We moved into our house back in 2012, and one of my first tasks was getting the WiFi network established. I did it with a single Time Capsule, roughly centered in the house. But there was a bit of a dead spot in our bedroom, so I added in an Airport Express as a wireless repeater. I didn’t need much speed, just coverage at the time.
Then I started working from home, and speed became a thing I needed to worry about. I upgraded to an Airport Extreme with 802.11ac wireless. This upgrade helped, but I still was having a hell of a time getting video chats and Skype to work reliably — crucial for my job — so I needed a solution.
The solution I devised, was to route Ethernet from the AirPort Extreme to our bedroom (where my office was) and have the AirPort Express extend the network from a gigabit connection to the AirPort Extreme. That was a hassle but worked fine. I lost a lot of network speed in the process though. When connected to the AirPort Express I topped out at 28 Mbps on any device, but on the Extreme I would be at 60 Mbps, which was the max speed of my Internet connection.
On top of all of that, if the speed loss wasn’t enough, the network had a lot more latency in it — such that our video baby monitor had insane lag on it and became pretty unusable. It wasn’t ideal at the time, but I was at a loss as to what I should do, and fed up with messing with things.
Then, about a month ago, I moved to a new office. My new office was closer to the AirPort Extreme, which caused an entirely new issue.
I was right in the middle of my main WiFi router and my extender.
My laptop would now hop between the two routers a lot. All this hopping caused a lot of network interruptions throughout the day. Interruptions which would kill any audio or video communications I had going on. Sometimes even Slack would be disconnected for 10-15 seconds.
It really was unstable. It was extremely annoying. I wanted to smash some shit.
Unplugging the AirPort Express helped me, but put our bedroom back in a black hole. And our bedroom needs WiFi so that we can have iCloud backups work at night, the baby monitor function, and so my wife can use her phone while falling asleep.
At this point I was basically pissed.
I mean that honestly. It was affecting my work, as I was dropping out in the middle of important calls, and it was frustrating the hell out of me.
My house is just not big enough that this should be an issue. Even with just the AirPort Extreme, the network in my office wasn’t great.
I spent four hours reading through tons of sites to figure out which router to buy next. I set a budget at around $200 and wanted the best I could get for that money.
The Wirecutter has a fantastic guide for just this purpose, and I immediately honed in on the R6400 Netgear router. Amazon shows it with 211 reviews averaging 4.4 stars. That’s pretty solid. But then I started dicking around on Amazon, and came across the R7000. I found out it is basically the same router, but theoretically faster. More than that: it has a 4.3 average rating, but with 3,424 reviews. With the price of the two being so close, them being roughly the same device, I went with the one that has thousands of people pretty damned happy instead of the one that only had a couple hundred Amazon reviews.
I stripped everything out of my current network and setup the Nighthawk in a quick 15 minutes. Despite the R7000 having a hideous UI for setup, the setup was actually just as easy as setting up an AirPort (granted I’ve setup tons of networks so I knew what I was looking for), and the process was actually faster than with AirPorts as the device didn’t restart as often and restarted faster.
I was already feeling pretty good about the entire thing.
Amazingly, things only got better from there.
We now have solid WiFi coverage in our bedroom (it’s not the fastest speed, but it has coverage where it didn’t before). I no longer have any issues in my office as the connection is rock solid and very fast.
The overall network speed in most places of the house is as fast as our modem will crank out. Which is exactly what I would expect out of any router at this point in time.
There are some locations we previously had WiFi coverage, where we still show having it, but where our iPhones will pitch a fit until we turn off WiFi on them. It’s not a deal breaker in any sense, but it is a small little thing that catches me off guard at times. My best guess is interference from our neighbors, but I can’t be certain of that.
The biggest caveat is the device hardware itself: it is big, and ugly. I mean it is really ugly.
Apple makes the best looking routers out there, and it feels like Netgear didn’t even try to make this look anything but Batmobile-ish. It looks like every non-Apple router is designed for a hardcore gamer who lives without any concern for wanting nice looking things in their home.
I don’t get it.
I mean everyone has WiFi in their homes now. Routers only work well if you can see them. So why the fuck do they all look worse than most trash cans?
A Few Miscellaneous Points I Have Yet To Cover
- You know how sometimes your network won’t function on iOS, so you have to toggle off WiFi even though you are standing next to the damn router? Yes, that still happens, but far less than before. I don’t know what the deal with that is, but I blame iOS.
- In the past month I have yet to restart the router. Which is a new record for this house as I was restarting our Apple routers weekly.
- There’s a great option in the settings UI, to turn off all the LEDs except the power. (I wish I could turn off the power light too.) Use the option otherwise it will look like you have decided that a ton of blinking LEDs is cool.
- It has a really neat option to setup your own VPN service using your home Internet. I have yet to try this, but this is a great option for someone who doesn’t want to pay for VPN services.
- The device has a QoS management system, but by all accounts online it should be avoided at all costs. Some newer models (read: more money) have dynamic QoS systems which I hear work really well.
- One of my favorite touches is that when you log into the admin UI it shows your WiFi password in plain text. That’s so nice if you are prone to forgetting that password.
I never actually thought I would use another non-Apple router after I setup my first AirPort years ago, but the R7000 has opened my eyes. It’s a much better device overall than the AirPort Extreme, and what you lose in aesthetics is far overshadowed by pure performance of the device.
There’s some really nice touches too. You can fiddle with every setting you want, or just turn on and off things with dead simple controls. And you don’t have to decide between either it being in advanced setup mode, or easy setup mode. You can just change some advanced things and use easy mode for everything else.
The Nighthawk R7000 just works.
This might be the ugliest device I have recommended,1 but I do very much recommend the Netgear Nighthawk R7000. Oh, and I won’t let that name slide, because Nighthawk is just a cool name. The rest of the name is shit, but Nighthawk is good.
It’s a fantastic device.