Netgear R7800 Nighthawk X4S AC2600 Wireless Router
It's quite possible that Netgear has the largest product lineup of any wireless router manufacturer today, and the fact that half of the lineup shares the "Nighthawk" name and similar external designs doesn't help much. To be clear, we've selected the Nighthawk X4S, which we'll refer to using its model number of R7800 to avoid further confusion.
The R7800 discreetly packs top-end 802.11ac technology in a case that forgoes the extroverted (and often juvenile, depending on how you look at it) styling touches of so-called "gaming routers", and we couldn't be happier with the result. It shares the same angular design as many of Netgear's other Nighthawk routers, with the exception of four external antennas as opposed to the typical three. Connectivity is plentiful, but the ports are scattered around the unit. Around back, you'll find 5 Ethernet ports - the one marked in yellow is dedicated to the input from your modem, while the numbered ports are all Gigabit Ethernet. Netgear also provides a dedicated switch to shut off the status LEDs, which can be immensely useful if the bright lights prove to be distracting. The sides of the unit house ports as well - a pair of USB 3.0 ports are located on the left, while an eSATA port is found on the right. The inclusion of the latter allows much higher data transfer rates to external drives, meaning the R7800 can perform double duty as a network attached storage unit.
If the appearance is sedate, the performance is anything but. The array of four external antennas is the first sign that this router performs on a different level compared to entry-level 802.11ac models. 4x4 MU-MIMO is fully supported, provided you have devices that can take advantage of this technology. SmallNetBuilder's test of the R7800 shows that this is easily one of the fastest wireless routers around, measuring both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz throughput. Paired with the 1.7 GHz dual-core processor, the R7800 certainly has enough muscle to handle heavy data loads and multiple simultaneous connections without blinking. Make sure your internet subscription is fast enough - if it's under 250 Mbps, you're leaving tons of performance on the table.
The $229.99 MSRP makes the R7800 one of the pricier routers among our recommendations, and is one of the only drawbacks we can find. That said, it can be found online for well under $200, which is a much more reasonable price for one of the highest-performing routers on the market today. Whether you have the service and equipment to take advantage of the extra performance or you're simply looking to future-proof your setup, the R7800 is a solid investment in your network.