Nighthawk RS700: Netgear's 1st Wi-Fi 7 Router to Arrive By June

Nighthawk RS700: Netgear’s 1st Wi-Fi 7 Router to Arrive By June

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Netgear today announced an all-new Nighthawk RS700, its first Wi-Fi 7 router, joining a few other networking vendors who have also announced their own.

If the Wi-Fi 7 notion is not exciting enough, the new router is also the company’s first home Wi-Fi machine with two 10Gbps Multi-Gig ports.

On this network port front, the RS700 is, in a way, Netgear’s answer to my constant lamentation when reviewing its previous hardware, particularly the Orbi RBRE960 and RBR860 — both with a painful single 10Gbps WAN port.

And there’s even more to this new Wi-Fi 7 router.

The Netgear RS700 Wi-Fi 7 router has a new design compared to previous Wi-Fi 6 and 6E routers in the Nighthawk family.

Netgear RS700 Wi-Fi 7 router: A new elegant yet massive design

I haven’t gotten my hands on the Nighthawk RS700, but the new flagship router seemed quite large from what Netgear showed me over Zoom. It’s a slender verticle box that weighs close to four pounds (2 kg) and looks like an elegant good-sized portable boombox.

Netgear says the router is large because it has a heavy heatsink on the inside to compensate for not having an internal fan. And that’s maybe also the reason for the breakaway from the ultra-cool spaceship-like design of the previous Nighthawk routers, starting with the Wi-Fi 6 RAX120, which has an internal fan, all the way to the Wi-Fi 6E RAXE300.

No internal fan is always a good thing. Fewer moving parts generally means less maintenance and more longevity.

Elaborating on the new design, Netgear says the Nighthawk RS700 features high-performance 3D antennas that provide “360 degrees of coverage” and “the best connection for all varieties of homes from sprawling ranch styles to multi-story brownstones.”

The company also claims the new router can handle up to 200 concurrent clients and blanket up to 3500 ft2 (325 m2) of space with strong Wi-Fi signals.

All that needs to be taken with a grain of salt and remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: the RS700 must have quite a bit of power since Wi-Fi 7 can be demanding — it has a lot of new stuff compared to Wi-Fi 6 and 6E.

Wi-Fi 7 in brief

Wi-Fi 7’s highlights

Among other things, the new Wi-Fi standard includes four potentially game-changing features below.

1. The all-new 320MHz channel width

The first is the new and much wider channel width, up to 320MHz or double that of Wi-Fi 6/6E.

Organically, this new channel width is only available on the 6GHz band, with up to three 320MHz channels. However, Wi-Fi 7 can combine portions of the 6GHz and 5GHz bands to create this new bandwidth — more in the Multi-Link Operation section below.

I detailed Wi-Fi channels here, but the new channel width generally means Wi-Fi 7 can double the base speed, from 1.2Gbps per stream (160MHz) to 2.4Gbps per stream (320MHz).

So, in theory, a 4×4 broadcaster 6GHz Wi-Fi 7 can have up to 9.6 Gbps of bandwidth — or 10Gbps when rounded up.

Depending on the configuration, Wi-Fi 7 routers and access points will be available in different speed grades, including those offering bandwidths higher or lower than 10Gbps on the 6GHz band.

Wi-Fi 7 also supports double the partial streams, up to 16. As a result, technically, a 16-stream (16×16) Wi-Fi 7 6GHz band can deliver up to over 40Gbps of bandwidth, especially when considering the new QAM support below.

Again, you need a compatible client to use the new 320MHz channel width. Existing clients will connect using 160MHz at best. And in reality, the 160MHz will likely be the realistic sweet-spot bandwidth of Wi-Fi 7, just like the 80MHz in the case of Wi-Fi 6.

2. The 4K-QAM

QAM, short for quadrature amplitude modulation, is a way to manipulate the radio wave to pack more information in the Hertz.

Wi-Fi 6 supports 1024-QAM, which itself is already impressive. However, Wi-Fi 7 will have four times that, or 4096-QAM. Greater QAM means better performance for the same channel width.

As a result, Wi-Fi 7 will have a much higher speed and efficiency than previous standards when working with supported clients.

Wi-F 7 vs Wi-Fi 6/6E: The realistic real-world speeds

With the support for the wider channel width and higher QAM, Wi-Fi 7 is set to be much faster than previous standards. The table below summarizes what you can expect from Wi-Fi 7’s real-world performance compared to Wi-Fi 6/6E.

Wi-Fi 6/E Wi-Fi 7
Max Channel Bandwidth
(theoretical/top-tier equipment)
160MHz 320MHz
Channel Bandwidth
(widely implemented)
80MHz 160MHz
Number of Available Channels 5GHz: 3x 160MHz or 6x 80MHz channels.
6GHz: 7x 160MHz or 14x 80MHz channels
6GHz: 3x 320MHz or 6x 160MHz channels
Highest Modulation 1024-QAM 4096-QAM
Max Number
of Spatial Streams per Band
(theoretical on paper / commercially implemented)
8 / 4 16 / 8
Max Bandwidth
Per Stream
1202Mbps (at 160MHz)
600Mbps (at 80Hz)
(at 320MHz)
1.45 Gbps (at 160MHz)
Max Band Bandwidth Per Band
(theoretical on paper)
Commercial Max Band Bandwidth Per Band
(commercially implemented)
Actual Available Max Real-word Negotiated Speeds (*) 2402Mbps
(via a 2×2 client 160MHz)
(via a 2×2 client at 80MHz)
(via a 4×4 client at 320MHz)
(via a 2×2 client at 320MHz or 4×4 client at 160MHz)
(via a 2×2 client 160MHz)
Wi-Fi 6 vs Wi-Fi 7: Theoretical data rates
(*) The real-world sustained speeds depend on the client and environment and generally are much lower than negotiated speeds. Wi-Fi 6/6E has had only 2×2 clients. Wi-Fi 7 will also use 2×2 clients but might have 4×4 clients.

Multi-Link Operation, or MLO, is the most exciting and promising feature of Wi-Fi 7.

In a nutshell, MLO is Wi-Fi band aggregation. Like Link Aggregation (or bonding) in wired networking, MLO allows combining two Wi-Fi bands, 5GHz, and 6GHz, into a single Wi-Fi network/connection. The bonded link is also available in load balance or failover.

The former allows for combining the bandwidth of both bands into a single link. It’s excellent for those wanting to get the fastest possible wireless speed but requires support on the client’s end to work.

The latter, however, only requires support from the broadcasting side and can be a game-changer in a wireless mesh setup. With failover MLO, we can potentially count on having no signal drop or brief disconnection. And it’s also when seamless handoff (or roaming) can become truly seamless.

On top of that, on each band, a connection can also intelligently pick the best channel, or channel width, in real-time. In other words, it can channel-hop, just like Bluetooth, though likely less frequently.

This new capability will help increase the efficiency of Wi-Fi 7’s range, allowing all its bands to deliver faster speed over longer distances than previous standards.

In more ways than one, MLO is the best alternative to the existing so-called “Smart Connect” — using the same SSID (network name) and password for all the bands of a broadcaster — which doesn’t always work as smartly as expected.

How MLO pans out remains to be seen — it requires Wi-Fi 7 clients — but this new capability has no downside.

4. Automated Frequency Coordination

Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) applies to the 6GHz band.

In an environment, existing applications can already use the spectrum. For example, fixed satellite services (FSS) or broadcast companies might have already had licenses to use certain parts of the band.

A new Wi-Fi (6E and 7) broadcaster must not impact those existing services — a concept similar to the use of DFS channels in the 5GHz band.

That’s when AFC comes into play. The idea is that all new 6GHz broadcasters check with a registered database in real-time to confirm their operation will not negatively impact other registered members, including existing Wi-Fi 6E or Wi-Fi 7 broadcasters.

The support for AFC means each Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster will have its free airspace to operate, meaning vendors can use more power and more flexible antenna designs.

In short, AFC compliance will help a Wi-Fi broadcaster improve range and connection speeds by preemptively creating a dynamically exclusive environment dependent on the current real-world situation, in which it can operate without the constraint of regulations, like the case of Wi-Fi 6E and older standards.

A crude AFC analogy

Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) is like checking with the local authorities for permission to close off sections of city streets for a drag race block party.

When approved, the usual traffic and parking laws no longer apply to the area, and the organizers can determine how fast traffic can flow, etc.

Still, AFC works best when there is enough air space for the number of broadcasters in a particular location at any given time. This feature requires certification and is expected not to be immediately available with the first round of Wi-Fi 7 routers but can be added via firmware updates.

Multi Link OperationFlexible Channel Utilization
The Netgear Nighthawk RS700 supports Multi-Link Operation and Flexible Channel Utilization to deliver better Wi-Fi throughputs.

The details of the new router areas are still sketchy. The table below includes what I’ve gleaned compared to the RAXE500, Netgear’s previous top-tier Wi-Fi 6E router.

Hardware specifications: Netgear Nighthawk RS700 vs RAXE500

Netgear Nighthawk RS700 Wi Fi 7 Router Netgear RAXE500 Right Side
Full Name Netgear Nighthawk RS700 Wi-Fi 7 Router Netgear RAXE500
Nighthawk 12-Stream
Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6E Router
Model RS700 RAXE500
Wi-Fi Standard Wi-Fi 7 Wi-Fi 6E
Dimensions 11.09 x 5.59 x 4.88 in
(281.70 x 142 x 124.03 mm)
11.7 x 3.07 x 8.3 in
(298 x 78 x 211 mm)
Weight 3.61 lb (1.635kg) 3.2 lbs (1.45 kg)
Wi-Fi Technology Tri-band BE19000 Tri-Band AXE11000
QAM Support 4096-QAM 1024-QAM
5GHz Band Specs 4×4 5GHz BE:
Up to 5.8Gbps
4×4 AX
Up to 4.8Gbps
6GHz Band Specs 4×4 BE: Up to 11.5Gbps
(20/40/80/160/320 MHz)
4×4 AX
Up to 4.8Gbps
2.4GHz Band Specs 4×4 BE
Up to 1.4Gbps
4×4 AX
Up to 1.2Gbps
Backward Compatibility 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax/axe 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Mobile App Netgear Nighthawk Netgear Nighthawk
Media Bridge Mode No Yes
AP Mode Yes Yes
Mesh-ready Yes
(Wi-Fi EasyMesh to be added via firmware)
USB Port 1x USB 3.0 2x USB 3.0
Gigabit Port 4x LAN 4x LAN, 1x WAN
Multi-Gig Port 1x 10Gbps WAN
1x 10GGbps LAN
1x 2.5Gbps LAN/WAN
Link Aggregation Yes
(WAN and LAN)
Yes (LAN only)
Procession Power Quad-core 2.6GHz CPU,
512MB NAND Flash, 1GB RAM
Quad-core 1.8GHz CPU
512MB Flash, 1GB RAM
Release Date Q2 2023
(all features available by Q4 2023)
March 26, 2021
Price (at Launch) $699.99 $600
Hardware specifications: Netgear Nighthawk RS700 vs RAXE500

You’ll note from the table that the RS700 is a totally new device with a few extra cool stuff, namely the 10Gbps ports and built-in mesh feature, on top of the fact it supports Wi-Fi 7.

Netgear Nighthawk RS700 is a Wi Fi 7 RouterNetgear RAX120
The new Nighthawk RS700 is definitely very different in design from the previous Wi-Fi 6 and 6E Nighthawk routers, represented by the RAX120, pictured here.

First router with two 10Gbps ports

It’s hard to believe, but the RS700 is Netgear’s first broadcaster with two 10Gbps ports. There’s been a decently long list of existing routers from others with two or even more Multi-Gig ports. But better late than never on Netgear’s part.

Two 10Gbps is a fundamental change from having just one. The RS700 is the first from Netgear capable of delivering a true 10Gbps wired connection out of the box. On top of that, throw in a Multi-Gig switch, and the router will turn your entire home network Multi-Gig.

As for Wi-Fi, Netgear told me the RS700 would include all Wi-Fi 7 has to offer though only part of that would be available at launch, with the rest being added later via firmware updates. But that’s only because the new standard is not yet fully developed.

But as mentioned, the RS700 will work with all existing Wi-Fi clients. Most importantly, it also has a feature never before available in any Nighthawk router: the support for EasyMesh.

Netgear RS700: First Nighthawk router that’s mesh-ready

Netgear told me that the RS700 would be the first Nighthawk standalone router that supports Wi-Fi EasyMesh, the same mesh approach used in the company’s MK83 and MK63 systems.

Specifically, you can use multiple RS700 units together to form a Wi-Fi system, similar to the case of Asus AiMesh or Synology Mesh. Additionally, the new router will work with any (third-party) hardware that’s Wi-Fi EasyMesh certified.

Wi-Fi EasyMesh in brief

Wi-Fi EasyMesh is Wi-Fi Alliance’s certification program, first announced in early 2020, that aims to simplify the building of mesh systems.

The idea is that any Wi-Fi EasyMesh-certified hardware from any vendor will work together to form a seamless Wi-Fi system.

The new program hasn’t caught on. By late 2022, only Netgear has released its supposedly Wi-Fi EasyMesh-compliant mesh systems– the MK63 and MK83. And in August 2022, TP-Link said it would join the cause by transitioning its OneMesh over.

Generally, we need the supported hardware of at least two vendors to know the idea of Wi-Fi EasyMesh as a universal mesh approach is real. But even then, things can get complicated in terms of liability or tech support.

Specifically, if a mixed hardware Wi-Fi EasyMesh system is not working as expected, it’s hard to know which hardware vendor is at fault, and consumers might be stuck between two networking companies pointing fingers at each other.

For more reasons than one, users tend to use mesh hardware from the same vendor, and Wi-Fi EasyMesh has so far been a nice idea with little impact. But the concept has no downside — it doesn’t prevent users from keeping hardware of the same vendor — and its adoption might increase over time.

And this new feature is important because of two reasons.

First, it’s the only real use of Wi-Fi 7 when there’s no supported client yet. Thanks to the better Wi-Fi outputs and more features, a Wi-Fi 7 mesh system can improve user experience vis its faster backhaul speed and more extensive coverage, even when hosting pre-Wi-Fi 7 devices.

And second, the support for Wi-Fi EasyMesh means the Nighthawk RS700 has more to compete. Both Asus and TP-Link have already announced their new Wi-Fi 7 routers that are mesh-ready.

Not everyone needs a mesh system, but being able to turn a standalone router into a mesh member is the kind of flexibility everyone wouldn’t mind having.

“Extra” Wi-Fi settings

Netgear said that it’d introduce a new way to organize the SSIDs — the Wi-Fi network names — with the Nighthawk RS700.

Specifically, apart from the main SSID, the RS700 will have priority ISSD, which has a separate name. Devices connected to this network will automatically get the first dib on traffic. It’s a bit of a clunky way to implement Quality of Service.

Apart from the Guest network, the company also adds an IoT network designed for smart home devices as a convenient way to segment the network. Technically the IoT SSID is simply another isolated Guest network.

A familiar Nighthawk router

Despite all the goodies above, per Netgear, the RS700 will remain a standard router, similar to existing Nighthawk routers.

It’ll come with the local web user interface and the Nighthawk mobile app to deliver a standard set of network settings and features. Netgear has been pushing for the app, which is required a login account and is necessary if you want to use add-on premium features.

Netgear says the new RS700 will include one year of Armor subscription. On this front, the company told me that existing subscribers could add the new router to their account and have the old router removed. In this case, they can contact customer support to add the one-year credit.

The Armor suite includes online protection, parental control, and actual BitDefender protection software licenses to install on an unlimited number of devices within a home. After the trial period, its cost starts at $70/year.

And that brings us to the cost and availability of the Nighthawk RS700 itself.

Netgear Nighthawk RS700 FrontNetgear Nighthawk RS700 Port
The real-world photos of a Netgear Nighthawk RS700 router. Note its two 10Gbps Multi-Gig ports.

Pricing and availability

Netgear told me that the new Nighthawk RS700 Wi-Fi 7 Mesh router is slated to be available in the US in Q2 2023 — you can get it in June at the latest — with the suggested retail price of $699.99.

Want a mesh? You’ll have to get at least two units. But there’s no rush. Netgear says the mesh function of the router, as well as the support for Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC), will not be available at launch. Instead, they will be added via firmware update before the year is out.

Still, it’s time to start saving.

I’ll update this post as I learn more and, eventually, turn it into an in-depth review, the type you’ve come to expect. Stay tuned!

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