Netgear Nighthawk M5 Router Review: Wildly Expensive, but Powerful

Since I moved out of my home in Athens, Georgia, in 2017 and into an RV (and later a rural farmhouse), I’ve relied solely 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 machine, all of the MVNO plans I’ve used require you to convey your personal machine. (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 received 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 readily available, it lacks a built-in battery, which is useful while you’re touring.

Enter the Nighthawk M5, the newest 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 worth enhance too—it is now a hefty $800. Still, should you rely upon cell broadband for web, it could be definitely worth the funding.

Rural Broadband Needs a Hot Spot

If you could have good cable, DSL, or fiber web coming to your private home, there is not any motive to get a cell scorching spot. But should 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 private home (or RV), far longer battery life, and permits extra gadgets on the community than utilizing your cellphone. You do not want a cell scorching spot, but it certain is good to have.

As with all issues cell, we recommend shopping for the Netgear Nighthawk M5 unlocked so you should use it on no matter networks you like. Most of the listings I’ve seen for the M5 are unlocked, but I anticipate AT&T will finally provide a locked model. (It has completed so with all of the earlier Nighthawk M-series routers.) I examined the M5 utilizing an AT&T chip supplied 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 function of the Nighthawk M5 is that it helps C-band 5G, which supplies you higher 5G reception (in case your service helps C-band). What you aren’t getting is mmWave 5G. That’ll be a unfavourable for anybody wanting to make use of the M5 in a metropolis the place mmWave is supported. But for rural areas, I feel 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 comfortable to swap it for higher antenna assist for the frequencies that truly can be found in my space.

The M5 within the Wild

The Nighthawk M5 is in regards to 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 except 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 machine.

On high of the M5 is a small 2.5-inch touchscreen show that gives management over a lot of the settings you will frequently use, together with establishing your community and controlling which gadgets are linked. For superior settings you possibly can connect 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 linked and personalizing my community data. Once it was arrange, I had no bother connecting any gadgets. I turned to the web-based interface for extra sophisticated duties like altering the IP vary for gadgets or utilizing a customized DHCP server. There are additionally cell apps for iOS and Android.

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