Netgear Nighthawk X6S Tri-Band Mesh Extender Review: A Simple Fix for Wi-Fi Woes

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Netgear Nighthawk X6S (EX8000) Review: Performance

Wireless networking performance is always tough to test, since each home is unique and has different variables, whether its router placement, the number of floors, walls, interference, etc. There isn’t an industry standard benchmark for network performance testing that allows for direct comparisons across multiple test conditions and its hard to remove unique variables that are present outside of a testing lab, so your mileage may vary. However, we’ve put together a real-world testing scenario that relies on the NetPerf tool. The tool uses a server and client configuration – we setup a Windows 10 PC wired directly to the router using Gigabit Ethernet and a notebook as a client to test the connection speed between the two computers. Netgear’s Wi-Fi home testing utility on Android was also used to determine signal strength and connection speeds.

A Dell XPS 13 (9350) upgraded with an Intel 8265 dual-band Wi-Fi adapter to eliminate any potential bottlenecks on the client side that was used for testing. The main router is a two year old ASUS RT-AC88U placed on the second floor at one end of the house, while the Nighthawk X6S (EX8000) is downstairs at the other end of the house. The house is 1900 square feet, not counting the garage. We experienced occasional network dropouts in certain areas of the house and used two of those locations – 50 ft and 20 ft away from the router with walls and other obstacles in between – as testing spots to test the benefits of the Nighthawk X6S (EX8000).

EX8000 Map

The network map above illustrates our networking layout if you swap the locations of the router and extender. 

5 GHz Performance

EX8000 5G 50ft
EX8000 5G 20ft

The ASUS RT-AC88U is a pretty beefy router on its own, but the Nighthawk X6S (EX8000) manages to improve 5GHz UDP performance by 5-percent at 50-feet away. TCP performance improves by nearly 23-percent at 50-feet away and a minor 8-percent at 20-feet away with the Nighthawk X6S (EX8000) installed, too. As online gaming typically employs UDP packets, the performance boost should help gaming when wireless is your only option.

2.4 GHz Performance

EX8000 24G 50ft
EX8000 24G 20ft

We see the same performance benefits at longer distances on the 2.4GHz band, as we saw with 5GHz. UDP performance sees a 20-percent gain with a minor 7-percent TCP boost. At a closer 20-feet distance, the Nighthawk X6S (EX8000) doesn’t show any TCP performance gains but shows a minor gain with UDP packets.

Signal Strength and Speed

Performance doesn’t paint a complete picture of the Nighthawk X6S (EX8000) capabilities. For that, we turn to Netgear’s Wi-Fi analytics utility on Android to determine connection speed and signal strength. We used three testing locations for this – the bedroom is 50-feet away and downstairs, upstairs is 50-feet away line-of-sight to the router and the sun room is 20-feet away downstairs.

Signal Strength 5G

The 5GHz band sees substantial signal strength and connection speed gains with the Nighthawk X6S (EX8000) installed. While the bedroom only sees 5-percent higher signal strength, the connection speed is three times higher. The Nighthawk X6S (EX8000) also solved the random signal drop outs we were having as well.

The sun room sees the largest improvement on the 5GHz band – 23-percent higher signal strength and nine times the connection speed. It’s understandable the upstairs results show no gains for the Nighthawk X6S (EX8000) as its within line-of-sight of the router.

Signal Strength 24G

The 2.4 GHz band doesn’t see any improvements in signal strength, which isn’t surprising, given the size of the house used for testing. The connection speeds double, however.

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