Netgear has unveiled its first Wi-Fi 7 router, and while we’ve seen other such models from rival manufacturers, this one is different because it’s actually priced and available for pre-order.
The Netgear Nighthawk RS700 can be pre-ordered directly from the company for $699.99 (about £575, AU$1,050) – you didn’t think it would be cheap, did you? – with routers shipping in the US in the second quarter (possibly as early as April).
The Nighthawk RS700 router supports Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be), meaning you can take advantage of this next-generation wireless standard – at least in the future (we’ll get to that shortly). ).
Wi-Fi 7 makes some significant advancements over Wi-Fi 6 (and 6E), leading to major jumps in Wi-Fi speeds, lower latency, and improved range. In short, it is generally better for performance and reliability (and a lot faster than Wi-Fi 6).
On the technical side, the Nighthawk RS700 is a tri-band router with speeds up to 19 Gbps and a coverage of 3,500 square feet, supporting up to 200 devices. In addition to Wi-Fi 7 for wireless – across 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 6 GHz bands – Netgear offers four 1 Gbps LAN ports and one 10 Gbps LAN port for wired connections.
The RS700 comes in a tower design that looks pretty smart, we think, and you can also chain multiple units together if you want to use the mesh network route to cover a very large house with Wi-Fi signal.
Netgear also implements a system where there is not only the possibility to add a guest network for visitors in addition to the main network. You can also have a priority network to get the most responsive, fastest connections for gaming devices or streaming. In addition, there will be an IoT (Internet of Things) network to store your smart home gadgets and keep them separate in case you are concerned about the security issues associated with that kind of hardware.
Also worth noting on the security front is that the price tag includes a year of Netgear Armor, Bitdefender’s powered security solution.
Analysis: To be future-proof, or, er, not to
When new technology comes out, it is inevitably expensive and can lead to difficult purchasing decisions. Do you want to spend all that money to get on a certain bandwagon with a new device? However, with Wi-Fi routers, these early adopter decisions are even more complex, as hardware comes out before the standards are actually fully in place.
What does that mean? Well, officially Wi-Fi 7 is still just a draft standard and it won’t (most likely) be officially set in stone until 2024. And that’s exactly why other router makers have unveiled models, but they’re not yet available or even priced. TP-Link has already unveiled quite a few Wi-Fi 7 models, but they’re all marked “coming soon” (Asus has a few too).
Netgear is the first manufacturer to actually raise a price and put a Wi-Fi 7 router on sale so you can buy it today – though it won’t ship for at least another month, possibly as late as June. So, should you really pull the trigger and buy now?
The short answer is: no, probably not. Read on for a more detailed explanation.
Where’s the support?
First, we need to make it clear that there’s nothing wrong with releasing a Wi-Fi 7 router relatively early, as while 802.11be remains a draft wireless standard, Wi-Fi 7 is just about done and dusted off, and will be coming soon. cannot be meaningfully changed at this time.
However, the main point to realize here is obvious: you can have a Wi-Fi 7 router, but if your devices don’t support Wi-Fi 7 – your phones, tablets, laptops and whatever – then you are they cannot use this advanced wireless standard. And yes, you guessed it: it’s still so early for Wi-Fi 7 that almost no device supports it. (The only one we’re aware of so far is the Xiaomi 13 Pro smartphone, although there may be other Chinese handsets that do).
So a Wi-Fi 7 router is pointless for the vast majority of people then? Well, not quite, as it’s backwards compatible with all your existing devices and can still run them like a dream (just not at Wi-Fi 7 speeds). What you get with a Wi-Fi 7 router is future-proof: use it now with all your devices, and when you eventually buy Wi-Fi 7 hardware, you’ll take full advantage of it.
The thinking is that if you do need a new router, maybe because your current model took that final trip to silicon heaven, you’re spending money, so why not look to the future?
The problem with the Netgear Nighthawk RS700 is that you’re clearly spending a lot of money – $700 is no small expense. That’s enough to buy you a PC (at least a modest desktop). Is it wise to pay such a premium?
Not at this relatively early stage, we would say. Even if you need to replace your router, we recommend that you at least consider purchasing a stopgap Wi-Fi 6 model for a relatively affordable outlay. Then sell that second-hand when Wi-Fi 7 fully arrives (and we’re starting to see a significant number of devices supporting it), before upgrading to a Wi-Fi 7 router, which will be more reasonably priced by then.
That said, if money is no object, there’s no harm in getting future-proofed right now, and this Netgear router looks pretty appetizing.