Netgear XR500 Gaming Router Review
Everything you could possibly want in a router, but at a price!
What is the Netgear XR500 Gaming Router?For most people, the thought of paying out good money for another router when you are given one for free from your ISP is usually not very high on the list of household spending priorities. Whether you are with Sky, BT or even TalkTalk, the router provided normally does what it needs to do with the minimum of effort and user input. Together with lifetime support (of varying levels of quality, of course) as the router is typically owned by the ISP.
But, whilst the ISP provided free router is normally fine, an increasing number of users are looking for something that offers better features, improved customisability and performance. Especially when the modern home is stocked full of Wi-Fi demanding devices such as tablets, phones and games consoles. The options available if you are looking to change your stock router are huge, with a wide range of alternatives from the likes of Netgear, TP-LINK, ASUS and Linksys to name just a few, ranging from the low budget at £25 up to over £300 for the wallet busting, top end units.
Our item for review here is from one of the most common brands in networking devices, Netgear. Their XR500 Gaming Router from Netgear’s Nighthawk Pro Gaming range is available for around £240 and offers, on paper, everything you could possibly want from a router and then some. Features such as fast 2.6Ghz Wi-Fi speeds, Gigabit Ethernet ports, Dual Core 1.7Ghz processor are all backed up by Netgear’s DumaOS operating system which claims to allow competitive gamers to stay ahead of the game. Read on to see if this is all really worth £240……
Design and SpecificationsA few years ago, a router used to be just a simple box with perhaps an antenna or two. Not anything fancy as it just sits in a corner doing its thing. But then someone thought, let's make the router look like it is ready to attack you at any moment and let’s have multiple antennae coming out at all angles. Those people are clearly still around and are most likely working at Netgear.
To the rear, we have the 5 Gigabit Ethernet ports (4 LAN, 1 WAN), power connection, power button, factory reset and a switch to turn the row of demonic LED lights off. To the left side, we have two USB 3.0 ports for the Netgear ReadySHARE feature which is used to share a USB hard drive or printer to any connected devices. Netgear also include their free ReadySHARE Vault software for automatic PC backup to a USB hard drive connected to the router.
Specification and Features
- 2.4Ghz 4x4 256 QAM, up to 800Mbps
- 5Ghz 4x4 up to 1733Mbps
- 4 high performance external antennae
- Additional DFS channels (15 more channels) in 5Ghz for interference free gaming experience
- Powerful Dual-Core 1.7Ghz processor
- Five Gigabit Ethernet Ports (1 WAN, 4 LAN)
- Two USB 3.0 Ports
- DumaOS customisable gaming dashboard
- ReadySHARE USB
- ReadySHARE Vault for automatic PC backup
- Quad Stream
Installation and FeaturesNetworking devices are usually amongst the easiest and quickest of any technology to setup and here the XR500 is no different. Firstly, it’s important to note that the XR500 is a router only. It does not include a modem, so for those on BT Infinity with the later Homehubs with integrated modem, for example, you will still have to use the BT Modem/Router and then connect the XR500 to that via the WAN port.
You simply power up the XR500 and connect it to your existing modem (or Modem/Router). Once ready, launch a web browser window and the installation assistant will automatically start, no need to enter a web address, it will helpfully start all on its own. The installation assistant is very easy to follow and in just a couple of minutes, it is all set up and ready to go.
Starting with the Gaming Dashboard, this is a fully configurable layout of all the router’s information, such as bandwidth usage, CPU usage, wireless status and many more. All are available in individual windows which can be moved around, resized or even turned off, so you only have exactly the information you want to see in the dashboard.
Then moving onto the other features such as the Geo-Filter. This can be enabled on a per device basis and to a per game type too. You can add the same device multiple times to cover a range of games. It has two main modes, spectating and filtering. As most PC games do not require filtering, the default is spectating mode which will show you the server you have connected to and your ping, but it will not be blocked. This can be very useful if you are concerned with your ping, you can easily see which server you are connected to.
Then onto the Quality of Service feature which allows you to configure the bandwidth allocation across all your connected devices and a setting called Anti-BufferBloat, which is a way to control the total bandwidth that devices can consume, thereby allowing bandwidth to be available for less hungry devices. The Network Monitor is another useful feature which shows all the devices currently connected to the Router and what bandwidth they are using. Then finally, the Gaming VPN client which has the VPN HideMyAss predefined, but you will have to buy a licence to use this feature. You can also set up a VPN to access your own network using a client to gateway tunnel.
How well does it perform?The testing is carried out in a standard 4 bed detached house. As we have BT Infinity and a HomeHub which has an integrated modem, the XR500 Router automatically configured the IP address to avoid conflicts. We initially tested using a PC connected via Gigabit Ethernet to our existing BT HomeHub Modem/Router and with a laptop connected via wireless to our 802.11ac capable laptop. We then repeated the tests using the XR500 Router. During our testing, we turned off all other wireless transmitters to avoid any interference.
We used a program called LANSpeedTest by Totusoft which is a simple but powerful tool for measuring Local Area Network (LAN) speeds. It does this by building a file in memory, then transfers it both ways (without the effects of Windows file caching) while keeping track of the time, and then does the calculations for you. This gives us the results of transferring files between our PC and the Laptop using the Orbi network.
Test: 2 x 1GB files transferred simultaneously.
Location 1 is on the same floor, 3 metres from the Router and through one wall.
Location 2 is on the same floor, 5 metres from the Router and through two walls.
Location 3 is in a room directly above the Router, 2-3 metres away.
Location 4 is in a room one floor above the Router, 7 metres away.
BT Infinity HomeHub Write Read Location 1 100.83 Mbps 165.16 Mbps Location 2 112.48 Mbps 200.03 Mbps Location 3 144.88 Mbps 269.40 Mbps Location 4 20.74 Mbps 27.90 Mbps
Netgear XR500 Router Write Read Location 1 112.68 Mbps 226.49 Mbps Location 2 22.43 Mbps 7.18 Mbps Location 3 104.70 Mbps 212.77 Mbps Location 4 15.59 Mbps 13.24 Mbps
In addition to the above tests, we carried out an internet speedtest on our PC connected via Gigabit Ethernet to both routers. With our existing BT HomeHub we received an average 31.63Mbps down and 9.48Mbps up with a ping of 7ms. Using the Netgear XR500 our download dropped ever so slightly to 31.53Mbps, upload to 9.28Mbps and ping remained the same at 7ms.
The internet speedtest results show barely any difference at all which we would expect, a new router can’t magically increase our speed. We did hope for much better results with the wireless tests as shown in the table above, but these were inconsistent and no real improvements overall were seen when compared to our BT HomeHub. Despite the claims of much increased speed and range, it seems our test location continues to offer a very tough test for wireless devices.
- Very easy to install and configure
- DumaOS gaming dashboard
- Excellent features
- Superb specification
- Geo-filter not compatible with some games
Netgear XR500 Gaming Router Review
Is the Netgear XR500 Gaming Router worth buying?If you are looking for a router that does everything you could possibly wish for a router to do and plenty of things you haven’t even thought of, then you can’t go wrong with the XR500. But, that comes at a cost. When most people use the free router that their ISP provides, shelling out £240 for an alternative is not an option to be taken lightly.
For that £240 you get a very tasty specification including both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz wireless with the latter theoretically offering up to 1733Mbps speeds along with 4 high performance antennae, Netgear ReadySHARE features and plenty of Ethernet ports. What sets the XR500 apart though is the Pro Gaming features. The customisable gaming dashboard using Netgear’s DumaOS offers an impressive array of features such as a Network Monitor, Geo-location filtering, Quality of Service and VPN client support. If you have the knowledge, you can configure this router to do exactly what you want it to do. You can’t really ask for more than that.
What is the competition?At this price range, there are a few alternatives to Netgear’s wallet busting XR500. TP-LINK’s rather strange looking Tri-Band Archer C5400 and the router/piece of art that is the Gryphon Consumer Secure Family Router, both available for £220 and both offering very similar specifications and greater in some areas.
If you don’t mind the £240 price tag, the XR500 Gaming Router is feature rich with a superb specification and offers everything you could possibly need in a router, but do you really need it?
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £249.99
Ease of Use10
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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