How much fun would it be to have a Wi-Fi router at home, which looks like something that dropped out of an alien spacecraft? Netgear had done exactly that with the Netgear X6 and has carried that on with the Netgear X6S. This started out with a price tag of around Rs 25,999 but will currently cost you around Rs 15,000. There is no doubt that’s a lot of money, but this is a good option for a powerful Wi-Fi router for home. But it is absolutely worth the money. Even more so considering you must be working from home because of the lockdowns in an attempt to flatten the curve of the Coronavirus, or COVID-19 spread. And then there is the mandatory use of the broadband internet line to stream to stream movies and TV shows from Netflix, Amazon Video and more—and in 4K, if that is an option for you, in an attempt to stay sane after work, because of all the social distancing guidelines. Simply put, you need a good Wi-Fi router to go with your fast internet line.
In terms of the design, the Netgear X6S will most certainly catch your attention with its sheer size. This is almost 11-inches wide, almost as much as an Apple iPad. The entire top is a grille, and there are six pull-out antennas. The flipside of this design is that these antennas only have limited adjustability, and you cannot swivel these around. This could be a slight limitation of you have a certain part of your home which isn’t getting the best internet range, and your only option will be to slightly reposition the router itself. Switch this on, and the Netgear X6S quite literally lights up. There are as many as 11 LED lights, including those for power, internet connectivity, wireless status and LAN connectivity. You will probably be happy there is a switch at the back to turn these off—useful if you have this router in your bedroom or your home theater.
When you have power, it is quite apparent
The innards are as powerful as the personality perhaps indicates. The X6S is based on Broadcom's BCM4365E Wi-Fi chip, and this is powered by a dual-core 1.8GHz processor, there is 512MB RAM as well as 128MB flash storage which is home to the firmware and the settings. The X6S also has what are known as “offload processors”, in fact three of them—this means the bandwidth for tasks such as video streaming and gaming will not slow down if there is load on the network. This is a tri-band Gigabit router is rated at AC4000, with the three bands combining to a maximum Wi-Fi speed of 4Gbps—this is with a 2.5GHz 750Mbps band + dual 5GHz 1625Mbps bands working together. Basically, the X6S will constantly monitor traffic, and depending on which devices are connecting to it and from which part of the home, will switch them to the best possible band. With the aforementioned six antennas, the range is good enough for large homes.
Software is the weakest Link for most routers, but not this one
On the software side of things, Netgear always done a very fine job. Be it the firmware running on the Netgear X6S, or the Netgear Nighthawk app (free for Android and iOS), both are top-notch in terms of usability, intuitiveness and the plethora of options they put in front of you. For instance, the dashboard for your router settings is easy to understand, and there are just so many options that power users would love to play around with. That said, there are some slightly less than perfect aspects. For instance, the quality of service option is simply a check box, and there isn’t much you can do beyond it. Netgear’s implementation relies on a cloud based setup to identify data packets that should be prioritized over other data on the network—but there is no way to manually give priority to any particular device you may have connected, such as your smart TV or gaming console, for instance.
It is fast, and it is smart
In terms of the performance, the Netgear X6S really comes into its own if you are using this in a large home, or even a medium sized home with a complex layout and multiple thick walls between you and the router. This is where most routers struggle, and fade away—and what you are left with is a ‘no connectivity’ situation that can only lead to much hair pulling and cursing. All those external antennas on the X6S make all the difference at this point, by being able to push the signals further and deeper into your indoor space. In the near and mid-range distance usage scenario, this is no faster or no slower than the likes of the Linksys WRT3200ACM, the Asus RT-AC88U and the D-Link DIR-882. However, the X6S is not only able to extend the range much beyond most high end Wi-Fi routers as you move further away, but also retains faster data transfer as well as internet speeds—with only the Linksys WRT3200ACM matching it some distance.
It is perhaps hard to imagine a smart device meant for homes to not have compatibility for Amazon’s smart assistant Alexa or Google’s Assistant. The Netgear X6S can also be made to work with Alexa and Assistant voice commands if you have an Echo speaker or a Google Home speaker at home. Most of the functionality revolves around the ability to manage guest Wi-Fi networks with voice commands, but it is a good start.
The Last Word: It means business
The thing with the Netgear X6S is that it is not a revolution for the home Wi-Fi router space, and neither does it come with any ‘gaming’ credentials tagged in. However, it does everything better—it is faster than most high-end routers, and the range it offers in large homes just makes all the difference. The Amazon Alexa and Google Home features are an added bonus. But this is strictly meant for anyone who has a large home, has multiple devices connected to the internet and large file downloads or uploads as well as 4K video streaming is involved.