Warp speed from this Wi-Fi 6 router? Not quite

If you might be going to spend extra than $three hundred on a new router,

If you might be going to spend extra than $three hundred on a new router, then it really is honest to expect strong performance, high-finish options and rapidly, potential-proofed speeds. And with support for up to 12 streams of wireless, Wi-Fi six connectivity, that’s what the spacey-searching Netgear Nighthawk AX12 (model RAX120) is providing. At the moment obtainable for about $400 (about £310 or AU$620), it really is an costly, high-driven choice for people searching for an improve, and there is a good deal going on below the hood to choose into thing to consider.

Like

  • Considerably speedier than similar Wi-Fi 5 routers
  • LAN aggregation and multigig jack alternatives support incoming speeds of up to 5Gpbs
  • Superior VPN choice via the Nighthawk world wide web interface

Do not Like

  • So-so band steering via the SmartConnect characteristic
  • A bit reduced leading speeds than our speediest-examined Wi-Fi six router, which prices a lot less

The wide check out is that this is a dual-band router with support for the latest, speediest version of Wi-Fi and heaps of customization alternatives, especially if you want to use the point to regulate entry to networked storage. With a multigig LAN/WAN port that supports incoming speeds of up to 5Gbps and the choice to combine two of the solitary-gig Ethernet jacks for aggregated incoming wired speeds of up to 2Gbps, this router requires some of the popular networking bottlenecks and busts ideal via them.

That reported, the RAX120 is ideal suited for sophisticated customers all set to experiment with all those multigig jacks ideal now. If you might be just searching for a Wi-Fi six router that’ll present a reputable relationship in the course of your property, there are very good choices out there, such as kinds that expense a lot less. We observed speedier leading speeds in our lab from the $269 TP-Website link Archer AX6000 and also from the soon-to-be-released Asus RT-AX89X, which prices a small extra at $450. Both of those of all those outperformed the Nighthawk in my at-property exams, also, and the similar goes for the $379 AmpliFi Alien — however as of crafting this, that router is outlined as out of stock on the Ubiquiti internet site. You are going to also find a amount of new Wi-Fi six mesh routers this 12 months that could possibly be a a great deal improved in good shape for people who’d desire something very simple that they really don’t need to imagine about also a great deal.

In other phrases, I imagine this router is most likely overkill for most individuals — and the shaky SmartConnect characteristic, which only did a so-so task of steering me from band to band as I moved all-around in my property, gives me some pause before recommending it for the rest of you. But if it really is pace you might be after — and an finish to all those pesky bottlenecks — then you can find a good deal to like in the Nighthawk’s cockpit.

Killer appears to be

With its 8 antennas hidden within just a modern established of fold-up wings, the RAX120 appears to be a lot less like a router than like something Kylo Ren could possibly zip across the galaxy in. Or perhaps it really is the router Darkish Helmet would use aboard Spaceball One particular, if only for the reason that it could double as a prop through participate in-time with his Spaceballs motion figures. I’m courting myself, probably, but my point is that the point appears to be futuristic (if not a bit aggressive, which looks to be the trend in high-finish router style these days).

The RAX120 contains 4 gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, two of which can be aggregated to support combined incoming wired speeds of up to 2Gbps. In addition to the WAN port, there is also a multigig port that supports incoming speeds of up to 5Gbps.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Turn the point all-around and study the aft, and you can learn a speedy established of Ethernet jacks, such as the WAN port, a multigig port and 4 gigabit LAN ports. You can wire two of all those LAN ports to the similar server and combine their speeds to support transfer charges of up to 2Gbps, or just use that multigig port to see speeds of up to 5Gbps. That multigig port and all those aggregate-ready LAN ports can also function in WAN method, which usually means that this router will be ready to preserve up if your incoming net speeds ever rise earlier 1Gbps.

That is a good deal of adaptability, and it opens up a total new earth of wired networking. Just know that all those speedier connections would not do anything at all to pace up a sluggish incoming sign. They are a awesome piece of potential-proofing, and terrific if you system on wiring your router to a neighborhood server to transfer data files in between pcs on your community — but if you might be just searching to hook up to the net, they would not make a great deal of a distinction whenever soon.

As for the internals, here’s a swift hardware rundown:

  • 64-bit quad-core 2.2GHz processor
  • 2.4GHz AX: 4×4 (Tx/Rx), 1024 QAM, 20/40MHz
  • 5GHz AX: 8×8 (Tx/Rx), 1024 QAM, 20/40/80/160MHz
  • 8 antennas, up to 12 Wi-Fi streams
  • 2x USB three. ports (storage only)
  • Dimensions: 12.2×7.48×1.seventy seven inches (310 x 190 x forty five mm)
  • Bodyweight: three lbs (one,364 grams)

First rate speeds

The RAX120 is an AX6000 dual-band router (a tri-band version with a 2nd 5GHz band, the RAX200, is obtainable for about $a hundred extra). The “AX” in “AX6000” signifies that it supports Wi-Fi six (802.11ax), though the “6000” signifies the combined leading theoretical speeds of each individual band. Netgear pegs all those speeds at one,two hundred Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and four,800 Mbps on the 5GHz band — but recall all those figures are based mostly on optimized, lab-based mostly exams that really don’t choose factors like variety, interference and actual physical obstructions into account. Your real speeds will be a great deal, a great deal reduced. And you can only be ready to hook up to 1 band at a time, lest that “6000” mislead you.

In our individual lab, where we wire each individual router to a neighborhood server and then obtain data files wirelessly on a 2×2, Wi-Fi six-outfitted notebook from many distances, we clocked the RAX120 with a leading-sustained pace of one,263 Mbps on the 5GHz band. Speeds fell to about 818 Mbps when we greater the distance from 5 feet to seventy five feet.

People are great figures — each individual of them a couple of hundred Mbps speedier than you can see with really a great deal any Wi-Fi 5 router — but they are not fairly as rapidly as the speediest Wi-Fi six router we’ve examined but, the TP-Website link Archer AX6000. That 1 registered speeds of one,524 Mbps at 5 feet and 869 Mbps at seventy five feet in the similar check, and it also held speeds above one,000 Mbps at a midrange distance of 37.5 feet. The RAX120 did not — that implies that TP-Website link could possibly give improved variety, also.

The RAX120 sent rapidly obtain speeds in the course of my property, but the figures fell sharply in that back lavatory, the farthest place from the router.


Ry Crist/CNET

My at-property exams appeared to verify this. Throughout numerous days of exams in the one,three hundred sq. ft., solitary story home, where I have an AT&T fiber net relationship of three hundred Mbps, the RAX120’s 5GHz band was ready to typical speeds well above 250 Mbps in the greater part of the space, but speeds fell to a hundred Mbps in my back lavatory. That is the farthest place from the router and a popular useless spot when I’m screening a solitary-point router like this 1.

Thoughts you, a hundred Mbps is a strong outcome, especially when you assess it with the abundance of routers I’ve examined that have plummeted to solitary digits or dropped the sign outright back there. Even now, it wasn’t as strong as the TP-Website link Archer AX6000, which returned an typical back lavatory obtain pace just above a hundred and fifty Mbps. The but-to-be-released Asus RT-AX89X, which is 1 of the following routers I will critique, did even improved, with a back lavatory typical of 191 Mbps.

But the Nighthawk router has a trick that Asus model lacks, and that’s SmartConnect — it combines the two bands into a solitary community, and then mechanically steers your relationship in between the two as you shift via your property. 

That is an appealing strategy for quite a few, but the characteristic wasn’t flawless when I examined it out. At numerous factors through my pace exams, the relationship would tumble to 2.4GHz speeds even when I was just a place away from the router and nevertheless well within just 5GHz distance. The only way to get my speeds up where I preferred was disconnect and reconnect. Discover how my SmartConnect pace in the back lavatory splits the distinction in between what I observed from the devoted 2.four and 5GHz connections. That is for the reason that roughly 50 % the time, the process resolved to hook up me to the speedier 5GHz band. The other 50 % of the time, it selected the 2.4GHz band’s more robust sign.

That is extra of an annoyance than anything at all, but it nevertheless factors to inconsistent band-steering. You are going to have a a great deal improved working experience with a well-formulated mesh process that puts band steering front and centre,. Amid the kinds that support Wi-Fi six, I like the $450 Asus ZenWiFi AX the ideal, but you’ve got received a good deal of new alternatives this 12 months that are value a seem, also.

You are going to find process controls and sophisticated options like a Quality of Company motor and a VPN community in the Nighthawk’s world wide web portal.


Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

Options and other criteria

Talking of mesh, it really is value noting that the Nighthawk isn’t going to make it as uncomplicated to use satellite products to prolong the variety of your set up as other routers. For occasion, quite a few similar Asus routers support a characteristic referred to as AiMesh, which will make it uncomplicated to cobble numerous networking products jointly into a multipoint mesh set up. With the Nighthawk, you might be really a great deal restricted to Netgear’s lineup of plug-in variety extenders.

The Nighthawk application presents swift, standard controls for your process, and it does a very good task of strolling you via the set up system in swift fashion.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

The RAX120 supports denial of company safety and the newest WPA3 encryption. It also lets you block particular websites or expert services outright or on a agenda. It isn’t going to include things like a traffic-scanning danger detector, however. That is a small odd, as earlier-gen Nighthawk and Orbi routers ship with support for Netgear Armor, a established of cybersecurity tools driven by BitDefender.

Even now, the RAX120 does include things like its individual Quality of Company motor, which you can personalize really conveniently from the Nighthawk world wide web portal to prioritize traffic to sure products and use cases. There is also an choice for connecting via PureVPN in purchase to mask your IP address as you use the world wide web. That is 1 of our favorite VPN expert services — its privacy policy claims it isn’t going to log relationship details, and it was the to start with VPN we pointed out to absolutely employ Europe’s privacy-minded GDPR polices.

As for the Nighthawk application, it will make swift function of set up and presents standard process controls, such as the choice to operate a swift pace check. There usually are not a total good deal of sophisticated configurations to dig via, however — for that, you can want to hook up with the router via your browser.

The verdict

Netgear’s Wi-Fi six Nighthawk routers were being some of the to start with 802.11ax routers to hit the current market last 12 months. They are nevertheless an appealing improve choice in 2020 — especially if you imagine you can be ready to get very good use out of all those multigig relationship abilities.

That is a pretty slim subset of the router-obtaining populace, however. If you might be just searching for a rapidly, reputable improve that supports Wi-Fi six, you can likely get away with paying a lot less. For that purpose, the TP-Website link Archer AX6000 is nevertheless my Wi-Fi six router of alternative — at a lot less than $three hundred, it really is the improved stability in between value and performance.