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SNB Forums member mediatrek shared details of the R7500's innards from photos posted in this KoolShare post. The hardware photos require a KoolShare login, which mediatrek managed to get.

Like the ASUS RT-AC87, the R7500 uses a multi-processor architecture. Rather than using a Broadcom BCM4709, NETGEAR opted to use a 1.4 GHz dual-core Qualcomm IPQ8064 Internet Processor and QCA9880 3-stream 802.11ac radio solution for the 2.4 GHz radio.

We've seen the QCA9880 in many AC1900 class designs including D-Link's DGL-5500 and TP-LINK's Archer C7. The R7500's 5 GHz side is the same Quantenna QSR1000, which consists of QT3840BC baseband and QT2518B RF devices. The photo below shows the RF shields in place and a thermal pad on the left shield that must couple to a heatsink. None of the photos mediatrek posted show 2.4 or 5 GHz power amplifiers. But I would be very surprised if the design did not have them.

R7500 board top

R7500 board top (courtesy KoolShare via Mediatrek)

The R7500's combination of side and rear panel antenna locations and plastic "paddle" antenna cases caused the need for three antenna flavors. Each antenna is labeled and needs to be installed on its like-numbered connector on the router. NETGEAR said all four antennas are electrically identical dual-band. The different styles are just to ensure the router looks nice when all antennas are installed.

R7500 antennas

R7500 antennas

Table 1 has a summary of the R7500 and ASUS RT-AC87 key components.

CPU Qualcomm dual-core IPQ8064 Internet Processor @ 1.4 GHz Broadcom BCM4709A
Switch Qualcomm Atheros QCA8337 in BCM4709A
RAM 256 MB 256 MB
Flash 128 MB 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - QCA9880 3-stream 802.11ac radio solution - Broadcom BCM4360 (3x3 ac)
5 GHz radio - Quantenna QSR1000 (4x4 ac) - Quantenna QSR1000 (4x4 ac)
Table 1: Component summary

One interesting design detail is that the R7500 uses the IPQ8064's PCIe buses to connect both radios. The ASUS RT-AC87U/R connects its Broadcom 2.4 GHz radio via PCIe and the Quantenna 5 GHz subsystem via slower RGMII. Another interesting factoid is that the QCA9880 2.4 GHz radio does not support AC-standard beamforming. So "explicit" beamforming is in play only on the 5 GHz side.

In Use

The R7500 runs NETGEAR's genie router OS that has been around a few years. As has been pointed out in the Forums, the admin GUI is somewhat slow and boot time is long.

We listed genie's feature set in the R8000 review and the WNDR3800 review covers most of what genie can do, although some features and interfaces have changed.

For example, the OpenDNS-based Parental Controls can no longer be configured in the browser-based admin interface. You need to download one of the apps shown below, open an OpenDNS account if you don't have one and do all configuration from the genie app.

Parental Controls

Parental Controls

OpenVPN VPN was added awhile back to provide secure remote access to the router's network, as was IPv6 support.

With Qualcomm's Internet Processor comes its StreamBoost bandwidth shaping, or as NETGEAR calls it, "Dynamic QoS". We covered StreamBoost in its own article (Does Qualcomm's StreamBoost Really Work?) and found it lived up to its claims. The main difference in the R7500's implementation appears to be that StreamBoost's updates come from NETGEAR's servers vs. Qualcomm's.

Dynamic QoS screen

Dynamic QoS screen

NETGEAR treats StreamBoost as pretty much a black box. You can change the names of devices from the defaults using the Edit button in the Attached Devices screen shown below. But you can't change priority or bandwidth distribution and you can't drill down to see bandwidth use by service / application as D-LINK's DGL-5500 allows.

Attached Devices screen

Attached Devices screen
Update 9/25/2014

An alert reader told us transmit power control is provided in the Advanced > Wireless Settings page for the 2.4 GHz radio. To enable transmit power control for the 5 GHz radio, you must uncheck the Enable BEAMFORMING box.

Storage Performance

NETGEAR told me to expect high storage performance from the R7500 and that's what I found. For testing, I unchecked the Enable Media Server, Enable TiVo support and Enable iTunes Server checkboxes on the Media Server settings page so that they wouldn't index test files and interfere with testing.

Our standard Startech USB 3.0 eSATA to SATA Hard Drive Docking Station [SATDOCKU3SEF] with a WD Velociraptor WD3000HLFS 300 GB drive was used to test file copy performance. The drive was formatted with FAT32 and NTFS volumes and connected via both USB 3.0 and eSATA. The R7500 has no USB 2.0 ports.

Table 2 summarizes USB 3.0 performance and includes the ASUS RT-AC87U/R and a few other recent top-of-line routers. It looks like NETGEAR has primarily focused on pushing read performance because that's where its strongest results are found. At only 29 MBytes/sec, FAT32 write is pretty disappointing, especially when compared to the RT-AC87 and Linksys WRT1900AC's results. Highest performance of 84 MB/s was measured for NTFS reads.

Processor QCA IPQ8064 Broadcom BCM4709A Broadcom BCM4709A Marvell MV78230
FAT32 Write (MBytes/s) 28.9 50.2** 31.9 61.1
FAT32 Read (MBytes/s) 79.6 69.5** 73.9 76.5
NTFS Write (MBytes/s) 40.9 49.1** 39.3 66.7
NTFS Read (MBytes/s) 83.7 68.1** 73.5 75.1
Table 2: File copy throughput - USB 3.0 (MBytes/sec)
** = "Reducing USB 3.0 interference" setting disabled

The R7500 is the only router with an eSATA connection, so Table 3 includes only its results. FAT32 write is again the R7500's Achilles' Heel at a mere 30 MB/s. But 95 MB/s FAT32 and 100 MB/s NTFS reads set a new router storage performance high!

Processor QCA IPQ8064
FAT32 Write (MBytes/s) 29.9
FAT32 Read (MBytes/s) 95.1
NTFS Write (MBytes/s) 38.9
NTFS Read (MBytes/s) 100.3
Table 3: File copy throughput - eSATA (MBytes/sec)

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