighthawk X6. There's also a USB 3.0 and another USB 2.0 port.

Behind the router is where you’ll find all the ports. There’s a single Gigabit Ethernet WAN port and four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports. There’s also a USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 port that can be used to connect to external storage devices for wireless backups or file sharing. Or it could be used with a printer to enable print-sharing for the entire family. There’s also a switch that lets users turn off all the LED indicators - useful if the router happens to be in your bedroom and the blinking lights keeps you awake.

If you have used a Netgear router recently, this interface should be familiar to you.

One thing that we don't like about the Genie setup user interface is its all or nothing QoS implementation.

Like all other Netgear routers, the Nighthawk X6 comes preconfigured. A sticker on the router indicates its SSID and also its password, so if you are not a fussy user, you could use it straight out of the box. The Nighthawk X6 uses Netgear’s familiar Genie setup user interface and it is fairly easy to use if you only need basic configurati. Right off the bat, there’s the option for Basic or Advanced settings. And advanced users will be happy to find that the router has all the usual options like port forwarding, VPN, dynamic DNS and guest networks. Netgear has also recently released firmware updates to include new features like cloud storage functionality via ReadySHARE.

However, certain features like Parental Controls and ReadySHARE requires additional registration or software, which makes it tedious and frustrating to setup. We are also not a fan of its QoS implementation. The Nighthawk X6 feature Dynamic QoS, which automatically alters QoS rules based on usage scenarios, and all users can do is enable or disable it. There's no option to to designate which devices should have priority over others nor can users give higher priority to specific apps - it's all or nothing.

Finally, like other tri-band routers, the Netgear Nighthawk X6 features Smart Connect. Once enabled, the router will broadcast both its 5GHz band under a SSID. It will then automatically managed devices connected to it and separate the slower and faster devices so that available bandwidth is utilized effectively and efficiently. Of course, more savvy users can choose not to enable this and manually assign devices to the router's two 5GHz bands.

The accompanying Genie app lets you remotely manage your router and access content on storage devices connected to the router.

The Nighthawk X6 also boasts of features like remote router management via Netgear’s Genie app, which is available for iOS and Android devices for free on their respective app stores. However, the app is limited in its use and it is missing some features that are found on the router’s web browser interface. For example, using the app we could only edit settings of the 2.4GHz band and only one of the 5GHz band. Also, advanced features such as port forwarding, dynamic DNS and VPN can only be accessed using the web browser and not the app. That said, the app is not entirely useless. It can be useful for parents if they need to change parental control settings when they are away from home, or even to quickly see what devices are connected to your router and monitor traffic usage.