netgear nighthawk x4

Netgear announces its first supercharged 'wave-2' router: The $280 Nighthawk X4

Asus is no longer the only router manufacturer offering a wave-2 model. Netgear today announced its Nighthawk X4 (aka the R7500), a 4x4 802.11ac router based on Quantenna’s 500MHz chipset. But the Nighthawk X4 could end up being a very different product than Asus’s RT-AC87U, because Netgear has paired Quantenna’s silicon with a 1.4GHz, dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.

Netgear and Qualcomm co-developed a technology Netgear director of product marketing Sandeep Harpalani described in a briefing last week as dynamic quality of service (QoS). “The router exams the data flow to optimize its performance,” said Harpalani, “giving you the best experience even with multiple applications.”

Netgear Nighthawk X4

The Nighthawk X4’s USB 3.0 ports and its eSATA port will be located on either side of the device. 

Harpalani said the router is both application aware and device aware. It can identify the type of devices operating on the network (PCs, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, etc.), and it can match each bit stream traveling through the network with the application that created it. The router will then prioritize each bit stream accordingly. Netgear has developed a database of apps and devices that will be periodically and automatically updated, independent of firmware updates.

“The Nighthawk X4 can differentiate between an adaptive video stream—such as Netflix, that changes its resolution in response to the connection speed—and a buffered video stream, such as YouTube.” If the router doesn’t recognize the type of video streams flowing through the router, a buffered video stream can consume all the available bandwidth. According to Harpalani, Netgear’s new router can deliver optimal performance with both video applications even when they’re being used by different clients on the same network.

Netgear Nighthawk X4

The Nighthawk X4 is a dual-band 2.4-/5GHz router with a gigabit switch. 

The Nightawk X4 is housed in the same basic enclosure as Netgear’s original Nighthawk, but will of course have four antennas. It will also have two USB 3.0 ports and—like the Linksys WRT1900AC—will have one eSATA port. Harpalani claims the Nighthawk X4 will deliver read speeds up to 80MBps over USB 3.0, and write speeds up to 40MBps. The eSATA port will be even faster, he said, delivering read speeds of 90MBps and write speeds of 45MBps.

Netgear’s new router will support DLNA and iTunes media servers, and the new router will come with free PC-backup software in the form of Netgear’s ReadyShare Vault. Netgear’s press release indicates the router will be available immediately at an MSRP of $280; but I was told as of last Friday that the final firmware had not yet been finished.

Look for my full hands-on review as soon as I can get my hands on one.

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