Netgear sent us their Nighthawk. No, it’s not Batman’s latest vehicle, it’s their flagship router, designed to spread the wireless love far and wide.
Opening the box, it does appear to have been developed by Bruce Wayne Enterprises, being reminiscent of a batwing with its sleek black lines and vents.
The Nighthawk really is fully specced, with three separate wireless channels. One 2.4GHz and two 5GHz channels mean that there’s never a problem joining the network. It also has the newest ac compatibility with the very latest devices able to use both 5GHz channels at once, doubling the speed of file transfers.
If the signal doesn't reach every corner, the Nighthawk can open its wings; six antennae which unfold from the top of the unit, boosting the signal further.
The Nighthawk can be laid flat like most routers, but it is larger than most others. It can be mounted vertically on a wall and that's where I would mount this, due to its sheer size.
The Nighthawk’s landing lights stretch across the top of the device giving you visual feedback on its activity. It can start to look like a strobe light when you’re pushing data across the network. Netgear included a little switch on the back that enables all the notification LEDs (apart from the power light), to be switched off.
I’ve been reticent of routers that don’t include a modem. I wonder why such an expensive machine would rely on your modem. Not many people are going to bother buying a new modem as well. Therefore, you’ve now two points of failure on the network and you’re always limited to the modem’s throughput.
Netgear are renowned for the ease of setup of their devices. The Nighthawk was no different. I plugged it into a normal port on the Telecom router, joined the Nighthawk’s network and a few clicks later I was flying. The router had no impact on the Nighthawk’s functionality and the range was massively increased over the standard router.
Netgear also provide a free accompanying app. This app allows you to monitor the network and administer it from anywhere. Routers have historically been tricky to administer, with users often avoiding the best configuration, rather than mucking around with the settings.
The Genie app makes all of this simple, and gives rich reporting and simple functionality. It can share or stream music or videos, diagnose and repair network issues, set up parental controls and heaps of others. One feature I really liked was the ability to connect tablets and smartphones to the network using a QR code from within the app. That's a good way to keep the password secure, yet still share your network.
My concern is its limited lifespan. Companies are too busy pumping out the next version to adequately support their previous versions. Netgear have used their own proprietary firmware on the Nighthawk. Historically, their firmware has not been shall we say 'stable'. With open source gathering even more pace, I would have given Netgear massive props if they’d installed WRT as standard, rather than squeaking along with their own in-house solution.
Flashing lights and glitzy covering aside, it’s a bloody expensive way to throw data around a network.
Would I like one? Yeah.
Would I buy one? Nah.
We only had the Nighthawk for a few days, but our friends at the The Island’s Computer Guy had a play, and agreed with us that it’s really overkill for its intended audience, with features missing that leave us scratching our head and wondering why.