The Netgear XRM570 Gaming Router and Mesh System is a two-piece configuration consisting of the Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 router (the same model that we reviewed back in 2018) and a Nighthawk Mesh Extender EX7700. The matte black router has a chiseled design and measures 2.2 by 12.7 by 9.6 inches (HWD).
The front edge holds LED status indicators for power, internet, both Wi-Fi bands, guest Wi-Fi, both USB ports, and four LAN ports. Up top are a Wi-Fi On/Off button and a WPS button, and the rear panel holds four gigabit LAN ports, a WAN port, an LED indicator On/Off switch, a reset button, a power button, and a power jack. There are two USB 3.0 ports located on the left side of the router, a feature not found in many mesh systems.
The XR500 is a dual-band 4x4 router powered by a 1.7GHz dual-core processor, 256MB of flash memory, and 512MB of RAM. It has four removable, adjustable antennas and is capable of speeds of up 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1,733Mbps on the 5GHz band. It uses Wave 2 802.11ac circuitry which supports MU-MIMO simultaneous data streaming, direct-to-client signal beamforming, Smart Connect (automatic band steering), and 160MHz Wi-Fi, which doubles the 80MHz channel width on the 5GHz band to achieve faster throughput speeds.
The EX7700 extender also sports a matte black chiseled design. It stands upright, measures 7.8 by 6.0 by 2.1 inches (HWD), and has four LED indicators near the top including a Router Link LED that indicates the connection between the extender and the router, a Client Link LED that turns white when a device is connected to the extender, a WPS activity LED, and an Ethernet activity LED. Around back are two Gigabit LAN ports, a WPS button, a reset button, a power button, and a power jack.
The EX7700 is a tri-band AC2200 mesh device that can reach maximum speeds of 400Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 866Mbps on each of the two 5GHz bands (one of the 5GHz bands is dedicated to wireless backhaul). It uses four internal antennas, and when paired with the XR500 router gives you a total of up to 5,000 square feet of Wi-Fi coverage with seamless roaming using the same SSID and password as the router. If that's still not enough coverage, you can add additional extenders (each EX7700 provides up to 2,500 square feet of coverage), but at $159.99 each they are quite expensive.
The system can be managed using the Nighthawk mobile app for iOS and Android devices, but the web-based DumaOS management software offers more control. It's powered by DumaOS and offers a game-inspired interactive interface that allows you to configure network settings, optimize your network for gaming, prioritize bandwidth, and more. It opens to a slick-looking Dashboard screen that is loaded with network stats including CPU and bandwidth usage, Wi-Fi and internet activity, guest networking status, and installed apps. On the left side is a menu with tabs for QoS (Quality of Service), Geo-Filter, Device Manager, Network Monitor, Hybrid VPN, Settings, and System Information.
The Geo-Filter settings can help you reduce gaming lag by limiting the distance to the host servers you're connecting to and QoS settings allow you to use a slider to allocate bandwidth to specific client devices. An Anti-Bufferbloat setting ensures that smaller, non-prioritized applications will be given enough bandwidth.
To view a network map of all connected devices, open the Device Manager. Here you can click on any device tab to view and edit that device's IP and MAC address settings and block or enable access to the network. The Network Manager lets you view charts with upload and download bandwidth usage for the entire network and for each connected device, and the System Information screen offers statistics for CPU, RAM, and flash memory usage and displays which network resources your applications are using.
The Settings menu is where you go to configure Internet, Wireless, LAN, and Guest Network settings and to use Content Filtering settings to block access to specific sites, create access schedules, and configure email alerts for when a client attempts to visit a restricted site. Missing are the parental controls with age-appropriate content filters and the built-in anti-malware tools that you get with other mesh systems such as the TP-Link Deco M9 Plus and the Gryphon Smart Wi-Fi Mesh system. Use the Advanced Settings to configure Port Forwarding, Port Triggering, VPN Services, Remote Management, and Static Routing options.
Installing the XRM570 system is quick and painless. I started by attaching the antennas to the router (make sure you pair the numbered antennas to the appropriate ports) and connected it to my modem and to my desktop PC. I powered up both the router and the extender and waited about 25 seconds for the router to connect to the internet and for the extender to pair itself with the router.
At this point, the LED on the back of the extender turned solid green and the Router Link LED on the front of the extender turned white. I opened a browser on the desktop, typed www.routerlogin.net in the address bar, and followed the on-screen instructions to set up the router which includes verifying an internet connection, checking internet upload and download speeds using SpeedTest, and creating a profile with a password and two security questions. I gave each radio band a name and password (you can use one name and password for both if you prefer) and updated the firmware. Next, I unplugged the extender and relocated it to a position halfway between the router and my den (approximately 30 feet away), verified that the Router Link LED was white, and the installation was complete.
I tested the XRM570 with Smart Connect enabled and it delivered outstanding throughput speeds on our performance tests. The router's score of 535Mbps on the close-proximity test was just shy of the TP-Link Deco M9 Plus, but was a bit faster than both the Synology MR2200ac and the Gryphon Wi-Fi Mesh routers. At a distance of 30 feet, the Netgear XRM570 router led the pack with a score of 296Mbps.
The XRM570 extender node also turned in lofty throughput scores. Its score of 490Mbps on the close-proximity test was 96Mbps faster than the TP-Link Deco M9 Plus node and more than 100Mbps faster than the Synology MR2200ac node. The Gryphon node trailed the pack with 277Mbps. The XRM570 node also led the pack on the 30-foot test, but the scores were much closer than the close-proximity scores.
All the Power
At close to $400, the Netgear XRM570 Nighthawk Pro Gaming router and mesh system doesn't come cheap, but it's one of the best-performing mesh systems we've tested. It uses a powerful dual-band gaming router and a tri-band range extender to form a mesh network that offers seamless roaming with dedicated 5GHz wireless backhaul, and it can be managed with a mobile app or with the flashy gamer-centric DumaOS web console. The combo is easy to install and delivers very good close-proximity throughput performance, with some of the fastest long-range numbers we've seen to date. The XRM570 system doesn't come with anti-malware tools and age-appropriate parental control presets, but its stellar performance, numerous I/O ports, and beefy management system earn it an Editors' Choice for Wi-Fi mesh systems.
(October 14, 2019 2:25PM EST)