Who will say the happiness of surfing comfortably in an old armchair made to his body, a tablet or a laptop on his knees, without the slighreview wire, all thanks to the magic of Wi-Fi … Who will also say hell of frustration of a world where this same old chair is out of range of your Wi-Fi network …
The Nighthawk X6S could make the difference between digital hell and paradise. Incorporated in a moderately pretty and rather tall box to carry large antennas, the X6S is a Wi-Fi repeater. In other words, it is a device that connects to your main network and extends its coverage.
Good point, unlike many of its peers, it does not create a second SSID, which requires you to manage two different networks and to connect manually when you switch from one to the other. Here, Netgear plays the card of transparency in use. And it was successful.
From a browser, you launch its configuration, which lasts no more than ten minutes. Even less if your router is WPS compatible. If this is not the case, an assistant takes you in hand. You identify the Wi-Fi network to which it should lend a hand and enter its password. The Nighthawk then takes care of getting into working order without more intervention than that which consists of choosing one or two frequency bands … You can of course manage some configuration details later, but do not look for functions too advanced. Then, you can have it best by using the eight LEDs on the front which indicate in particular the quality of reception of the signal emitted by your main router. This will keep you from overstretching it from the Netgear device. This information also appears on the main page of the configuration console. The other LEDs tell you if a device is connected to the Wi-Fi network, or if the USB port or one of the four Ethernet ports on the back is busy. Convenient.
The Nighthawk X6S (EX8000) repeater – not to be confused with the Nighthawk X6S (R8000P) router – borrows other strengths from Netgear’s lareview generation of routers, the Orbi in particular.
In addition to offering a mesh network with a single SSID, Netgear’s high-end tri-band routers have a proprietary technology, called FastLane, which dedicates one of the 5 GHz frequency bands to communication between routers. A good way of not having to cut down on the bandwidth allocated to your communication with the Internet.
Good news, this technology, FastLane, the Nighthawk X6S is also entitled to it because it is tri-band: one in 2.4 GHz for a theoretical maximum speed of 400 Mbit / s, two in 5GHz, the first of which offers a maximum of 866 Mbit / s and the second 1733 Mbit / s. Three frequency bands, three nice theoretical bit rates, for good news, because it means that you can connect more devices to it simultaneously without saturating the bandwidth and reducing download speeds.
The limits of power
However, FastLane only really makes sense if your basic Wi-Fi router uses multiple bands to transmit its network. So if your main Wi-Fi network is transmitted by an older ISP box, like Orange’s Livebox 2, this technology will do nothing.
Why ? The X6S has nothing to do with it. It is the perfect illustration of the fact that in a network overall performance is never as good as that of the weakest of its links. The Netgear product is well thought out and cut to offer good performance but it will not be able to work a miracle if the basic Wi-Fi network is weak and transmitted on a single frequency.
Depending on the router whose Nighthawk is to extend the area of influence, the speeds recorded will vary dramatically.
To illustrate our point, we have successively added it to two Wi-Fi routers. The first is none other than the Freebox Mini 4K. The other is Apple’s sixth generation Airport Extreme charging station.
First candidate, the Freebox. A mono band box (801.11n at 2.4 GHz, up to 450 Mbit / s) which offers a rather ridiculous range and speeds in Wi-Fi which are de facto bad and collapse very quickly … Despite all its power, the X6S EX8000 can not change anything. Even if it will expand the coverage area a little, the “to be extended” speeds are so famine that its technological arsenal is very badly used.
In this case, what to do? Use a better router. Or indulge in a little off-topic exercise by activating another option of the X6S, its access point mode. That is to say that you no longer use the Wi-Fi of your box, and only use theextender Netgear to broadcast its own wireless network. This use is not necessarily the most interesting, but it offers rather good and stable bit rates, while the range is very satisfactory.
Full potential to seek
However, the advantage of a repeater is of course to be used to extend the coverage of a pre-existing Wi-Fi network. So we used it, and this is our second candidate, with an Airport Extreme terminal from 2013 (dual-band, 802.11n / ac compatible).
The speeds and coverage offered by this good Wi-Fi router obviously help the X6S to perform much better, even in our reviewing environment which is particularly hostile.
The Netgear repeater can further express its potential in this case. He even keeps it underfoot. We see that the X6S provides very good coverage, as good as an Orbi router, and perhaps a little better. The speeds are stable in the main area of Wi-Fi. They fasey at its ends but nothing illogical, and especially catastrophic. A little more than 90 Mbit / s at ten meters remains very honorable in our review context.
Between five and ten meters, interspersed with thick load-bearing walls, you always get enough to stream a 4K stream and a fortiori Full HD. Video gaming in the cloud is also close at hand, not to mention classic web surfing and everyday downloads.
Obviously, these uses also depend on the speed of Internet connection of your ADSL or fiber line. Because, you have to keep in mind that the X6S will offer you the best, if you give it the means.
A repeater in 2018? To do what ?
Difficult not to conclude this review by being both very satisfied with the performance of the product that Netgear delivers to us but also by wondering if the repeaters still have a future. At a time when mesh routers, such as the Deco m5, by TP-Link, or Google Wi-Fi,… by Google, democratize by their ease of installation and their price the wireless networks united and omnipresent in the house, do they still have relevance?
This Netgear product proves that by sliding the best of the mesh offers into a repeater, the answer is yes. However, by embedding excellent technologies but remaining by definition dependent on a main router, the X6S highlights its own limits too much, which are those of older routers. To the point that it is difficult not to have a curious and paradoxical impression of mess.
In fact, if the basic router is too weak, it may be better to reset everything. The repeater is then not the right solution. Except maybe not wanting to invest too much at once … and plan to switch soon to an 802.11ac router or, why not, 802.11ax.
On the other hand, if your router is fairly new and at least dual-band, if you appreciate its services and do not want to change it, or even if you use a mesh network, and you want to extend the area covered by these devices, the Nighthawk X6S EX8000 is a good choice. It’s undeniable.