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.
Netgear RS700 Wi-Fi 7 router: A new elegant yet massive Nighthawk
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 hot and heavy heatsink 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.
The drawer below includes highlights of the new Wi-Fi standard.
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.
This new channel width is generally 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.
Details of Wi-Fi channels can be found 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, just from the width alone, a 4x4 broadcaster 6GHz Wi-Fi 7 can have up to 9.6 Gbps of bandwidth -- or 10Gbps when rounded up. But there's more to Wi-Fi 7's bandwidth below.
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 (16x16) Wi-Fi 7 6GHz band can deliver up to over 40Gbps of bandwidth, especially when considering the new QAM support below.
Like Wi-Fi 6 and 6E, initially, Wi-Fi 7 will be available as dual-stream (2x2) and quad-stream (4x4) broadcasters and dual-stream clients.
Going forward, the standard might have 8x8 broadcasters and single-stream or quad-stream clients.
Again, you need a compatible client to use the new 320MHz channel width. Existing clients will connect using 160MHz at best. 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 organic performance compared to Wi-Fi 6E when working on the 6GHz.
|Wi-Fi 6E||Wi-Fi 7|
|Max Channel Bandwidth|
|Number of Available Channels||7x 160MHz or 14x 80MHz channels||3x 320MHz or 6x 160MHz channels|
|Max Number |
of Spatial Streams
(theoretical on paper / commercially implemented)
|8 / 4||16 / 8 (estimate)|
|1202Mbps (at 160MHz)|
600Mbps (at 80Hz)
≈ 1.45 Gbps (at 160MHz)
|Max Band Bandwidth|
(theoretical on paper)
|Commercial Max Band Bandwidth Per Band|
|Actual Available Max Real-word Negotiated Speeds(*)||2402Mbps|
(via a 2x2 160MHz client )
(via a 2x2 80MHzclient)
|≈ 11.5Gbps |
(via a 4x4 320MHz client)
(via a 2x2 320MHz client or a 4x4 160MHz client)
(via a single stream 320MHz client or a 2x2 160MHz client)
(via a single stream 160MHz client or a 2x2 80MHz client)
(*) 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 2x2 clients. Wi-Fi 7 will also use 2x2 clients initially, but it might have 4x4 and even single-stream (1x1) clients.
3. Multi-Link Operation
Multi-Link Operation, or MLO, is the most exciting and promising feature of Wi-Fi 7 that changes the norm of Wi-Fi: Up to Wi-Fi 6E, a Wi-Fi connection between two direct devices occurs in a single band, using a fixed channel at a time.
In a nutshell, MLO is Wi-Fi band aggregation. Like Link Aggregation (or bonding) in wired networking, MLO allows combining two Wi-Fi bands, mostly 5GHz and 6GHz, into a single Wi-Fi network (SSID) and connection. The bonded link delivers higher bandwidth and reliability.
MLO only works at its full potential with Wi-Fi 7 clients, and in this case, it can be a game-changer in a wireless mesh network. 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.
But MLO is not all perfect -- a few things to keep in mind:
- MLO only works with Wi-Fi 7 clients. Older clients, such as Wi-Fi 6 or 6E, will still use a single band at a time when connecting to a MLO SSID.
- MLO requires the WPA3 encryption method and generally won't work with Wi-Fi 5 or older clients.
- The reach of the combined link (of 5GHz and 6GHz) is as far as the range of the shorter band.
By default, the 6GHz band has just about 75% of the range of the 5GHz when the same broadcasting power is applied. That said, MLO can only be truly meaningful with the help of Wi-Fi 7's next feature, Automated Frequency Coordination.
4. Automated Frequency Coordination
Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) applies only to the 6GHz band, which is the fastest yet the shortest range compared to the 5GHz and 2.4GHz. It's an optional feature -- it's not required for the general function of a Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster.
At any given time, there can be existing applications already using the spectrum. For example, fixed satellite services (FSS) or broadcast companies might have already had called dibs on certain parts of the 6GHz band. A new Wi-Fi broadcaster must not impact those existing services -- a concept similar to DFS channels in Wi-Fi 6 and 5.
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. Once that's established, the broadcaster creates a dynamically exclusive environment in which it can operate without the constraint of regulations like the case of Wi-Fi 6E and older standards.
Specifically, the support for AFC means each Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster can use more power and better flexible antenna designs. How much more? That depends.
But it's estimated that AFC can bring the broadcasting power up to 36 dBm (from the current 30 dBm max) or 4 watts (from 1 wat). It's safe to say AFC will help the 6GHz band to have a comparable range to the 5GHz band -- about 25% more.
Before you get all excited, this feature requires certification, and its availability is expected to vary from one region to another. It won't be available in the US before late 2023, if not after. All hardware released before that is said to be capable of handling AFC, which can be turned on via firmware updates.
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.
Until I can get my hands on the hardware, I consider the details sketchy. The table below includes what I've learned about the Nighthawk RS700, stacked against RAXE500, Netgear's previous top-tier Wi-Fi 6E router.
Hardware specifications: Netgear Nighthawk RS700 vs RAXE500
|Full Name||Netgear Nighthawk RS700 Wi-Fi 7 Router||Netgear RAXE500 |
Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6E Router
|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|
|5GHz Band Specs||4x4 5GHz BE:|
Up to 5.8Gbps
Up to 4.8Gbps
|6GHz Band Specs||4x4 BE: Up to 11.5Gbps|
Up to 4.8Gbps
|2.4GHz Band Specs||4x4 BE|
Up to 1.4Gbps
Up to 1.2Gbps
|Mobile App||Netgear Nighthawk||Netgear Nighthawk|
|Media Bridge Mode||No||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|
(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|
From the table, Wi-Fi 7 aside, it's obvious that the RS700 is a totally new device with a few extra cool stuff never before available in Netgear's Nighthawk family, namely the 10Gbps ports and built-in mesh feature.
First router with two 10Gbps ports
It's hard to believe, but the RS700 is Netgear's first broadcaster with two 10Gbps ports. A long list of existing routers from other networking vendors with two or even more Multi-Gig ports has existed. But better late than never on Netgear's part.
The RS700 also has four Gigabit ports and a USB 3.0 (a.k.a USB 3.2 Gen 1) port.
If you wonder why it doesn't feature a faster USB standard, such as USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps), to accommodate its 10Gbps ports and faster Wi-Fi speeds, that's the Wi-Fi chip's fault. Per Netgear, the RS700 is powered by Broadcom BCM67263/26 Wi-Fi 7 chips, first announced in April 2022.
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-Gigabit.
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. You'd be in the same broad if you get any other Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster.
In the meantime, as mentioned, the RS700 will work with all existing Wi-Fi clients -- you don't need to wait til Wi-Fi 7 is all there to enjoy it. And that can't be more true when considering 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
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 (supposedly) work with any (third-party) hardware that's Wi-Fi EasyMesh certified. That's the idea, anyway.
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 program hasn't caught on since first announced. By mid-2023, only Netgear has supposedly Wi-Fi EasyMesh-compliant mesh systems -- part of its Nighthawk product line. 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 mesh-ready feature is important for two reasons.
First, a mesh setup is the only real use of Wi-Fi 7 during the time there's no supported client, which can last longer than hardware availability since many homes won't get new devices.
Thanks to the better Wi-Fi outputs and more features, a Wi-Fi 7 mesh system likely improves 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 mesh-ready Wi-Fi 7 hardware.
Netgear also has a more popular proprietary mesh brand, the Orbi family, that relies heavily on the extra 5GHz band as the dedicated backhaul. This dedicated wireless backhaul approach might no longer be applicable with Wi-Fi, 7 considering its Multi-Link Operation feature.
Not everyone needs a mesh system, but having the option to turn a standalone router into a mesh member is the kind of flexibility everyone wouldn't mind having.
“Extra” Wi-Fi settings
And then the Nighthawk RS700 also comes with some gimmicks.
Netgear says the new router will also introduce a new way to organize the SSIDs -- the Wi-Fi network names.
Specifically, apart from the main SSID, the RS700 will have a separate Wi-Fi network with priority. 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 SSID designed for smart home devices as a convenient way to segment the network. You might hear all sorts of things about this IoT thing -- I wrote a long post on the topic. Keep in mind that, technically, it's just 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 the app, which requires 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.
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 late 2023 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. By then, the company might also have introduced its Wi-Fi 7 Orbi hardware.
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!