NETGEAR XR500: Does it live up to the hype?

XR500 Gaming Router from NETGEAR

tl;dr: Yes. Yes it does.

We've spent some time with the new XR500 gaming router from NETGEAR and it not only boasts impressive performance in real world use, but a fresh new OS (DumaOS from Netduma) that's powerful and easy to use. This is from the perspective of an "advanced" user familiar with routers and networking, but with special attention paid to "new" users.

Background

Your author won't be providing any extremely deep technical tests here; many trusted reviewers have gone into detail with these tests, and PC Gamer even declared the XR500 "the fastest we've tested" as of the time it was written. So, my goal here is to provide more of a look at what it's like to "live with" the XR500, the benefits, and why you might (or might not) be interested in one.

Our scenario here is in an ~1800 sq. ft. home with a 175 Mbps cable connection. There are roughly 30 Internet connected devices running, often many high-demand devices concurrently. Typically, the most common usecase is simultaneous use of desktop PC's and tablets for browsing and other activities as well as video streaming and online gaming, with PC or PlayStation 4.

The XR500 is placed in a central location in the home, which is a split-level 3 floor design with 2 car garage, typical of a 1950s-1970's American home.

Daily Performance of the NETGEAR XR500

Simply put, the XR500 delivers the fastest wireless speeds I have been ever able to achieve, especially through 2.4 GHz. With a Samsung Galaxy S7 edge phone, I can easily achieve ~130 Mbps speeds to that single device while streaming high quality audio and performing normal desktop tasks. On 5 Ghz in the same situation, the phone achieves ~160-170 Mbps (nearly the maximum it could possibly be.) I've witnessed this consistent performance across devices; of course, the more data being used the more it's spread between the devices, but no issues with achieving high speeds on wireless.

Furthermore, the range of the router is impressive, more so than any other I've tested (except for the R9000.) I can easily hang on to a signal well outside of my home, even when driving down the street, either on 2.4 or 5 Ghz. With my relatively normal sized home, I have absolutely no worries about getting adequate signal to any of my devices no matter where I am, be it inside the home, in the half-basement, or in the yard.

Finally, I have to mention the uptime. This router seems to never need to be rebooted for any reason, from my experience. The only times I've rebooted it were times I chose to, not from losing connection for example. The Wi-Fi, on both bands, has literally never dropped since I've taken it out of the box and set it up. Every user's experience may differ, but this router performed beyond my expectations.

The XR500 Looks Cool

I've never much been concerned with the look of a router, and much more concerned with how it works. That being said, the XR500 is pretty sexy for a router.

NETGEAR XR500 Gaming Router

The styling cues remind me of Lamborghini, or perhaps a stealth fighter jet. It feels smaller than it looks in pictures, mostly due to its reduced weight. It's significanly less beefy and imposing than the R9000 (which can't be beat for pure presence)

The XR500 Is Super Easy to Use
 

DumaOS Dashboard

The DumaOS interface featured in the XR500 is easy to use. I think this is the key takeaway for anyone looking to purchase this router. Most of the settings are controlled through a very friendly, but still informative and technical interface with a customizable dashboard. The features are well explained with tooltip help, so even new users can easily learn what each feature does and why it should or should not be enabled.

DumaOS Geofilter

This is one of my favorite aspects of the XR500, since it makes advanced features "simple" to implement, even for a new user unfamiliar with the technology. It also makes it very straightforward to check the status of your router, how much data each device is using, the CPU/bandwidth stats, and so on. Even more advanced settings are available in a menu that will look familiar to users of NETGEAR routers, including the ability to run as a VPN client (explained further here)

Powerful Features Not Just for Gamers

Another key point to mention about the NETGEAR XR500 are the advanced features, aimed mostly at high performance gamers looking for uncompromising performance. Features such as the Geo-Filter basically "force" servers closer to your geographic location, and Anti-Bufferbloat helps to manage devices on your network that might be hogging bandwidth. The very-tweakable QoS (Quality of Service) settings allow you to easily set prioritization by device, too.

However, these features aren't just for gamers, not at all. "Average" users could certainly benefit from a way to easily prioritize devices, and using Anti-Bufferbloat when high traffic is detected. For example, I don't game online often, but when I do, it will kick in and give me the advantages when I need it.

No Open Source... yet

We're not aware of any open source router firmware projects for the XR500, nor if they will ever be available. We'd be very curious to hear from the developers out there what the potential might be for the XR500. Many MyOpenRouter fans would consider the lack of an open source firmware (e.g. DD-WRT, Tomato, etc.) to be a downside, but there's a lot to love here. Especially for a devoted gamer, I could see running the XR500 as the main router and a DD-WRT or Tomato router as an AP, for example.

There's also been some discussion here on the forums about going the other way around -- loading DumaOS on an R7800 due to the hardware similarities, and that a few users have possibly managed to make this work.

All of that being said, we're excited for the future of the XR500, for both gamers and router enthusiasts in general.

Would you like to see DumaOS ported to other NETGEAR routers officially? Interested in seeing Tomato or DD-WRT for the XR500? Post your thoughts on our forums!

 

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