Brimming with high-end features

The Pro Gaming XR700 allows users to search and add game servers.
The Pro Gaming XR700 allows users to search and add game servers.PHOTO: NETGEAR

Netgear has included everything but the kitchen sink in its latest high-end Wi-Fi router, the Pro Gaming XR700.

Its hardware specifications are impressive and I was suitably awed by the size of this router, which weighs almost 2kg.

It comes with six Gigabit LAN ports, along with a 10 Gigabit SFP+ port that connects to compatible devices - typically a network switch - for speeds of up to 10Gbps.

Two of its Gigabit ports (ports 1 and 2) can also be aggregated to allow for download speeds of up to 2Gbps for a single device.

In addition to the prevailing 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, the XR700 supports the short-range but high-speed 802.11ad standard. This 60GHz wireless standard is used in a handful of wireless docks and is of limited use to most consumers.

But I feel consumers would benefit more from having an extra 5GHz 802.11ac wireless band (it has two bands, 2.4GHz and 5GHz) instead of the niche 802.11ad protocol.

Those who have amassed a sizeable collection of media may love the XR700's ability to function as a Plex media server to stream music, photos and videos to other devices in the home network. It saves them the hassle of repurposing an old PC or using their main computer for this.

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $859

    ETHERNET INTERFACE: 1 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit WAN, 6 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN, 10 Gigabit LAN SFP+ port

    STANDARDS: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ad

    SECURITY: WPA2

    ADVANCED FIREWALL FEATURES: NAT, DoS and SPI

    RATING

    FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 2/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Another useful feature: The router can be configured to automatically back up content from an attached USB storage drive to Amazon Drive cloud storage.

It is well-built with sturdy adjustable antennas. Its top panel is partly meshed for better ventilation - I glimpsed a cooling fan inside the router, though it appeared to be inactive during my testing.

It runs DumaOS, a router software developed by British firm Netduma. It is the same software used in the Netgear XR500, an earlier and slightly watered-down version of the XR700.

DumaOS looks much prettier than Netgear's usual router interface. It has nice visualisations for key information such as the network traffic and CPU usage. Connected clients appear as nodes in a network map. More importantly, there are extensive settings to tweak the router, each with its own explanatory notes for the less tech-savvy user.

It is clearly built for online gamers. A Geo-Filter feature lets gamers search and add game servers that are within user-defined geographical limits. A server closer to home will have lower latency and feel more responsive than a distant server.

It also has a Quality of Service (QoS) feature that lets users allocate a specific amount of bandwidth for their gaming devices.

Those who have a VPN (virtual private network) for specific uses, such as gaming, can also choose to apply the VPN for only specific devices and specific online services through the router. This is handy because the VPN may not be suited for all types of use cases and could be slower than a standard connection.

It clocks an average peak speed of 580Mbps in the speed test. This drops to around 160Mbps in a bedroom that is some distance from the router's location in the living room.

While the XR700 comes with plenty of features, it does have a major omission - support for the Wi-Fi 6 standard (802.11ax) introduced late last year.

To be fair, there are no client devices that can support Wi-Fi 6 now, though this is likely to change in the coming months.

•Verdict: Its $859 price tag is hard to justify for all but the most hardcore tech-savvy user. The cheaper XR500 ($439) may be a better choice as it has similar gaming features, but not the XR700's costly and niche extras.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2019, with the headline 'Brimming with high-end features'. Print Edition | Subscribe