Netgear Nighthawk X4 Router May be Best Choice for Streaming 4K Content

It’s not enough to have speedy Internet when you want to stream a 4K video. High-res streaming also relies on a speedy home network (router) that can get you those UHD videos while one of your offspring is playing Halo with friends online and another is catching up on Futurama episodes on a Fire TV. Netgear has just upped the speed-ante with the launch of the model R7500, Nighthawk X4 AC2350 router. Proclaimed to stream content over Wi-Fi at speeds previously only possible with wired connections, the Nighthawk X4 may be the missing link between your screaming-fast Internet service and your 4K TV. The AC2350 has additional features for enhancing AV streaming that include Dynamic QoS (Quality of Service) for priority streaming, and an eSATA port for better media server streaming and faster file transfer speeds from an attached hard drive. All together, this router looks promising as the perfect companion for serious video streaming into the near future.

The X4 is perfect for homes with many simultaneous users who want to stream HD or UHD videos while others in the household are accessing the Internet. One look at the new Nighthawk and you know it means business. Its four amplified antennas can handle “wave 2 Wi-Fi.” When paired with Wave 2 Wi-Fi devices (not yet available), each antenna can be used for more than one stream at a time, offering local area network speeds (LAN) of up to a combined 1.7 Gbps.

The Nighthawk is also able to multitask beyond streaming. To drive Wi-Fi performance, handle QoS, and do full computer backups at the same time, under the “hood,” you’ll find a 1.4-GHz dual-core processor that uses the same type of Snapdragon processor found in tablets. Plus it has a dedicated 500-MHz Wi-Fi Dual Core offload processor so Wi-Fi speeds don’t suffer when using other router features (like accessing the hard drive).

The Dynamic QoS is an improvement over the standard QoS of earlier models and is essential for those who have demanding HD video streams while others in the household are connecting to the Internet and streaming in other ways. To understand Netgear’s Dynamic QoS, you need to understand how streaming video services work. Online services handle video streams in a couple of different ways. Netflix has an adaptive stream, which means that it will stream at the highest resolution that the media player can handle without constant buffering. After a few interruptions, Netflix will automatically downgrade to a lower resolution that can be played smoothly. A typical home network router can barely handle high-def videos much less stream at full 4K to compatible TVs. This adaptive stream maintains a smooth experience without taking bandwidth from the rest of the family who are also trying to access the Internet.

The other type of online stream service is what us networking geeks refer to as “hogs.” YouTube is the prime example. It will determine how much bandwidth is available from your router (in this case that would be 1.7 Gbps on one band and 600 Mbps on the other) and will use all that it can to buffer video. Everyone else’s network stream suffers as their bandwidth is diminished.

QoS offers more bandwidth to those who need it. Dynamic QoS starts by allocating priority to apps that need it—affording the best resolution on Netflix. It allows for streaming from YouTube but won’t sacrifice speed to other’s streams or cause lag in gameplay. Netgear takes it one step further by offering automatic device priority. If a tablet and a home theater are streaming from the same app, the TV will be given priority as it needs more bandwidth to stream at higher resolutions for the big screen. It’s also called Dynamic QoS because it will reallocate bandwidth when a new application starts on a connected device.

Many routers have a USB port for connecting an external hard drive that can be shared by all computers and devices in the home network. The Nighthawk X4 not only has two high-speed USB 3.0 ports, it adds an eSata port. The eSata port is faster than USB 3.0, allowing for file transfer speeds up to 6 Gbps. Computer backups are quicker even when multiple users are accessing the hard drive at the same time. Like other Netgear routers, the Nighthawk X4 is capable of automatic backups and works with Time Machine for Macs. Connecting a hard drive to the Nighthawk X4 may be better than using a Network Attached Server (NAS) drive. It is both a DLNA server and compatible with Apple AirPlay so you can store your iTunes library on the connected drive.

Netgear's Nighthawk 4 router is currently available for pre-order and should hit the shelves next week at $280.

COMMENTS
trynberg's picture

For little more than $280, I can have an electrician wire every room where a device would be used with Cat5 and buy a cheap switch...

Barb Gonzalez's picture
Yep, there is advantages to connecting over cables. It's usually more reliable. But I think this is a great choice for those of us who are renters and don't have that option or who want fast WiFi on a multitude of devices-- including tablets and phones that can't wire in. Point i'm making here is that this router has taken capabilities to a whole new level so that many of us will have the option of fast streaming speeds without wiring our homes.
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Please elaborate. What does that mean?

John Freeman's picture

There is a Netgear Nighthawk available from Brick and Mortar Costco for $159.99. I did not see the model number, as I was shopping for food and I was short on time. But a good deal to had, as my old Netgear N900 does not have AC spec.

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On a return trip to my local Costco I found that the Netgear Nighthawk router at Costco is the exact same model as reviewed here by the great Barb Gonzalez. So it can now be had for $159.99, now a much better deal.

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