Nighthawk lives up to its name, being the industries fastest cable modem router.

If you took a poll 20 years ago about the internet, I do not think people would have imagined the current size/reach of the internet.  Additionally, you probably would not have thought that pay phones would be dead, Cable TV service would be limping along or that very few people seem to have a home phone anymore.  I still have cable service, mostly for the package with broadband internet.  I have had Comcast Xfinity service for 2 years and have had very few complaints. Many Internet Service Providers (ISP) will allow you to rent a cable modem.  I personally prefer to have my own modem, which may save $10-$20 per month and thus hundreds per year.  If you are interested in surfing the web, watching multiple HD videos simultaneously, linking up to two USB 3.0 external storage devices for quick streaming of your own media or quick HD gaming, or you just want to fully utilize the Xfinity Comcast highest speeds, the Nighthawk X4S is the device for you.  I have been using the Motorola Surfboard SB6121 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable modem, for the past few years, and had a Netgear N600 router.  Using the above combination, I was able to enjoy 90 Mbps download speeds and 10-12 Mbps upload speeds (http://speedof.me HTML5 Speed test).  However, with the setup of my home, I have had some rather annoying dead spaces.  I recently wanted to upgrade my home’s internet modem/router system and thought that a combination device may work well for me.

Netgear Nighthawk Package
Packaging/Unboxing:
The Nighthawk X4S AC3200 WiFi Cable Modem Router ships in a very tech-tastic box.  Along the left of the cover, you will see an image of the futuristic Netgear device.  Along the margins of the cover, you will see silver reflective wording, which definitely provides a prominent eye catching appeal.  Along the cover and sides, the device promises a built in DOCSIS 3.1 Cable modem, ultra-fast internet speeds up to 6Gbps, provides 2 USB 3.0 ports, and four 10/100/1000Mbps LAN Gigabit ethernet ports.  The device promises plenty of security features: customize free URL to set up personal FTP server (File transfer protocols), secure and separate guest network, double firewall protection, SPI (Stateful packet inspection/dynamic filtering, basically stops packets that do not already have a connection) and NAT (Network access translation, stops unsolicited attempts at accessing your network).  The router also has Denial of Service (DOS) attack prevention, remote login/management, and Netgear Genie app support.  Flipping the package over to the back, you can continue to see the quality of Netgear advertising. If you are uncertain why you would want a DOCSIS 3.1 modem, you can directly see a graph detailing the 10x faster speed above a DOCSIS 3.0.  There are numerous bullet points detailing information about the Modem Router, Streaming and Gaming and mobile connection.

Within the outer shell, you will find a white box containing the product.  Lift up the flap and notice the instruction manual and the 12 inch wide by 9 inches wide, 3-pound beast.  The device is exceptionally large and the pictures do not do it justice.  The back of the device has four large antennae, each covered by a plastic sheath.  Setting the product aside, you will find the extremely large AC adaptor and the 60″ yellow ethernet cable. The main body of the AC adaptor is 2 11/16 inches wide by 3 1/4 inches tall and 1 1/8 inches thick.  The type A prong is aligned in parallel to the length of the plug.  This works well for wall outlets, as the bulk of the AC adaptor sticks out to the side.  Unfortunately, it did not work as well in my surge protector.  The yellow ethernet cable is a reasonable length and should reach from the ground to a desk or possibly to a chest high shelf.  As stated above, the device is rather large and will leave a large footprint on your desk. Arrange the antenna to your given need and then follow the instruction manual.  It is important to note that there is no coaxial cable included with this device.  You will need to provide your own cable.

Netgear X4SI was excited to see that the device had a total of four yellow colored LAN connection points across the back. These are located between the center two antennae.  To the right is the circular AC adaptor port and to the left is the coaxial cable port.  Along the right side of the device is a black plastic flap, that controls access to the two USB 3.0 connection points. I really like the flap and the placement of the ports/LAN points.  Along the front right of the device, you will find an LED button, a WPS button, and a WiFi button.  Some people may find it odd that this device still has a WPS feature.  Within the app, you have the ability to turn off this feature or to choose button or PIN.  If there is anyone who has a Pin based WPS feature, please get a new modem.  The WPS Pin feature should be universally turned off, as this may be one of the largest security threats to your system.  The 8 pin device code is broken into two sets of four codes.  Unfortunately, there are only 11,000 combinations for 4 digit codes, which proves easy to crack with brute force tactics.  According to howtogeek.com, this can be done in about a day.   The WPS button only opens the connection for 2 minutes and would require someone to have direct access to your router to make use of this connection.  To summarize, please turn off Pin based WPS.

Setup:
Once you have laid out all the pieces, you can evaluate the quick start manual for the AC3200 WiFi device.  Start by turning off previous modem/router combinations and then attach the coaxial (CABLE) cable to the back left of the device.  The coaxial input port is capped by a gray rubberized protector, which will need to be removed.  Next, connect the large power adapter to the modem and then into a wall outlet or surge protector.  You will notice the Power icon illuminate and you will see a blue LED along the top of each of the antennae.  I was not expecting to have the accent colors and was impressed.  It took about 5 minutes for the world icon to stop blinking and to be solid white.  The manual stated that this could take up to 10 minutes, but it was much quicker than reported.  Once the Nighthawk device is ready, connect your computer directly to the router or use a mobile device (WiFi network name and password can be found on the label on the modem).

Netgear GenieYou can log into the listed web browser, within the manual, or you can add the http://192.XXX.X.X address.  Log into the device and enjoy the Netgear Genie.  Along the left, you can access Home, Cable Connection, Wireless, Attached Devices, Parental Controls, ReadyShare (direct connection information between devices) and Guest Network.  Each of these will allow you to update and improve upon your experience.  Conveniently, the main screen has a visual representation of each of the above-listed headings.  Under advanced settings, you can access the WPS wizard, Setup, ReadySHARE, Security (access control, block sites, block services, schedule, Email), Administration and Advanced Setup.  Using my PC and a direct wired connection, I did not have to do anything with my ISP.  However, when I tried to add my iPhone 7 Plus, I had I was taken to the Xfinity self-activation page.  I had to add my account number and phone number and had to wait about a minute and a half (instruction manual states up to 15 minutes).  To join with your smart device, navigate to Settings, Wifi and look for Netgear39 or Netgear39-5G.  Within the application, you can change the network login Key, which is highly recommended.  Starting out, the app will give you the passphrases.

To utilize this system, your computer must have any version of Windows XP or later, Mac OS, Unix, or Linux and utilize IE 5.0, FF 2.0, Safari 1.4 or Google Chrome 11.0 or higher.  The router utilized IEEE 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 GHZ + 124 QAM support and IEEE 802.11 a/n/ac 5.0GHZ bands.   The Nighthawk router uses the Multiple User-Multiple input (MU-MIMO) feature.  This will allow the router to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously, better than previous systems.  HIstorically data packets were only able to be shared one way.  Basically, data is sent to one device at a time, but in small packets, and then rapidly switched between devices attached to your network. So instead of a speed dating approach, modern routers have the capability of having multiple conversations simultaneously.  With more and more devices connected, you need to be able to extend the range of your internet and the speed/reliability by which it reaches your devices.  When you combine the maximum Xfinity Cable speed of 150Mbps with the Nighthawk device, you can expect great connection for around 10 devices.

Netgear IOSI would rate myself as a slightly above average tech user.  My wife is a novice tech user and had no issues understanding the manual.  In fact, I had her set-up this system.  She was actually surprised with how incredibly easy this kit was to setup and use.  Simply reading the quick start guide, you should be able to have this up and running within about 10-15 minutes.  The more advanced tech skills may come in handy when navigating the features/options within the Netgear Genie.  The included cables are perfect lengths, the step by step setup is very straightforward and the product actually wowed my wife.

Usage:
The device is really visually appealing and fits wonderfully into my man cave.  As a parent of three children under the age of 8 (8/5 boys and 2 yr old girl), I am interested in parental controls.  I like the option to be able to block sites/services and I like the ability to log into the Netgear Genie App remotely.  Under the schedule tab, you can add days to block, times of days to block and you can specify sites/services. The ability to police the internet is really important.  I typically use the guest network for my smart home devices, which typically have fewer security features.  This way, I have a separate network for my computers/iPads/iPhones.  The Netgear Genie app was more than my wife wanted to deal with.  Once she noticed that there were headings, drop downs, multiple options and “techie” words, she handed off the setup to me.  You do not really need to access many of these extra features, if uninterested. Whether you use the computer program or the IOS app, enjoy a customizable, future-proof system. To log into parental controls from the IOS app, you will need to create an OpenDNS account.   Once parent controls are enabled, you can set filter levels and see the network map.  Choose between no blocking, minimal (only against phishing attack), low (porn and phishing), moderate (all adult sites, illegal activity, and phishing), high (all adult-related sites, illegal activity, social networking sites, video sharing, phishing attacks and time waters), custom.  There are additional advanced controls, which can be reviewed at your convenience.

You can access the WiFI, see the password, see the security options (WPA2-PSK, or WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK).  You can see the Guest Wifi and then turn on/off guest access to the 2.4 or 5 GHz network.The Network Map provides you with a visual representation of your network.  In my case, you can see the internet, the modem/router, the connected Linksys network and my iPhone connected wirelessly to the C7800 router.  The app allows you to turn on and off the traffic meter, to see how much data (in Mbytes is transferred).  This may be an important feature if you have data limits. The router has a feature that seems very similar to airdrop called Turbo Transfer.  I have not yet had the opportunity to test the feature, but it seems very convenient.  This will allow you the option to choose which devices you want to transfer files to.

In regards to performance, I was able to have the internet throughout my entire home, even in the places that my Netgear Router N600 did not access.  I have used wireless repeaters, I have used mesh WiFi systems and I have tried to move the modem/router.  With my multi-level home, the four antennae found on the AC3200 device seemed to provide a good ~2500-3000 square foot coverage.  The Linksys Velop mesh provided nearly 6000 square feet of coverage and did provide better coverage across my home.  Using speakeasy.net on my computer and using html5 speed testing on my MacBook Pro, iPhone 7 Plus and iPad Air 2, I was able to show 90-95 Mbps download and 10-18 Mbps upload.  I was able to play on my Xbox One, while each of my children were watching youtube videos on their iPad Minis and my daughter was watching Puppy Dog Pals on an iPhone 7.  My wife and I have talked about increasing our internet to the 150Mbps level. As stated on the packaging, this device is designed to support this blazing speed.  When it comes to product cost, you cannot expect to find a cheaper option for a router and a modem.  If you consider the savings from not renting a router, the device is about $100-150 dollars.  Price for value, I do not think you will find a more powerful modem/router combo.

My wife and I were both pleased with the quality of packaging, the look, and feel of the device (even though it is large), the ease of setup and the quality of features.  We would rate this device at 5/5 stars and would highly encourage this device for anyone who would utilize cable internet services.
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