Netgear Nighthawk M5 Router Review: Wildly Expensive, but Powerful

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Since I moved out of my home in Athens, Georgia, in 2017 and into an RV (and later a rural farmhouse), I’ve relied completely on cell broadband for my connectivity. I began off with a Verizon MiFi scorching spot but rapidly realized it wasn’t sufficient. I purchased an MVNO plan with limitless information on AT&T, and later I added an identical—although with information caps—plan on T-Mobile.

With the exception of the Verizon gadget, all of the MVNO plans I’ve used require you to convey your individual gadget. (MVNOs, or cell digital community operators, are carriers that do not have their very own wi-fi networks.) You can technically use your cellphone for this. I’ve, and nonetheless do with Google Fi, but my web expertise took a flip for the higher after I bought the Netgear Nighthawk M1 router. With an Ethernet port and MIMO antenna ports to enhance reception by way of a third-party antenna, I used to be in a position to squeeze extra out of the restricted community speeds you get in rural America.

I nonetheless use the M1. In truth I’ll be importing this story utilizing the M1. But after dropping it and cracking the case, I can not use the Ethernet port. And whereas I just like the Gl.inet Spitz (7/10, WIRED Recommends) I nonetheless have available, it lacks a built-in battery, which is helpful while you’re touring.

Enter the Nighthawk M5, the most recent mannequin in Netgear’s 4/5G router line. It’s basically the M1 but with a touchscreen and 5G assist. Unfortunately, it will get a value enhance too—it is now a hefty $800. Still, in case you rely upon cell broadband for web, it might be definitely worth the funding.

Rural Broadband Needs a Hot Spot

If you’ve gotten good cable, DSL, or fiber web coming to your own home, there is no purpose to get a cell scorching spot. But in case you dwell in a rural space the place cell broadband is the one possibility, a cell scorching spot just like the Nighthawk M5 offers you with a lot better wi-fi vary round your own home (or RV), far longer battery life, and permits extra units on the community than utilizing your cellphone. You do not want a cell scorching spot, but it certain is sweet to have.

As with all issues cell, we propose shopping for the Netgear Nighthawk M5 unlocked so you should use it on no matter networks you favor. Most of the listings I’ve seen for the M5 are unlocked, but I count on AT&T will finally provide a locked model. (It has executed so with all of the earlier Nighthawk M-series routers.) I examined the M5 utilizing an AT&T chip offered by Netgear and a T-Mobile chip I pay for; the M5 is certified to work with AT&T, but it additionally helps T-Mobile.

The finest characteristic of the Nighthawk M5 is that it helps C-band 5G, which supplies you higher 5G reception (in case your provider helps C-band). What you do not get is mmWave 5G. That’ll be a destructive for anybody wanting to make use of the M5 in a metropolis the place mmWave is supported. But for rural areas, I believe the shortage of mmWave assist is an efficient factor. To use it, the M5 would want to assist totally different radio frequencies, which might imply no MIMO antenna assist. Since mmWave is sort of nonexistent outdoors of cities, I’m glad to swap it for higher antenna assist for the frequencies that really can be found in my space.

The M5 within the Wild

The Nighthawk M5 is concerning the dimension of a slice of American cheese and an inch thick. It’s barely bigger and thicker than the M1, although not sufficient that you simply’d discover until they’re facet by facet. Like its predecessors, the M5 is a sq., black plastic hockey puck with an Ethernet port, a USB 3.1 Gen-2 port for charging and tethering, and TS-9 antenna ports on the again of the gadget.

On prime of the M5 is a small 2.5-inch touchscreen show that provides management over a lot of the settings you may repeatedly use, together with establishing your community and controlling which units are related. For superior settings you may hook up with Netgear’s configuration panel in your browser.

Setting up the M5 by way of the touchscreen was extremely easy, and I had no points getting related and personalizing my community information. Once it was arrange, I had no hassle connecting any units. I turned to the web-based interface for extra sophisticated duties like altering the IP vary for units or utilizing a customized DHCP server. There are additionally cell apps for iOS and Android.

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