We’ve seen a lot of mesh network router systems released over the past couple years, but none have impressed more than Netgear Orbi. Dual-band routers — routers that use both long-range, slower 2.4 GHz connections and short-range, faster 5.0 GHz connections — are the norm now, but the Orbi series of routers uses a third band for direct communication between router units. If you live in a big house, that means you can set up a couple routers spaced out to cover the whole house without sacrificing performance — that dedicated band makes sure all of your devices benefit from the fastest connection possible.
Thing is, some people already have routers they really like. Netgear’s Nighthawk line of routers is full of premium routers made for gamers or businesses with high bandwidth demands, and they’re not investments anyone is going to want to cast aside for the sake of Orbi. Or, you might be stuck with a router you’ve gotten from a service provider, like AT&T or Verizon. That’s why Netgear is making the Nighthawk X6S Extender EX8000.
The new range extender will bring in the benefits of Orbi to any high-end router — regardless of brand. Put one of these range extenders near a dead zone, and it’ll be able to connect to almost any router using that third band using an optimized antenna array of Netgear’s design. Not only will that make it the highest performing range extender out there, it’ll ensure that everyone in the home or office only needs to deal with one network ID. With older range extenders, it was necessary to manually switch your device from the router to the range extender when moving around — Netgear’s routers will do that switching automatically, connecting you to whichever unit has the strongest signal where you are.
However, there are some technical restrictions. Netgear’s third band also uses the 5.0 GHz frequency for communication. That means to get the most out of the Nighthawk range extender, you’ll have to use it with a dual-band router — it can be used with single-band routers, but you won’t get the benefit of that dedicated channel.
If you do have the right equipment — and again, this product is really for someone who already has an expensive router and is dealing with dead zones — you can expect speeds of up to 3 Gbps from the range extender. That’s more than enough to allow multiple users to stream 4K video and play games with plenty of overhead.
The Netgear Nighthawk X6S Extender EX8000 is available starting today for $230.