I'll be honest and reveal that I have been using the standard wireless router that my cable company provided when I signed up with them. For the most part it gets the job done. Or so I thought it did. However there are some spotty locations that just don't get the full robustness of the interwebs and all it has to offer. Case in point would be the living room, which ironically has an issue with constant connectivity and consistent speeds. A pretty big bummer when you're trying to stream content off of Netflix, Hulu or any other streaming service. So I'd have to suffer through many moments of buffering or recalibrating video quality, I was living like a caveman (albeit a caveman with high speed Internet).
I was reluctant to believe I'd achieve any large gains over my existing wireless router. I mean honestly how could this little black box improve my connectivity that much?
Well I soon learned what the Nighthawk is capable of. I can happily report that every bit of my Internet experience improved while using this device.
Yes, the Nighthawk has these massive antennae that remind me of Cadillac tail fins. They look like they would work pretty well based solely on appearance alone. Is it fine to assume that all external antennae would work better than units where the components are internally encased in the router? Speaking of the external design, the casing on the router reminds me of something Luscious Fox would design for Bruce Wayne/Batman in his secret lab (Yes, I streamed The Dark Knight on Netflix to test out).
Side note: How fantastic is the name Nighthawk. Nighthawk! I AM THE NIGHTHAWK! I digress.
The enclosure is of some polycarbonate material with vents. Pretty standard for routers, however it's what's on the inside that sets this router apart from others. However, I rather like the look of the Nighthawk even if it doesn't match any of my furniture or décor.
There are a dozen or so LED indicators that sit on the top of the router and you will see them flashing throughout your day. Two of the LEDs act as buttons to turn on/off the router and another than enables Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). There are 4 Ethernet ports and 2 USB (one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0) to directly connect devices to the router. The Nighthawk claims to be smarter than your average router and it does so with a 1GHz dual-core processor, 128 MB flash and 256 RAM.
The USB ports serve quite a number of functions. You can plug in any old (non-Wi-Fi) printer into the router and turn it into a networked printer. You can plug in USB storage devices for a number of other functions, like networked storage device, FTP server, back-up drive, DLNA or iTunes music servers. It is hard to call the Netgear Nighthawk just merely a router, because it does so much more. It is certainly the smartest router I've ever used.
Security/Peace of Mind
Additionally it has built-in security features to keep your devices at home safe in addition to blocking unwanted websites. As part of the security offerings you can block websites based on keywords, turn on access times to keep kids off the Internet late into the night, enable which devices have requirements and even receive alerts when someone tries to access blocked sites. Parents may find this feature handy. Then again building in security into hardware has been an increasingly popular action on the part of the industry. It is obviously just building in software features on computers and devices, aren't doing enough to keep information and users safe from prying eyes.
Netgear has optimized the Nighthawk to prioritize actions based on when you need them. The Nighthawk utilizes both advanced upstream and downstream Quality of Service (QoS) to make sure your video streaming, gaming speeds gets pushed forward ahead of lesser actions that are running on your network. Netgear also makes the claim that mobile speeds will increase up to 100 percent. I do not have the scientific tools to measure such results but I found just about every aspect of my Internet experience to be significantly improved.
I can honestly state that the range of the wireless network has significantly increased and is more robust, even when connecting across rooms with multiple walls in between. Specifically I was having issues with Netflix maintaining a steady connection from my existing router, but since having used the Nighthawk I have not experienced any lag or any dropped connections. Likewise while playing some games over PlayStation Plus with the rest of the TB crew, I used to experience lag and dropped connections. However, the Nighthawk has changed the experience 180 degrees.
I've noticed a much faster Internet experience than before. While on my laptop I've seen a small bump in download speeds (reflected in speeds tests) the change is more significant on smartphones and tablets. Surprisingly my upload speeds have jumped significantly.
Bottom line is: Internet speeds and coverage are quick and consistently solid. While I ran speed tests (pictured above) my wife has her own official benchmark: Pinterest. Mind you I know very little of this social platform. She claims there are times where it would take up to 7 spins of the pin on our old router, she claims it only takes 1-2 (or a solid 1.5) with the Netgear Nighthawk: her words, not mine. Though I suppose these instances are really great indicators of whether or not your Internet is performing well. Isn't it all just supposed to work? The Nighthawk is a worry free solution and it does all the network prioritizing without any effort on your part.
The Netgear Nighthawk is more than just a router. It defines a whole new class of "smart" devices.
The Nighthawk efficiently processes how wireless devices work across your network, it prioritizes your most important functions all while boosting the speed and range. It is so smart it can even protects you will you surf the net.
I was skeptical when asked to review this router.
Roy's mental thought: "What type of snake oil are you trying to sell me." Boy was I wrong.
Instead, I found the results to absolutely stunning. Not just from observing obligatory speed tests, because those results do not tell the entire story. But real life use is the best benchmark you can run on this router. It passes with flying colors.
As streaming media (music, TV, movies, gaming) becomes important so does your network's ability to process those actions. I'm sure your homes are becoming more inundated with wireless devices: security cameras, phone calls, computers, home automation (Nest), streaming music, etc. It is no longer important just being connected, there is true value in how you connect. You wouldn't want your Netflix streaming to be hampered while your smartphone is trying to upload photos to Dropbox. Netgear's Nighthawk will take care of all that for you.
While smart routers aren't a household name yet, that soon should change. And the Netgear Nighthawk is certainly worth a look if you're in the market to upgrade your network. It certainly has opened my eyes to what I've been missing out on.
Netgear sent us the Nighthawk to review. We used the Nighthawk daily over the course of a month.