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NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 vs X8 (2020): Which Smart WiFi Router Should You Get?

A powerful WiFi router to match your service provider’s high-speed internet can make a world of difference to your wireless Internet experience. NETGEAR has some of the most reliable routers out there, and its Nighthawk X6 and Nighthawk X8 are excellent choices if you’re looking to boost your Internet speed. The Nighthawk X6 and X8 feature tri-band wireless technology, but the X8 boasts a higher AC rating and MU-MIMO support. As expected, the latter comes with a heftier price tag, too.

Is it worth paying extra for the Nighthawk X8 or is the more affordable X6 more than enough? Our thorough comparison below will help you decide.

Nighthawk X6 vs X6S Comparison Chart

ModelNighthawk X6 (R8000)Nighthawk X8 (R8500)
 NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 Smart WiFi Router (R8000) - AC3200 Tri-band Wireless Speed (up to 3200 Mbps) |...NETGEAR AC5300 Nighthawk X8 Tri-Band WiFi Router (R8500-100NAS) (Discontinued)
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
Standout FeaturesFast tri-band Gigabit technology and reliable wireless coverageFaster speed and MU-MIMO support
Processor1 GHz1.4 GHz
Quad StreamNoYes
WiFi SpeedAC3200 (Up to 3200Mbps)AC5300 (Up to 5.3 Gbps)
MU-MIMO SupportNo (but the newer X6S does)Yes
Antennas64 external, 4 internal
Amazon AlexaYesYes
Circle Smart Parental ControlYes, one-month free trialNo
Ports4 x 1G6 x 1G, with 2-port aggregation support
Dimensions2.14″ x 11.54″ x 8.92″13.79″ x 11.62″ x 4.57″
Weight1.03 lbs7.01 lbs

Design & Set-Up

The Nighthawk X6 has 6 pull-out antennas while the X8 has 4 pull-out and 4 internal antennas

The Nighthawk X6 (left) and its six pull-out amplified antennas vs the X8’s four

At a glance, the biggest differences you’ll notice between the Nighthawk X6 and X8 is are their size and pull-out antennas. Both NETGEAR routers are larger than most routers, but the Nighthawk X6, which measures 2.14″ x 11.54″ x 8.92″, looks compact next to the bulky X8 (13.79″ x 11.62″ x 4.57″). You can either place them on shelves or tables. They also come with a cutout at their base so you can mount them on a higher location in your house for wider coverage and better signal strength.

Another point of consideration when deciding where to place your Nighthawk X6 or X8 are their antennas. The Nighthawk X6 has six pull-out amplified antennas while the X8 only has four that are much taller than the X6’s. They also come with two USB ports, one 2.0 and one 3.0 USB port, so you can connect your printer, external hard drive, and similar hardware.

Setting them up is straightforward, thanks to the NETGEAR app and Genie interface. The app will show you prompts that you can follow during the initial set-up process, but the Genie interface has more robust configuration tools. It’s worth noting that some users have complained about the NETGEAR Genie recognizing the Nighthawk X8, something that rarely happens with the X6.


The Nighthawk X6 and X8 have tri-band wireless technology, but the X8 boasts quad stream architecture, MU-MIMO support, and more Ethernet ports

Enjoy blazing fast speeds with quad stream and MU-MIMO, features that are perfect for heavy gamers and streamers

With their tri-band Gigabit technology, NETGEAR’s Nighthawk X6 and X8 are both capable of delivering ultra-fast speeds. The Nighthawk X6 and its 1 GHz processor has an AC3200 rating. Its bands can handle up to 1,300 Mbps (two) and 600 Mbps, that totals to an impressive 3.2 Gbps. You can connect up to 50 devices simultaneously to the Nighthawk X6 and with up to 3,500 sq ft of wireless coverage, you can stay connected anywhere you are in your home.

Meanwhile, the Nighthawk X8 and its 1.4 GHz processor boast a whopping total speed of up to 5.3 Gbps and a maximum speed of 2.1 Gbps on its 5 GHz band. Its quad stream architecture and MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output) support allow the Nighthawk X8 to handle multiple devices vying for bandwidth effortlessly. The Nighthawk X6 doesn’t offer MU-MIMO support, but you can opt for the Nighthawk X6S if you need this feature but don’t want the steep price tag that comes with the X8.

In addition, the Nighthawk X8 is equipped with six Ethernet ports, two more than what the Nighthawk X6 offers. The X8 further supports two-port aggregation, a feature that you can take advantage of if you’re a heavy streamer or you typically perform large file transfers.


The Nighthawk X6 is more reliable than the X8

A WiFi router’s impressive AC rating won’t matter if it proves to be unreliable

So far, we’ve established that the Nighthawk X8 is significantly superior to the Nighthawk X6 in terms of speed. However, the X8 has received many complaints about its unreliability. Users have reported recurring drops in connection and intermittent signal strength even when the model is brand new.

On the other hand, the Nighthawk X6 may not be as fast as the X8, but it consistently performs well. Its Beamforming+ technology and Smart Connect feature work together to ensure reliable coverage and speed. It also connects seamlessly to the NETGEAR Genie interface should you need to configure admin and speed settings.

Security & Additional Features

The Nighthawk X6 comes with a 1-month free trial of the Circle Smart Parental Control and NETGEAR Armor

Circle lets you restrict your children’s internet access

With the Nighthawk X6, you’ll get 30-day free access to the Circle Smart Parental Controls app and NETGEAR Armor. The Circle app lets you control what your family members can access, how they can access them, or when they can use certain apps. This makes it easy to monitor your children’s online activity and limit their screen time as you see fit.

Meanwhile, the NETGEAR Armor adds that extra layer of security to your household devices. It works as a first line of defense for multiple connected devices against attacks on your WiFi network. The Nighthawk X6’s network security includes WPA2, DoS, and a double firewall, all of which can help keep your family’s data secure.


The NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 offers better value for your money

While the Nighthawk X8 is undeniably faster than the Nighthawk X6, the X6 wins our recommendation for its overall reliability The X6 may not be as powerful as the X8, but it can handle a regular household’s bandwidth requirements, and reliably so.

If you require a higher AC rating, 2-port aggregation, or MU-MIMO support, consider getting the Nighthawk X6S instead of the Nighthawk X8. The X6S has a faster processor and AC4000 rating and has proven to handle the demands of HD gaming, steaming, and large file uploads and downloads. You can read about our in-depth comparison of the Nighthawk X6 and X6S here.


๐Ÿ“Œ  What is the difference between the NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 and X8?

The Nighthawk X6 has a maximum aggregate speed of 3.2 Gbps while the Nighthawk X8‘s is 5.3 Gbps. Also, the X6 comes with a free trial to the Circle app and NETGEAR Armor. For more similarities and differences, see our comparison chart above.

๐Ÿ“Œ  What does MU-MIMO stand for?

MU-MIMO stands for multiple-user, multiple-input, multiple-output. This feature lets your WiFi router connect to multiple devices at once and maintain its speed.

๐Ÿ“Œ  Is the NETGEAR X6 NBN compatible?

Yes, it’s NBN ready.

๐Ÿ“Œ  Does a NETGEAR Nighthawk router need a modem?

Yes, your Nighthawk X6 or X8 requires a modem to work. It’s compatible with most modems provided by Internet service providers today.

Last update on 2020-09-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Rhodaline Escala-Phelps
Rhodaline Escala-Phelps

Managing Editor and Team Leader at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about people, product comparisons, culture, and current events.