The first 802.11ac router we tested was the Netgear R6300, back in the summer of 2012, but it has been relatively quiet at Netgear regarding 802.11ac since then. Although new models appeared with the R6200 and R6250, these were positioned lower than the R6300. As such, the R6300 has served as the flagship model for around 1.5 years. Now, however, there is the R7000, which carries the name Nighthawk ... and we’ve tested it.
The fact that the R6300 maintained its status as flagship model is not too difficult to explain. Even though the developments surrounding 802.11ac appear to proceed quickly, in practice this isn’t so much the case. We’ve only really seen devices featuring largely the same Broadcom chipset. It wasn’t until the TP-Link Archer C7 was brought onto the market that we saw Qualcomm have a go. That router did have a number of teething problems though. Whether TP-Link or Qualcomm was to blame is unknown, but the fact remains that the Archer C7’s initial performance wasn’t very good.
One of the consequences of Broadcom’s dominance was that available devices were mostly identical internally and merely looked different on the outside. Of course, this is somewhat of an exaggeration. Apart from the chips used in routers, their antennas, amplifiers, and memory are also important, not to mention the optimization of their firmware. More variation could be found there.
Broadcomm’s dominance did, however, ensure that a router such as the R6300 could easily maintain its flagship status for 1.5 years, without its performance growing comparatively worse (in our tests, at least). One reason for this is the fact that firmware updates allowed for a number of optimizations. Even so, it is unusual that one of the best known router manufacturers have waited so long before releasing a successor to its flagship model, while Linksys), for example, has already released its third flagship model, the EA6900. This model succeeded the EA6500 and EA6700. In addition, ASUS released the ASUS RT-AC68U, successor to the RT-AC66U, onto the market a while back as well. Nevertheless, the Nighthawk, currently having an average price of around € 185 / £ 152 (although web shops have only just begun listing it) has finally arrived, so let us quickly proceed with its assessment.