April 17, 2024


The Internet Generation

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

If you happen to be heading to devote more than $three hundred on a new router, then it’s good to hope powerful performance, high-finish options and speedy, future-proofed speeds. And with assist for up to twelve streams of wireless, Wi-Fi six connectivity, that is what the spacey-seeking Netgear Nighthawk AX12 (product RAX120) is supplying. Currently offered for about $400 (about £310 or AU$620), it’s an high-priced, high-driven solution for folks seeking for an upgrade, and there is certainly a whole lot heading on underneath the hood to just take into thing to consider.


  • Considerably a lot quicker than equivalent Wi-Fi five routers
  • LAN aggregation and multigig jack options assist incoming speeds of up to 5Gpbs
  • Good VPN solution by using the Nighthawk net interface

Never Like

  • So-so band steering by using the SmartConnect function
  • Slightly decrease prime speeds than our fastest-examined Wi-Fi six router, which fees fewer

The broad view is that this is a dual-band router with assist for the latest, fastest version of Wi-Fi and a lot of customization options, specially if you want to use the factor to control accessibility to networked storage. With a multigig LAN/WAN port that supports incoming speeds of up to 5Gbps and the solution to incorporate two of the one-gig Ethernet jacks for aggregated incoming wired speeds of up to 2Gbps, this router will take some of the common networking bottlenecks and busts ideal as a result of them.

That said, the RAX120 is greatest suited for innovative consumers all set to experiment with individuals multigig jacks ideal now. If you happen to be just seeking for a Wi-Fi six router that’ll deliver a trusted connection during your house, there are very good solutions out there, including kinds that price tag fewer. We observed a lot quicker prime speeds in our lab from the $269 TP-Hyperlink Archer AX6000 and also from the shortly-to-be-launched Asus RT-AX89X, which fees a minimal more at $450. Both equally of individuals outperformed the Nighthawk in my at-house exams, also, and the very same goes for the $379 AmpliFi Alien — though as of producing this, that router is listed as out of stock on the Ubiquiti web site. You are going to also find a number of new Wi-Fi six mesh routers this 12 months that may well be a a great deal far better match for folks who’d prefer a little something basic that they will not have to have to consider about also a great deal.

In other terms, I consider this router is most likely overkill for most folks — and the shaky SmartConnect function, which only did a so-so task of steering me from band to band as I moved about in my house, gives me some pause prior to recommending it for the relaxation of you. But if it’s velocity you happen to be soon after — and an finish to individuals pesky bottlenecks — then you will find a whole lot to like in the Nighthawk’s cockpit.

Killer looks

With its eight antennas hidden in just a smooth established of fold-up wings, the RAX120 looks fewer like a router than like a little something Kylo Ren may well zip throughout the galaxy in. Or it’s possible it’s the router Dark Helmet would use aboard Spaceball A person, if only because it could double as a prop in the course of participate in-time with his Spaceballs motion figures. I am courting myself, potentially, but my point is that the factor looks futuristic (if not a bit aggressive, which looks to be the pattern in high-finish router layout these times).

The RAX120 incorporates four gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, two of which can be aggregated to assist blended incoming wired speeds of up to 2Gbps. In addition to the WAN port, there is certainly also a multigig port that supports incoming speeds of up to 5Gbps.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Change the factor about and look at the aft, and you will explore a fast established of Ethernet jacks, including the WAN port, a multigig port and four gigabit LAN ports. You can wire two of individuals LAN ports to the very same server and incorporate their speeds to assist transfer charges of up to 2Gbps, or just use that multigig port to see speeds of up to 5Gbps. That multigig port and individuals combination-capable LAN ports can also operate in WAN mode, which indicates that this router will be capable to continue to keep up if your incoming internet speeds at any time rise past 1Gbps.

Which is a whole lot of flexibility, and it opens up a complete new environment of wired networking. Just know that individuals a lot quicker connections will not do something to velocity up a slow incoming sign. They’re a good piece of future-proofing, and great if you system on wiring your router to a community server to transfer files in between personal computers on your network — but if you happen to be just seeking to join to the internet, they will not make a great deal of a difference whenever shortly.

As for the internals, here is a rapid hardware rundown:

  • 64-bit quad-core two.2GHz processor
  • two.4GHz AX: 4×4 (Tx/Rx), 1024 QAM, 20/40MHz
  • 5GHz AX: 8×8 (Tx/Rx), 1024 QAM, 20/40/80/160MHz
  • eight antennas, up to twelve Wi-Fi streams
  • 2x USB 3. ports (storage only)
  • Dimensions: twelve.2×7.48×1.77 inches (310 x one hundred ninety x forty five mm)
  • Pounds: 3 lbs (1,364 grams)

First rate speeds

The RAX120 is an AX6000 dual-band router (a tri-band version with a next 5GHz band, the RAX200, is offered for about $a hundred more). The “AX” in “AX6000” suggests that it supports Wi-Fi six (802.11ax), when the “6000” suggests the blended prime theoretical speeds of each individual band. Netgear pegs individuals speeds at 1,two hundred Mbps on the two.4GHz band and four,800 Mbps on the 5GHz band — but bear in mind individuals figures are based on optimized, lab-based exams that will not just take items like array, interference and bodily obstructions into account. Your genuine speeds will be a great deal, a great deal decrease. And you will only be capable to join to one band at a time, lest that “6000” mislead you.

In our own lab, exactly where we wire each individual router to a community server and then download files wirelessly on a 2×2, Wi-Fi six-outfitted laptop computer from several distances, we clocked the RAX120 with a prime-sustained velocity of 1,263 Mbps on the 5GHz band. Speeds fell to about 818 Mbps when we greater the length from five ft to 75 ft.

Individuals are great figures — each individual of them a number of hundred Mbps a lot quicker than you will see with very a great deal any Wi-Fi five router — but they’re not fairly as speedy as the fastest Wi-Fi six router we’ve examined but, the TP-Hyperlink Archer AX6000. That one registered speeds of 1,524 Mbps at five ft and 869 Mbps at 75 ft in the very same take a look at, and it also kept speeds over 1,000 Mbps at a midrange length of 37.five ft. The RAX120 did not — that implies that TP-Hyperlink may well supply far better array, also.

The RAX120 shipped speedy download speeds during my house, but the figures fell sharply in that again bathroom, the farthest place from the router.

Ry Crist/CNET

My at-house exams appeared to verify this. Throughout multiple times of exams in the 1,three hundred sq. ft., one story property, exactly where I have an AT&T fiber internet connection of three hundred Mbps, the RAX120’s 5GHz band was capable to normal speeds well over 250 Mbps in the the greater part of the area, but speeds fell to a hundred Mbps in my again bathroom. Which is the farthest place from the router and a common useless spot when I am screening a one-point router like this one.

Head you, a hundred Mbps is a powerful end result, specially when you examine it with the abundance of routers I have examined that have plummeted to one digits or dropped the sign outright again there. Nonetheless, it was not as powerful as the TP-Hyperlink Archer AX6000, which returned an normal again bathroom download velocity just over a hundred and fifty Mbps. The but-to-be-launched Asus RT-AX89X, which is one of the upcoming routers I will critique, did even far better, with a again bathroom normal of 191 Mbps.

But the Nighthawk router has a trick that Asus product lacks, and that is SmartConnect — it brings together the two bands into a one network, and then mechanically steers your connection in between the two as you move as a result of your house. 

Which is an attractive technique for many, but the function was not flawless when I examined it out. At multiple factors in the course of my velocity exams, the connection would tumble to two.4GHz speeds even when I was just a place away from the router and even now well in just 5GHz length. The only way to get my speeds up exactly where I desired was disconnect and reconnect. See how my SmartConnect velocity in the again bathroom splits the difference in between what I observed from the committed two.four and 5GHz connections. Which is because around fifty percent the time, the procedure made a decision to join me to the a lot quicker 5GHz band. The other fifty percent of the time, it chose the two.4GHz band’s much better sign.

Which is more of an annoyance than something, but it even now factors to inconsistent band-steering. You are going to have a a great deal far better working experience with a well-created mesh procedure that places band steering front and heart,. Among the kinds that assist Wi-Fi six, I like the $450 Asus ZenWiFi AX the greatest, but you’ve got bought a whole lot of new options this 12 months that are well worth a look, also.

You are going to find procedure controls and innovative options like a Good quality of Company motor and a VPN network in the Nighthawk’s net portal.

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

Capabilities and other criteria

Speaking of mesh, it’s well worth noting that the Nighthawk isn’t going to make it as effortless to use satellite devices to lengthen the array of your setup as other routers. For occasion, many equivalent Asus routers assist a function named AiMesh, which helps make it effortless to cobble multiple networking devices together into a multipoint mesh setup. With the Nighthawk, you happen to be very a great deal constrained to Netgear’s lineup of plug-in array extenders.

The Nighthawk app features rapid, basic controls for your procedure, and it does a very good task of strolling you as a result of the setup system in rapid vogue.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

The RAX120 supports denial of assistance protection and the most current WPA3 encryption. It also lets you block distinct websites or services outright or on a plan. It isn’t going to contain a site visitors-scanning threat detector, though. Which is a minimal odd, as past-gen Nighthawk and Orbi routers ship with assist for Netgear Armor, a established of cybersecurity tools driven by BitDefender.

Nonetheless, the RAX120 does contain its own Good quality of Company motor, which you can customize very conveniently from the Nighthawk net portal to prioritize site visitors to selected devices and use situations. You will find also an solution for connecting as a result of PureVPN in get to mask your IP address as you use the net. Which is one of our preferred VPN services — its privateness coverage states it isn’t going to log connection information and facts, and it was the initial VPN we noted to thoroughly put into practice Europe’s privateness-minded GDPR rules.

As for the Nighthawk app, it helps make rapid operate of setup and features basic procedure controls, including the solution to operate a rapid velocity take a look at. There aren’t a complete whole lot of innovative settings to dig as a result of, though — for that, you will want to join with the router by using your browser.

The verdict

Netgear’s Wi-Fi six Nighthawk routers ended up some of the initial 802.11ax routers to hit the industry very last 12 months. They’re even now an attractive upgrade solution in 2020 — specially if you consider you will be capable to get very good use out of individuals multigig connection abilities.

Which is a relatively slender subset of the router-buying populace, though. If you happen to be just seeking for a speedy, trusted upgrade that supports Wi-Fi six, you can possible get away with paying out fewer. For that cause, the TP-Hyperlink Archer AX6000 is even now my Wi-Fi six router of alternative — at fewer than $three hundred, it’s the far better balance in between worth and performance.