Netgear Nighthawk X4S review

Netgear’s Nighthawk X4S is a world-class router for gamers and networking gurus

Netgear's Nighthawk X4S blankets even large houses with blazing-fast Wi-Fi.
Netgear's Nighthawk X4S blankets even large houses with blazing-fast Wi-Fi.
Netgear's Nighthawk X4S blankets even large houses with blazing-fast Wi-Fi.


  • 2.53Gbps of wireless bandwidth
  • Two USB 3.0 ports, and an eSATA port
  • MU-MIMO directs signal directly at your devices


  • Confusing software interface
  • Divisive design

DT Editors' Rating

Lots of people complain about Wi-Fi, but very few do anything about it. If you’re serious about taking action, there are more and more high-end routers on the market that make powerful coverage and high speeds possible.

Netgear’s Nighthawk X4S gaming router is for exactly that sort of person. At $260, it’s not cheap, but that money gives you an 802.11ac router with combined bandwidth of up to 2.53Gbps. Four antenna and MU-MIMO capability means it can handle large houses, at least in theory. All of this is backed by a 1.7GHz dual core processor and 512 MB of RAM.

The X4S can’t match the $400 Netgear Nighthawk X8, which we reviewed earlier this year, for performance – it offers speeds of up to 5.3Gbps. But for most people, the 2.53Gbps offered by the X4S is more than enough. And the $260 price point is far more reasonable.

An alien probe for your living room

There are routers designed to be subtle, and then there’s the Nighthawk X4S. With a jet-black exterior and jagged angles, the router looks like a spaceship or stealth bomber. If you’re a gamer you’ll likely think it looks cool, but it might not fit into everyone’s decor.

Wherever you put this router, it’s going to take up a fair bit of space. At 11.22 inches long, 7.26 inches wide, and 1.97 inches tall at its high point, the X4S can’t be tucked away in a corner, especially not with two pairs of 5 and a half inch antenna sticking out of it.

The LED lights on the Nighthawk X4S are bright, to the point where I occasionally went to bed thinking I’d left the lamp on downstairs. Fortunately, there’s a switch on the back that turns the lights off.

Connect everything

There are five gigabit Ethernet ports on the back of this router — four LAN ports for your devices, and one WAN port for connecting to the Internet. They’re joined by two USB 3.0 ports for external drives, and an eSATA plug for directly connecting another device. That’s a lot of connectivity, so you’ll have no shortage of room for network attached storage.

But it’s the wireless capabilities that make this router special. The combined bandwidth is a staggering 2.53Gbps spread over two frequencies. You’ll get 800 Mbps using a 2.4GHz connection and 1,733 Mbps connection using the 5GHz option.

The two connections are offered as separate networks with their own SSIDs. This means uses can pick between the high-bandwidth 5GHz connection, and the 2.4GHz connection, which often provides better range.

Fast speeds from any corner of your house

The Nighthawk X4S offers MU-MIMO, meaning signal is sent directly to connected devices instead of broadcasting in all directions.  Netgear advertises this router as ideal for large houses, which my two-bedroom townhome is not. That means every room in my home was absolutely blanketed in Wi-Fi signal, and the Nighthawk X4S easily beat out nearby competing Wi-Fi routers for bandwidth on the wireless spectrum.

We couldn’t be happier with the router’s performance.

To check the “large house” claim, I took my phone and went for a walk outside. I was surprised to learn I could refresh my Twitter timeline from half a block away. It wasn’t a fast connection at that distance, but it was impressive that it worked at all.

I consistently saw the maximum Internet speed I’m paying my ISP for — 30Mbps, up and down. Streaming HD video isn’t a problem, to say the least, and gaming is free of lag and other slowdowns. Downloads were fast, and my networked backups consistently uploaded to a local drive at speeds of around 70Mbps.

To see the speed of network file transfers, I fired up LAN Speed Test on my MacBook Pro and attempted to write a test file to an SSD over the network. The 2.4GHz connection gave a write speed of 8.34Mbps and a read speed of 110.2Mpbs. The 5GHz connection was much faster: a write speed of 14.43Mbps and a read speed of 267.98Mbps.

An interface for gurus

First-time configuration is straight-forward. You can connect to the router using an Ethernet cable, or consult the sticker for a unique SSID and passcode to connect wirelessly.

Once you’re connected, you can configure the router by heading to on your browser. The interface isn’t pretty, and compared to the simplified UI of the Google OnHub router is downright cryptic, but if you know your way around a router, you should be able to configure anything here without a lot of difficulty.

The USB ports can connect to printers and share them over the network, or serve up any attached drive as a network drive or media server. Setting this up is going to take some experimentation in the settings, but works well once it’s all set up.

If you’d prefer not to use a web interface, there are mobile apps available for Android and iOS, as well as desktop clients for Mac and PC. This is necessary to access some settings, including Parental Control.

Limited warranty

Netgear provides a one year warranty for the Nighthawk X4S. While that’s standard for most electronic devices, it does seem like a router at this pricepoint could be covered longer than that.

A solid option, but shop around before deciding

The X4S isn’t the top-of-the line Netgear Nighthawk router, but it does offer more bandwidth than most people need at a lower price point than the overpowered Nighthawk X8.

Still, there are arguably better deals out there among high end routers. The Linksys EA7500 and Google’s OnHub routers both offer speeds of 1.9Gbps for $200, still plenty of bandwidth for most users. And both feature backend interfaces a great deal easier to handle than Netgear’s.

Neither match the power of the X4S, and neither can match the connectivity options provided by two USB 3.0 ports. For this reason we think the Netgear Nighthawk X4S will appeal to power users who want a gobs bandwidth and tons of attached storage.

If you’re going to spend a lot on a router, make sure you do your homework first, and select one with the features and ease-of-use your desire. A router like the X4S can prove exceedingly capable, but it’ll be too much for users who want a set-it-and-forget-it router.

Product Review

LG Gram 14 proves 2-in-1 laptops don’t need to sacrifice battery for light weight

The LG Gram 14 2-in-1 aims to be very light for a laptop that converts to a tablet. And it is. But it doesn’t skimp on the battery, and so it lasts a very long time on a charge.

Fix those internet dead zones by turning an old router into a Wi-Fi repeater

Is there a Wi-Fi dead zone in your home or office? A Wi-Fi repeater can help. Don't buy a new one, though. Here is how to extend Wi-Fi range with another router you have lying around.

What is fixed wireless 5G? Here’s everything you need to know

Here's fixed wireless 5G explained! Learn what you need to know about this effective new wireless technology, when it's available, how much it costs, and more. If you're thinking about 5G, this guide can help!

Lost your router? Here's how to find its IP address to help track it down

Changing the login information for your router isn't always easy, that's why so many have that little card on the back. But in order to use it, you need to know where to go. Here's how to find the IP address of your router.
Home Theater

Here’s why you’re not getting Netflix in HD or 4K, and how to fix it

Are you having trouble watching your favorite movies or TV shows on Netflix in HD or 4K? We explain why loading takes so long, why the picture quality fluctuates, and what you can do about it.

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.

AMD Radeon VII will support DLSS-like upscaling developed by Microsoft

AMD's Radeon VII has shown promise with early tests of an open DLSS-like technology developed by Microsoft called DirectML. It would provide similar upscale features, but none of the locks on hardware choice.

The Asus ZenBook 13 offers more value and performance than Apple's MacBook Air

The Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 is the latest in that company's excellent "budget" laptop line, and it looks and feels better than ever. How does it compare to Apple's latest MacBook Air?

You could be gaming on AMD’s Navi graphics card before the end of the summer

If you're waiting for a new graphics card from AMD that doesn't cost $700, you may have to wait for Navi. But that card may not be far away, with new rumors suggesting we could see a July launch.

Is AMD's Navi back on track for 2019? Here's everything you need to know

With a reported launch in 2019, AMD is focusing on the mid-range market with its next-generation Navi GPU. Billed as a successor to Polaris, Navi promises to deliver better performance to consoles, like Sony's PlayStation 5.

Cortana wants to be friends with Alexa and Google Assistant

Microsoft no longer wants to compete against Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant in the digital assistant space. Instead, it wants to transform Cortana into a skill that can be integrated into other digital assistants.

Microsoft leans on A.I. to resume safe delivery of Windows 10 Update

Microsoft is leaning on artificial intelligence as it resumes the automatic rollout of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update. You should start seeing the update soon now that Microsoft has resolved problems with the initial software.

Stop dragging windows on your Mac. Here's how to use Split View to multitask

The latest iterations of MacOS offer a native Split View feature that can automatically divide screen space between two applications. Here's how to use Split View on a Mac, adjust it as needed, and how it can help out.

It's not all free money. Here's what to know before you try to mine Bitcoin

Mining Bitcoin today is harder than it used to be, but if you have enough time, money, and cheap electricity, you can still turn a profit. Here's how to get started mining Bitcoin at home and in the cloud.