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Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 Router Review

I felt like Batman as I screwed the final antenna into the Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 router and powered it up, a series of white lights firing with urgency across the machine’s sharp lines. Then I remembered I’m working with a 15Mb down, .8Mb up ADSL connection and fell back into line as a lowly citizen of one of Gotham’s slums.

My own internet problems aside, I’m thoroughly impressed with what the XR500 has to offer. Powered by DumaOS, the router is simple to set up and comes jam-packed with tools designed to reduce latency and ping. Controls let you monitor each device connected to it, getting readings of bandwidth usage in real-time and letting you rank traffic importance just as easily.

The DumaOS that powers the router is extremely user friendly, taking its owner through a series of easily completable steps. It’s here that users can choose whether to turn on a guest WiFi network, use different names for 2.4GHz and 5GHz wifi bands and activate geofiltering. The OS will also test your internet connection, generally listing conservative figures that later help to prioritise traffic.

The OS comes with R-Apps (or Router Apps for those who don’t mind the full term), which are generally focused on gaming but do offer settings that relate to parental controls and general quality of service. The geofilter is especially useful with a majority of Xbox One and PS4 games, limiting the players you’ll be matched with, thereby improving lag. It doesn’t work for all games – PUBG and Destiny 2 proved finnicky – and PC titles also cause it trouble.

If troubleshooting with the geofilter is required, you’ll have to drop the router into Spectating Mode to see where connections originate from; the idea is then to play around with in-game filters to try to address lag properly.

Even the router’s quality of service options have a gaming slant, with the XR500 allowing you to set the bandwidth non-gaming devices use while a device (or devices) are gaming via a service called Anti-Bufferbloat. Another bandwidth allocation lets you perform a similar action, divorced from gaming, though I didn’t play around too much with that; our household is pretty used to internet management while streaming or downloading something of interest.

The XR500 has 1GB WAN port (which I eventually hope to take advantage of one day) and four 1GB LAN ports, so I tested all my gaming consoles using said LAN rather than WiFi. If you’re unable to do the same, the XR500 sports four whopping dual-band antennas that allow up to 800Mbps via 2.5GHz connections, or 1,733 Mbps over 5GHz connections with multi-user MIMO support to tackle simultaneous streaming needs. The router also has 2 USB 3.0 ports – connecting an external hard drive and setting up a media server was as simple as three clicks.

When all is said and done, the Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 router is an absolute beast; a finely-honed tool for die-hards who prioritise video games above all else. For my household, it’s a bit over-powered; I can feel my crappy ADSL connection squandering the router’s true capabilities. At $400 AUD, it’s perhaps one to keep on my post-NBN wishlist; I can manage my meagre internet with my trusty Asus AC68U modem router.

Therein lies the major problem I had – while the XR500 is a breeze to setup, literally taking ten minutes from its unboxing to use, I really had to struggle getting my current modem router to work as a bridge. I ended up dropping that idea entirely and finding another old router to use as a bridge instead. Remember, gamers, that this is simply a router and you’ll need a way to get your internet into it. With the bridge up and running, however, things became a breeze one again – the dual Xbox Ones on my network were both reporting open NATs without and extra work.

For those of you who can tap into better speeds, this is one to consider; it might just give you that little edge you need in your favourite online title. For people in the dark ages like me, you might also want to consider the Netgear Nighthawk X4S Wireless AC2600 Modem Router, a unit that offers similar specs to the XR500, and for roughly the same cost.

The Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 router is available from myriad retailers here in Australia and looks to be going for around $350-400 AUD. Shop around.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.