Netgear Nighthawk AC5300 R8500 wireless router review

For years, Netgear has been a leader in the wireless router market and they have continued their history of excellence with the Netgear AC5300 Nighthawk Router (R8500).  The techie on us will fall in love with this router.  The accountant in us will not.  As we look at all the bells and whistles that come with this router, it will be important to keep in mind whether you really need them or not.

Nighthawk AC5300 Speed

The R8500 is a tri-band router.  It has one band on 2.4GHz and two using 5GHz.  The 5GHz band is the one where you get the fastest speeds.  The more devices connecting to the Nighthawk X8 router the more 2 bands at 5GHz makes sense, but for only a few devices then the extra band is really unneeded.  The Nighthawk R8500 is the first router to use the new AC5300 standard.  As discussed in our buying guide, the AC standard is the fasted option on the market.   Most AC routers use the AC3200 standard which supports speeds up to 1,300Mbps .  The AC5300 standard is so fast that most devices and internet providers cant match it’s speed of 2,166Mbps.  This means that with the Nighthawk X8 you’re paying for the speed the AC5300 offers even though you may not be able to take advantage of for years.

Netgear has also done much on the software side of things to drastically boost the performance. Built in QoS allows you to prioritize devices on the network. Smart Connect allows the router to switch devices between bands to boost efficiency. Netgear even included their Beamforming technology which allows the R8500 router to focus the direction of WiFi signals for more reliable connections.

Nighthawk Range

The R8500 also excels at the range it can provide.  It comes with a new active antenna technology that helps with range, as well as speed.  The X8 comes with 4 adjustable antennaes that can be adjust to provide maximum coverage.  The Nighthawk X8 can easily cover a large house and yard.  To increase coverage, there are amplifiers built in to the two outer antennaes to increase the range.

6 LAN Ports

IN addition to an impressive range and the use of the AC5300 standard, the Nighthawk X8 also comes with 6 LAN ports whereas most wireless routers come with the standard 4 ethernet ports.   Two of these ports also allow for aggregation. Basically, you are able to connect two ethernet cables from the wireless router to one machine, doubling the bandwidth. This is typically used with a server or storage NAS, devices which receive real world benefits of having faster connections.  This may not seem like a big deal but with a printer, Roku, XBox, desktop and another device, 4 ports can go quick.   The Nighthawk x8  also has 2 USB ports built in. One 3.0 port (blue) and one of the slower 2.0 variety (black).

Active Antennas

The active antenna feature is definitely more than a marketing thing and does provide better range.  The difference between an active and passive antenna is with the active antenna the amplifier is move to the antenna rather than the base of the X8.  This allows for increased range and less intereference between the amplifier and router.


The Nighthawk X8 router uses the Genie platform for setup and configuration.  For techies with sophisticated requirements for opening certain ports then you’ll be slightly dissappointed.  Typically internet user with not advanced needs then you won’t have a problem.


Overall, the Netgear R8500 X8 Nighthawk is a wireless router designed for people with lots of devices. Would someone with one or two devices on a network experience an improvement? Maybe, but Netgear has focused their time on making a router for people with lots of devices. Adding another band, developing the Beamforming and Smart Connect technologies… The goal was obviously to smooth out the wireless experience with many devices. If you are someone with many devices, the Nighthawk X8 is the perfect router for you.  Added to this is the impressive AC5300 standard which offers the fastest speeds available today!