NETGEAR Nighthawk X4 AC2200 Review
Netgear’s release of its Nighthawk X4 AC2200 (EX7300) saw it join up with other major networking manufacturers such as Amped Wireless and Linksys, in providing Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output or MU-MIMO technology for plug-in range extenders. It is easy to manage and install the EX7300, but it doesn’t have a pass-through outlet and is fairly large. However, in the 5 GHz tests that we conducted it did deliver good range performance and high scores, and had a very solid MU-MIMO throughput as well. We’ve rated this as one of the top options this year.
Features and Design
The EX7300 is a bit larger than the Linksys RE7000 and TP-Link RE 450 Wi-Fi extenders, however, unlike the TP-Link RE450 it does not utilize external antennas. It instead has an internal antenna array located in its chassis, in addition to multiple high-power amplifiers. The AC2200 is a dual extender that is able to reach 450 Mbps maximum speeds on its 2.4 GHz band and 1,733 Mbps on its 5 GHz band. The most recent performance-enhancing Wi-Fi technologies are supported, including beamforming, where data is sent to clients directly instead of via a broad spectrum, along with MU-MIMO stream, where data is transmitted to compatible clients at the same time rather than sequentially. It may be used as a wired access point or wireless extender.
There is a three-pronged plug at the back of the gray-and-white extender, and on the bottom there is one Gigabit LAN port. Although the second receptacle on a regular wall outlet is not blocked by the EX7300, it is lacking a pass-through outlet.
On the left hand side is a WPS button, a Reset button, On/Off button, and Access Point/Extender switch. On the front panel there are LED indicators for client link activity, router link activity, WPS activity, and Power. When the connection is poor the client and router LEDs are red, with a good connection they are amber, and with an excellent connection they are green.
To access the settings on the EX7300, type http://mywifiext.net in the address bar of your browser. This launches the console and then a Status page is opened that displays router and Internet connectivity status, SSID information on each of the extended radio bands, and wireless signal strength. On the Wireless Settings page you can disable or enable each band, limit the speed on each band, change Wi-Fi passwords, and rename your SSID. Connected Devices enables you to see information on each connected client, which includes the MAC address, Name, and IP address. On the Do More menu, there is the FastLane option which enables you to dedicate one radio band to extender/router communications and your other band to client/extender communications. That might provide across the board enhanced performance, but you should only use if all clients are either 5 GHz clients or 2.4 GHz clients. Leave that option disabled if there is a mixture of clients. There are other settings that enable you to update firmware, create access schedules, and back up settings.
Performance and Installation
It is very easy to install the EX7300. All I did is pull it into one of the wall outlets that is in the same room that my router is in and then pressed on the WPS button. Within seconds, the WPS LED started to blink. Then I pressed on the router’s WPS button and waited a couple of seconds until the LED glowed a solid green color, which indicated that it had linked successfully to the 2.4 GHz band on the router. To connect with the 5 GHz band I repeated the process and then was all set.
Some of the highest scores from the 5 GHz throughput tests have been turned in by the EX7300. On the close-proximity (or same room) test it had the highest score to date at 338 Mbps, which beat out the 310 Mpbs from the Linksys RE7000, the 288 Mbps of the Amped AC2600, and the 192 Mbps of the TP-Link RE450. The EX7300 scores also led the field at 50 feet with 115 Mbps and 25 feet at 170 Mbps. Its 66.7 Mbps throughput at 75 feet, trailed the 85 Mbps of the TP-Link RE450 and 81.5 Mbps of the Amped Wireless REC44M, but did score higher than the 29.1 Mbps of the Linksys RE7000.
On our 2.4 GHz tests, at close proximity the EX7300 had a score of 57.8 Mbps, at 25 feet a score of 43.7 Mbps, at 50 feet a score of 25.1 Mbps, and at 75 feet a score of 12.6 Mbps. It beat out the Linksys RE7000 scores across the board (46.1 Mbps, 39.8 Mbps, 18.6 Mbps, and 8.4 Mbps), but the same was not the case with the TP-Link RE450 (47.6 Mbps, 44.5 Mbps, 42.5 Mbps, and 32.1 Mbps). The scores of the Amped Wireless REC44M were 53.6 Mpbs for close proximity, 48 Mpbs at 25 feet, 21.4 Mbps at 50 feet, and 18.7 Mbps at 75 feet.
For testing MU-MIMO performance three Acer Aspire R13 identical laptops were used that featured Qualcomm QCA61x4A MU-MIMO circuitry. Throughput was measured to all three of the clients at a 30 foot distance and at close proximity. On the close proximity test the EX7300 had an average 107 Mbps score, compared with the 115 Mbps average score of the Linksys RE7000, and the 99.8 Mbps throughput of the Amped Wireless REC44M. O the 30-foot test, the 90.1 Mbps of the EX7300 was below the 92.4 Mbps of the Linksys RE7000 but higher than the 89.9 Mbps of the Amped Wireless REC44M. To put the scores in perspective, the D-Link AC3150, a leading midrange router, had a close-proximity test score of 237 Mbps and a 30-foot test score of 165 Mbps.
If you need to fill dead spots in that cannot be reached by your router, the Netgear Nighthawk X4 AC2200 (EX7300) is a great option to consider. It is very easy to install and also scored some of the fast throughput that we have see from plug-in range extenders, especially when operated on the 5 GHz band. It doesn’t have a pass-through outlet and is a bit on the bulky side, but with these devices that is not uncommon. Compared to the TP-Link RE450, you will pay a little more money for the EX7300, but MU-MIMO stream is supported and it offers better overall performance. Therefore, the Netgear EX7300 is out top pick in range extenders, replacing the TP-Link RE450. However, it your router is getting ready to die, you should instead consider a Wi-Fi system. They require no or very little technical knowledge to use them, are easy to get to set up and provide whole-house Wi-Fi coverage.