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Wireless Reviews

Nighthawk X6S Tri-Band WiFi Router with MU-MIMO
At a glance
ProductNETGEAR Nighthawk X6S Tri-Band WiFi Router with MU-MIMO (R8000P)   [Website]
SummaryThree stream AC4000 Broadcom-based router with two 5 GHz radios
Pros• OpenVPN server
• Supports wireless bridge on both bands
• Supports airtime fairness
Cons• No QoS features

Introduction

Update 10/19/17: Corrected Smart Connect features

NETGEAR has come out with two redesigns of classic Nighthawk routers. The R7000P I reviewed back in June, wasn't a clear winner over the original R7000 Nighthawk, whose original "first look" review remains one of our most-read reviews even four years (!) later.

Today, I'm looking at the R8000P Nighthawk X6S Tri-Band WiFi Router with MU-MIMO, a redesign of NETGEAR's first tri-radio router, the R8000 Nighthawk X6 Tri-Band WiFi Router, which got a two-part review (part 1, part 2) in 2014.

Like the R7000P, the R8000P is still a Broadcom-based design using Broadcom's newish BCM4365E radio SoC. This chip is the latest step on the long, tortured path Broadcom has taken to get functional MU-MIMO. It's ironic (at least to me) to see tri-band and MU-MIMO in the same product, since Broadcom's tri-radio design was originally designed to compete against MU-MIMO.

The R8000P uses the new radio for both bands in all three radios instead of just the 5 GHz radio. The P also bumps the main processor SoC up to a dual core 1.8 GHz BCM4906 (ARM v8 Cortex A53) from the R8000's dual core 1 GHz BCM4709A (ARM Cortex A9).

Since the BCM4365 supports non-standard 1024 QAM, it lets NETGEAR continue to play the number inflation game and class the P as AC4000 (2.4 GHz @ 750 Mbps + 5 GHz low band @ 1625 Mbps + 5 GHz low band @ 1625 Mbps) vs. the original's AC3200 (2.4 GHz @ 600 Mbps + 5 GHz low band @ 1300 Mbps + 5 GHz low band @ 1300 Mbps).

Only owners of an ASUS PCE-AC88 PCIe desktop adapter will be able to take advantage of the R8000P's 1024 QAM link rate and only if the adapter is very close to the router. For most people, though, the P is for all intents and purposes still an AC3200 class router, which is in turn, just an AC1900 class router with a second 5 GHz radio. Your 2x2 AC device will still reach a maximum 5 GHz link rate of only 866 Mbps with any of these routers.

You can't tell the P apart from the original R8000 except by looking at the serial number label on the router bottom. The callouts below are reused from the R8000 review.

All indicators are in a nicely-styled strip on the router top as shown below along with the conveniently-placed WPS and Wi-Fi On/Off lighted buttons at the bottom. The default color is a soft white vs. the eye-killing blue that tends to not have high WAF. For an additional WAF boost, there is a physical LED On/Off switch on the back panel, that shuts off everything except the Power light.

R8000P front panel

R8000P front panel

All switches except the two mentioned above are on the rear panel along with all connectors. There is nothing on the side panels and only attractively designed ventilation slots on the front panel. All Ethernet ports are Gigabit, of course, and you get one each USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports.

NETGEAR R8000P rear panel callouts

NETGEAR R8000P rear panel callouts

The black plastic case has plenty of ventilation holes on top and bottom cover. Two screw mounting slots are on the router bottom that will point connectors upward in a wall mount scenario.

Inside

As noted, the P is still built on a Broadcom platform. The fuzzy FCC pictures show the large heatsink covering the topside RF cans.

R8000P inside

R8000P inside

Comparing the board tops with heatsink and RF can tops removed shows very similar layouts between the P...

R8000P board top

R8000P board top

...and original R8000. The 2.4 and 5 GHz -1 radios feed the antennas on the right of the router (facing front). The 5 GHz - 2 radio gets the left three antennas all to itself.

R8000 board top

R8000 board top

Both photos of the board bottoms are too fuzzy for component identification, but again show very similar layouts.

R8000P board bottom

R8000P board bottom

Both boards put the external RF amplifiers/front ends in separate cans for each antenna. The larger cans on the left contain both 2.4 and 5 GHz components.

R8000 board bottom

R8000 board bottom

Table 1 compares the R8000P with the R8000. I threw in the R7000 and R7000P so you can compare how NETGEAR approached the "P" redesigns for each.

  NETGEAR R8000P NETGEAR R8000 NETGEAR R7000P NETGEAR R7000
CPU Broadcom BCM4906 dual core @ 1.8 GHz Broadcom BCM4709A Broadcom BCM4708C0KFEBG Broadcom BCM4709A
Switch in BCM4906 in BCM4709A In BCM4708C0 In BCM4709A
RAM 512 MB 256 MB 256 MB 256 MB
Flash 128 MB 128 MB 128 MB 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - Broadcom BCM4365E
- Unidentified 2.4 GHz power amp (x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks SKY85309-11 2 GHz Front end (x3)
- BCM4360KMLG 3x3 11abgnac SoC
- Skyworks SKY85319-11 2.4 GHz front end (x3)
- Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz Power Amp (x3)
5 GHz radio 1 - Broadcom BCM4365E
- Qorvo QPF4519 5 GHz front end (x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks SKY85712-11 5 GHz Front end (x3)
- BCM4365EKMMLG 3x3 11abgnac SoC w/ MU-MIMO
- QPF4519 Quorvo 5 GHz front end (x3)
- Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE5003L1 5 GHz Power Amp (x3)
5 GHz radio 2 - Broadcom BCM4365E
- Qorvo QPF4519 5 GHz front end (x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks SKY85710-11 5 GHz Front end (x3)
N/A N/A
PCIe N/A PLX Technology PEX8603 3-lane, 3-port PCIe switch N/A N/A
Table 1: Component summary

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