The Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 is a router that’s specifically designed for homes with one – or more – serious gamers living there. With the possible exception of streaming TV and video in 4K, by far the most significant chunk of broadband bandwidth is taken up by online videogames.Whether you’re playing PUBG, Call of Duty or Overwatch, your broadband connection really matters – suffering from a high “ping” (effectively the latency that occurs between you hitting a button in a game, and that signal reaching the game’s server) can wreck your chances of success if you’re playing against someone with faster broadband.The way in which it proposes to do that is driven, unexpectedly, more by its software than its hardware. It comes with a software package called DumaOS, developed by a company called NetDuma based in Bedfordshire in the UK, which includes many features that any keen online gamer will long have craved, such as the ability to force connection to the nearest geographical server, and to restrict the broadband use of non-gaming devices connected to the Nighthawk XR500.DesignWhich isn’t to suggest that, hardware-wise, the XR500 is anything less than state-of-the-art: it sports a 1.7GHz dual-core processor, five Gigabit Ethernet ports and a 2.6Gbps overall Wi-fi speed rating.It supports dual (2.4GHz and 5Ghz) band operation and has a feature called DFS (Dynamic Frequency Selection), which lets you tinker with the 5GHz channel if you’re experiencing interference.
Physically, you can also see that it has been designed with a gaming audience squarely in mind. It eschews the standard dull, boxy router form-factor in favour of a more pimped-up, aggressively sculpted form that puts one in mind of a hot-hatch fitted with an after-market body kit. It’s quite large and can only sit flat, taking up a fair amount of real estate.
Setup-wise, the XR500 is pretty exemplary, come with a standard Ethernet port to which the XR500 can connect directly.
The results make it worthwhile, though: even when tapping into another router’s modem, the Nighthawk XR500 performs something akin to magic.
The Nighthawk XR500 is fabulously well equipped to cope with tricky physical surroundings. It has four chunky aerials, and the way in which it cut through two storeys with ease was mighty impressive. It proved a massive boon when downloading a 30Gb game, a process which it executed in less than an hour,
There’s a good chance that your broadband is a lot faster than you think it is, and once you start playing around with the Nighthawk XR500’s DumaOS software, you should be able to extract pretty much every drop of the available bandwidth.
We experimented by setting up the Nighthawk XR500 an intense download in one part of the house, then fired up Destiny 2, getting a not-too-disastrous but still far from ideal ping of 120ms. The first element of DumaOS we then visited was its Geo Filter, which sniffs out the geographical whereabouts of whichever server your game is hooked up to and lets you force a connection to servers within whatever geographical radius you choose. Moving from a European server to a British one (where we ran the tests) instantly got the ping down to 70ms (gamers view pings of over 100ms as annoyingly slow).
A visit to another two DumaOS apps called Network Monitoring and QoS (which stands for Quality of Service) in the Nighthawk XR500 soon let us reduce that ping to 20ms. Frankly, Network Monitoring is the app which you would like to see supplied with every router – and especially if you live in a shared house (although in that situation, it could lead to some rather fraught power-struggles). That’s because it shows you every device hooked up to your router, and lets you grab set amounts of bandwidth for each one.
QoS in the Netgear Nighthawk XR500 is more game-focused, and it essentially grabs a set chunk of bandwidth for whichever gaming device you designate, guarding against traffic-spikes from other devices on your WiFfi network, and thereby maintaining your ping if, say, you’re taking part in a crucial online match. It’s particularly handy if you’re a dedicated gamer suffering with lacklustre broadband speeds.
DumaOS in the Netgear Nighthawk XR500 also has a nice dashboard screen, which lets you lay out and resize its various app windows according to the priorities dictated by your broadband setup and your online proclivities.
Sure, it leads to a pretty techy-looking screen, but the control it gives you over your broadband feels almost God-like. It’s a piece of software which is sure to be copied by the Netgear Nighthawk XR500 rival router manufacturers (at least, it will be if they have any sense). But right now, Netgear has an exclusive licence for it.
Overall, it’s no exaggeration to say that the Netgear Nighthawk XR500 is simply the best router a keen gamer can buy. Whether those gamers are struggling to extract all available performance from a sketchy broadband setup, or to get the full benefit from a faster broadband pipe, they will find it massively impressive. And, if you aren’t a gamer, but live in a shared house in which your fellow inhabitants are constantly locked in a battle to grab bandwidth, it’s also well worth buying.
Plug It InWith four LAN ports and one WAN port, it’s easy to hardwire your devices for noticeably faster connectivity
Lightning-Fast WiFi TechnologyA reliable 2.6Gbps connection coupled with Multi-User capability ensures that streaming never brings down your WiFi speeds
Dual-core 1.7GHz ProcessorThe fast and powerful processor stream-lines wired and wireless performance
Simultaneous Dual-Band WiFiSupports two WiFi bands, doubling available bandwidth
High-Performance AntennasFour powerful antennas allow better coverage and faster speeds with less interference
Dynamic Frequency TechnologyProvides 15 additional 5Ghz channels to keep your gaming experience interference-free
-Gaming Dashboard—Customizable view of real-time bandwidth utilization by device, ping, etc.
-Geo-Filter—Control your lag by limiting distance to game servers or other players
-Gaming VPN Client Support—Protect your network identity and prevent DoS attacks
-Network Monitor—Check bandwidthhogging devices and identify what causes lag
-Quad Stream & 160MHz for faster speeds
-MU-MIMO support for simultaneous streaming
-Quality of Service—Prioritize gaming devices and allocate bandwidth by device
-Beamforming+ for more reliable connections
-ReadySHARE® USB to share your USB hard drive & printer
-ReadySHARE® Vault—PC software for automatic backup to USB hard drive connected to the router