NETGEAR Nighthawk R6900P (AC1900) Review
There’s a lot to like about the NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 Smart WiFi Router (R6900P), including its cool name, stealth design and excellent speeds on the 5GHz band as well as better Quality-of-Service (QoS).
- Slick, stealth design
- Great throughput at 5GHz band
- Excellent range
- Wonderful VPN capability
- Middling throughput at 2.4GHz band
- Slow to apply settings changes
The Nighthawk AC1900, is NetGear’s latest router in the company’s premium dual-band 802.11ac router line-up. It looks cool as it name suggests, with a trapezoid design and wedged sides. The flared shape is reminiscent of the popular fighter jet with the same name. Only that the Nighthawk (model R6900P) isn’t just dressed to impress: Impressive speeds on the 5Hz band when paired with Beamforming+ technology and Netgear’s enhanced Quality-of-Service (QoS). that really shortens the time to buffer and stream video.
Overall, the NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 is one of the top 802.11ac routers currently on the market for users who need a Smart WiFi Router for heavy-duty throughput tasks. It’s not the perfect device around, with just okay throughput at 2.4GHz, but offers great speeds at 5GHz, delivering the goods not just in data rate but in range, too.
For the tinkerers, there’s a bonus: The Nighthawk can be flashed with open-source firmware.
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The R6900P is a big router. It measures 13.7 x 10.1 x 3.1 inches and weighs a little over 3.4 pounds. Netgear refreshes the design over its previous generation of dual-band routers, like the R6300, which uses an upright design with the devices means to operate vertically in attached bases.
The Nighthawk AC1900 operates horizontally (you can as well have it wall-mounted). The new design represents Netgear’s exciting look yet. With a wide base, the R6900P is very sturdy even with cables connected to every port. Also, it gets rubber feet, meaning it won’t slip and slide all over a surface.
Netgear uses the same external and internal hardware on both the R6900P and the popular Nighthawk R7000 AC1900. The only difference between the two is that the R7000 comes with twin USB ports (one USB 3.0, one USB 2.0) whereas, the R6700 only comes with a single USB 3.0 port. It comes with four Ethernet ports and works with Amazon Alexa for your connected home devices. Also notable is that the Nighthawk R6900P uses longer and ticker antennas with Beamforming+ to boost the signal range, extend signal coverage and minimize dead spot for large homes.
The antennas on the Netgear R6900P are adjustable and removable, which is better compared to the AC1750’s antennas that are only adjustable but non-replaceable. While the latter keeps the cost low, it becomes expensive in case one of the antennas breaks and needs to be replaced.
As before, there is a clique of LEDs on the front panel, 12 in total, to relay the router’s status information to the user. Most of the time, a large number of lights feels like an overkill, especially with so many lights blinking on and off, but they can be switched off, especially if you want the R6900P Nighthawk to sit quietly in a corner.
Inside, the 1GHz processor is the same as what you have in most routers in the Nighthawk Series, except for the Netgear Nighthawk X4 which uses a 1.4GHz processor. The router still uses 256MB RAM and 128MB flash, as its predecessors. Additionally, Netgear’s Smart Connect provides an easy way to manage and monitor the router without having to use your computer. It lets you share and stream music, and even set up parental controls on the go. However, the Genie App doesn’t work when connected to guest networks or when connected via a wireless extender or repeater.
Beamforming + Technology
The R6900P isn’t the fastest 802.11ac router we’ve tested, but its throughput at the 5GHz band offers one of the top speeds we’ve seen. Also, the router is able to sustain good throughput at further distances and is among the best we’ve tested this years.
The superb coverage is courtesy of a new feature called Beamforming +. Beamforming is a wireless technology that channels a wireless signal from a router to wireless clients, improving throughput and signal strength. Beamforming + is an enhanced version of this breakthrough technology that Netgear has integrated into the R6900P for the 5GHz band.
For instance, at a distance of about 15 feet testing away from the R6900P, the connection test averages 173Mbps between the router and client. This is excellent data rate, considering that it was done in an environment with lots of access points.
On the other hand, the router delivers lacklustre performance at the 2.4GHz band. It’s speedy enough to do basic tasks, so you should keep it relegated to basic tasks, such as web browsing and checking mail.
The Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 delivers excellent storage performance. Tested via the USB 3.0 connection, the router performed well on FAT32 and NTFS formats, better than most routers in the same category. For instance, it returned impressive speeds on NTFS formats – 63.1 MB/s Read and 41.5 Write; and almost the same scores for FAT 32 files –59.8 Read and 36.9 Write. Compared, the TP-Link Archer C8 returned almost-the same scores on the same set of files: NTFS formats – 25.3 MB/s Read and 16.8 Write; FAT 32 –37.2 Read and 23.9 Write. Still, the R6900P beats its closest rivals with little effort.
The next test ought to focus on the 5Ghz throughput speed from the router to a laptop equipped with an Intel AC-7265 (2×2 802.11ac) Wi-Fi adapter. Surprisingly, Netgear’s Nighthawk R6700Pperformed better than most dual-band routers (some even cost more) at 10 and 25 feet away.
At a distance of 10 feet away, the R6900P delivered the highest throughput (524MB/s), better than the TP-Link Archer C8 (479MB/s), which came in second. The same performance was replicated at 25 feet away, with the R6900P managing to outperform its rivals at both distances.
Overall, the Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 is capable of delivering class-leading wireless speeds over 802.11ac protocol and is a perfect example of the great improvements made over previous generations. It is affordable, and the performance range is way better. However, while the 802.11ac was the go-tech almost a year ago, it has now matured with fair improvements in performance. That means there are now routers in the market, that cost almost the same, but offer better features.
There’s a lot to like about the NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900, including its cool name, stealth design and excellent speeds on the 5GHz band as well as better Quality-of-Service (QoS). These features, along with the Nighthawk’s VP and NAS capability, offset the router’s slower speeds at the 2.4GHz band, longer reboot, and hum-hum bridge-mode configuration. Netgear’s Nighthawk R6900P earns our Editors’ Choice award for 802.11ac routers.