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

If you’re likely to shell out much more than $300 on a new router, then it’s reasonable to be expecting potent performance, superior-stop attributes and rapid, future-proofed speeds. And with guidance for up to 12 streams of wireless, Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, that is what the spacey-wanting Netgear Nighthawk AX12 (product RAX120) is supplying. At the moment readily available for about $400 (about £310 or AU$620), it’s an high priced, superior-driven solution for individuals wanting for an up grade, and you will find a great deal likely on underneath the hood to take into thought.


  • Considerably a lot quicker than comparable Wi-Fi 5 routers
  • LAN aggregation and multigig jack possibilities guidance incoming speeds of up to 5Gpbs
  • Very good VPN solution by using the Nighthawk world wide web interface

You should not Like

  • So-so band steering by using the SmartConnect feature
  • Slightly decreased top rated speeds than our speediest-tested Wi-Fi 6 router, which prices less

The wide see is that this is a twin-band router with guidance for the most recent, speediest edition of Wi-Fi and plenty of customization possibilities, especially if you want to use the matter to handle obtain 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 single-gig Ethernet jacks for aggregated incoming wired speeds of up to 2Gbps, this router will take some of the prevalent networking bottlenecks and busts correct through them.

That explained, the RAX120 is very best suited for state-of-the-art buyers completely ready to experiment with these multigig jacks correct now. If you’re just wanting for a Wi-Fi 6 router that’ll give a reliable link through your dwelling, there are very good choices out there, such as ones that expense less. We saw a lot quicker top rated speeds in our lab from the $269 TP-Website link Archer AX6000 and also from the before long-to-be-unveiled Asus RT-AX89X, which prices a minor much more at $450. Both equally of these outperformed the Nighthawk in my at-dwelling tests, also, and the exact goes for the $379 AmpliFi Alien — even though as of producing this, that router is mentioned as out of inventory on the Ubiquiti website. You are going to also come across a amount of new Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers this yr that could be a much improved in shape for individuals who’d want a thing easy that they will not require to assume about also much.

In other terms, I assume this router is probably overkill for most individuals — and the shaky SmartConnect feature, which only did a so-so occupation of steering me from band to band as I moved all-around in my dwelling, gives me some pause prior to recommending it for the rest of you. But if it’s speed you’re just after — and an stop to these pesky bottlenecks — then you can come across a great deal to like in the Nighthawk’s cockpit.

Killer seems to be

With its 8 antennas concealed in a modern set of fold-up wings, the RAX120 seems to be less like a router than like a thing Kylo Ren could zip across the galaxy in. Or it’s possible it’s the router Darkish Helmet would use aboard Spaceball Just one, if only due to the fact it could double as a prop throughout perform-time with his Spaceballs motion figures. I am relationship myself, most likely, but my level is that the matter seems to be futuristic (if not a bit aggressive, which looks to be the trend in superior-stop router style these days).

The RAX120 involves 4 gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, two of which can be aggregated to guidance put together incoming wired speeds of up to 2Gbps. In addition to the WAN port, you will find also a multigig port that supports incoming speeds of up to 5Gbps.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Convert the matter all-around and study the aft, and you can find out a fast set of Ethernet jacks, such as the WAN port, a multigig port and 4 gigabit LAN ports. You can wire two of these LAN ports to the exact server and incorporate their speeds to guidance transfer rates of up to 2Gbps, or just use that multigig port to see speeds of up to 5Gbps. That multigig port and these aggregate-ready LAN ports can also function in WAN manner, which means that this router will be ready to continue to keep up if your incoming world wide web speeds at any time increase past 1Gbps.

Which is a great deal of overall flexibility, and it opens up a total new entire world of wired networking. Just know that these a lot quicker connections will not do something to speed up a sluggish incoming sign. They’re a great piece of future-proofing, and wonderful if you program on wiring your router to a community server to transfer data files amongst personal computers on your network — but if you’re just wanting to hook up to the world wide web, they will not make much of a big difference anytime before long.

As for the internals, here is a quick components rundown:

  • 64-bit quad-main two.2GHz processor
  • two.4GHz AX: 4×4 (Tx/Rx), 1024 QAM, 20/40MHz
  • 5GHz AX: 8×8 (Tx/Rx), 1024 QAM, 20/40/eighty/160MHz
  • eight antennas, up to 12 Wi-Fi streams
  • 2x USB three. ports (storage only)
  • Proportions: 12.2×7.48×1.77 inches (310 x a hundred ninety x 45 mm)
  • Excess weight: three lbs (one,364 grams)

Good speeds

The RAX120 is an AX6000 twin-band router (a tri-band edition with a next 5GHz band, the RAX200, is readily available for about $100 much more). The “AX” in “AX6000” suggests that it supports Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), when the “6000” suggests the put together top rated theoretical speeds of each band. Netgear pegs these speeds at one,two hundred Mbps on the two.4GHz band and four,800 Mbps on the 5GHz band — but recall these numbers are centered on optimized, lab-centered tests that will not take issues like vary, interference and physical obstructions into account. Your true speeds will be much, much decreased. And you can only be ready to hook up to a person band at a time, lest that “6000” mislead you.

In our possess lab, the place we wire each router to a community server and then obtain data files wirelessly on a 2×2, Wi-Fi 6-outfitted laptop computer from different distances, we clocked the RAX120 with a top rated-sustained speed of one,263 Mbps on the 5GHz band. Speeds fell to about 818 Mbps when we increased the distance from 5 feet to 75 feet.

Individuals are fantastic numbers — each of them a few hundred Mbps a lot quicker than you can see with very much any Wi-Fi 5 router — but they’re not pretty as rapid as the speediest Wi-Fi 6 router we’ve tested yet, the TP-Website link Archer AX6000. That a person registered speeds of one,524 Mbps at 5 feet and 869 Mbps at 75 feet in the exact check, and it also kept speeds over one,000 Mbps at a midrange distance of 37.5 feet. The RAX120 did not — that suggests that TP-Website link could give improved vary, also.

The RAX120 delivered rapid obtain speeds through my dwelling, but the numbers fell sharply in that back again rest room, the farthest room from the router.

Ry Crist/CNET

My at-dwelling tests appeared to ensure this. Across several days of tests in the one,300 sq. ft., single story residence, the place I have an AT&T fiber world wide web link of 300 Mbps, the RAX120’s 5GHz band was ready to common speeds effectively over 250 Mbps in the bulk of the place, but speeds fell to 100 Mbps in my back again rest room. Which is the farthest room from the router and a prevalent dead location when I am tests a single-level router like this a person.

Thoughts you, 100 Mbps is a potent result, specifically when you look at it with the abundance of routers I’ve tested that have plummeted to single digits or dropped the sign outright back again there. Continue to, it was not as potent as the TP-Website link Archer AX6000, which returned an common back again rest room obtain speed just over one hundred fifty Mbps. The yet-to-be-unveiled Asus RT-AX89X, which is a person of the next routers I’ll review, did even improved, with a back again rest room common 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 single network, and then automatically steers your link amongst the two as you shift through your dwelling. 

Which is an captivating technique for many, but the feature was not flawless when I tested it out. At several points throughout my speed tests, the link would slide to two.4GHz speeds even when I was just a room away from the router and nonetheless effectively in 5GHz distance. The only way to get my speeds up the place I required was disconnect and reconnect. Recognize how my SmartConnect speed in the back again rest room splits the big difference amongst what I saw from the devoted two.four and 5GHz connections. Which is due to the fact roughly fifty percent the time, the program made a decision to hook up me to the a lot quicker 5GHz band. The other fifty percent of the time, it selected the two.4GHz band’s more powerful sign.

Which is much more of an annoyance than something, but it nonetheless points to inconsistent band-steering. You are going to have a much improved practical experience with a effectively-created mesh program that places band steering entrance and middle,. Amongst the ones that guidance Wi-Fi 6, I like the $450 Asus ZenWiFi AX the very best, but you have bought a great deal of new possibilities this yr that are worthy of a appear, also.

You are going to come across program controls and state-of-the-art attributes like a Excellent of Assistance engine and a VPN network in the Nighthawk’s world wide web portal.

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

Functions and other concerns

Speaking of mesh, it’s worthy of noting that the Nighthawk won’t make it as straightforward to use satellite devices to extend the vary of your setup as other routers. For occasion, many comparable Asus routers guidance a feature named AiMesh, which helps make it straightforward to cobble several networking devices with each other into a multipoint mesh setup. With the Nighthawk, you’re very much minimal to Netgear’s lineup of plug-in vary extenders.

The Nighthawk application delivers quick, primary controls for your program, and it does a very good occupation of strolling you through the setup course of action in quick manner.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

The RAX120 supports denial of support protection and the hottest WPA3 encryption. It also allows you block particular web sites or services outright or on a program. It won’t contain a traffic-scanning danger detector, even though. Which is a minor odd, as former-gen Nighthawk and Orbi routers ship with guidance for Netgear Armor, a set of cybersecurity resources driven by BitDefender.

Continue to, the RAX120 does contain its possess Excellent of Assistance engine, which you can personalize very very easily from the Nighthawk world wide web portal to prioritize traffic to selected devices and use cases. There is also an solution for connecting through PureVPN in get to mask your IP tackle as you use the world wide web. Which is a person of our favorite VPN services — its privacy coverage states it won’t log link data, and it was the first VPN we observed to absolutely put into action Europe’s privacy-minded GDPR regulations.

As for the Nighthawk application, it helps make quick do the job of setup and delivers primary program controls, such as the solution to run a quick speed check. There usually are not a total great deal of state-of-the-art configurations to dig through, even though — for that, you can want to hook up with the router by using your browser.

The verdict

Netgear’s Wi-Fi 6 Nighthawk routers were some of the first 802.11ax routers to strike the market place final yr. They’re nonetheless an captivating up grade solution in 2020 — especially if you assume you can be ready to get very good use out of these multigig link abilities.

Which is a reasonably slender subset of the router-shopping for populace, even though. If you’re just wanting for a rapid, reliable up grade that supports Wi-Fi 6, you can most likely get away with spending less. For that purpose, the TP-Website link Archer AX6000 is nonetheless my Wi-Fi 6 router of preference — at less than $300, it’s the improved stability amongst price and performance.