The R8500 is not Wi-Fi Certified. It was tested using the Revision 8 Wireless test process with V184.108.40.206_1.0.28 firmware loaded. The router comes with WPS enabled.
A Windows 8.1 notebook connected to either band prompted for WPS PIN with a pushbutton alternative. A pushbutton session quickly resulted in a WPA2/AES connection to either radio (identified by the link rate reported in the Windows connection properties).
For performance testing, the router was first reset to factory defaults, Smart Connect disabled and unique SSIDs assigned to each radio. The 2.4 GHz radio was set to Channel 6 and Up to 433 Mbps (20 MHz) bandwidth mode.
For 5 GHz, I made an exception to our standard practice of using Channel 153. Since the 5 GHz-1 (low band) radio is connected to the external amplified antennas, I used it, set to its Channel 44 default. In fact, I initially tested using Channel 153, then retested using Channel 44 after discovering the low-band radio's external antenna connection. I'll show the difference between the two bands shortly. The 5 GHz-1 radio was set to Up to 2165 Mbps (80 MHz) mode. The NETGEAR R7000 bridge mode standard test client was connected using WPA2/AES encryption.
Our standard practice is to center the router under test's antennas on the turntable, both front-to-back and side-to-side in the chamber. This method is intended to keep maximum distance between the router under test and chamber antennas as the router rotates during test. Because the R8500 is so big, I had to position the antennas 2.5" behind the turntable side-to-side center line as shown in the photo below. The antennas were positioned as NETGEAR recommends, i.e. the outer two set to 45° and the center two straight up.
R8500 in test chamber
The Benchmark Summary below shows a summary of the tested benchmarks. Note the wireless benchmarks represent the average of all wireless throughput measurements made over the tested attenuation range. We'll put these results in perspective when we look at throughput vs. attenuation profiles next.
The R8500 is the only AC5300 class router tested so far. But because the test client continues to be AC1900 class, I'm going to compare it to three AC3200 class routers, the top-ranked D-Link DIR-890L/R, ASUS RT-AC3200 and NETGEAR R8000.
2.4 GHz downlink performance is very similar throughout most of the tested range. But the R8500's throughput curve falls below the other three's starting at 39 dB of attenuation.
2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation
2.4 GHz uplink plot shows the R8500 producing the highest throughput of the group from 0 to 9 dB of attenuation. But its curve once again falls below the others' from 18 dB onward.
2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation
The 5 GHz downlink plot shows the four routers breaking into two groups in the lower attenuation tests. The ASUS and R8500 are in the higher group and the R8500 even becomes the top performer from 12 to 24 dB. After that, all four routers coverge for the rest of the tests.
5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation
On 5 GHz uplink, the R8500's throughput again falls off more rapidly than the other products in the comparison and also disconnects the earliest, after the 36 dB test.
5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation
The next plot shows the difference between tests run using the 5 GHz upper band radio on Channel 153 and the lower band radio set to Channel 44.
Channel 44 vs. 153 downlink throughput
Keep in mind the internal antennas are also positioned lower with regard to the test chamber antennas than the external antennas, which could also contribute to the lower Channel 153 throughput.
Channel 44 vs. 153 uplink throughput
In any event, if you're looking for the best 5 GHz performance the R8500 is capable of, I'd recommend using the lower band radio (Channels 36 - 48). NETGEAR may not agree with me, because the Tri-Band WiFi Connections (Chapter 5) of the R8500 User Guide generally notes that the fastest AC devices will be steered to the internal-antenna 5 GHz-2 radio.