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

If you might be likely to devote a lot more than $three hundred on a new router, then it is truthful to expect strong general performance, superior-finish capabilities and fast, future-proofed speeds. And with help for up to 12 streams of wireless, Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, that’s what the spacey-looking Netgear Nighthawk AX12 (design RAX120) is featuring. At this time accessible for about $400 (about £310 or AU$620), it is an highly-priced, superior-run alternative for folks looking for an update, and you can find a great deal likely on under the hood to acquire into consideration.


  • Noticeably more quickly than equivalent Wi-Fi 5 routers
  • LAN aggregation and multigig jack solutions help incoming speeds of up to 5Gpbs
  • Very good VPN alternative via the Nighthawk world-wide-web interface

You should not Like

  • So-so band steering via the SmartConnect attribute
  • A little bit lower top speeds than our fastest-examined Wi-Fi 6 router, which expenses significantly less

The broad check out is that this is a dual-band router with help for the latest, fastest model of Wi-Fi and loads of customization solutions, especially if you want to use the factor to control access to networked storage. With a multigig LAN/WAN port that supports incoming speeds of up to 5Gbps and the alternative to merge two of the one-gig Ethernet jacks for aggregated incoming wired speeds of up to 2Gbps, this router normally takes some of the prevalent networking bottlenecks and busts correct by them.

That explained, the RAX120 is finest suited for sophisticated buyers ready to experiment with individuals multigig jacks correct now. If you might be just looking for a Wi-Fi 6 router that’ll give a trustworthy link throughout your home, there are great possibilities out there, which includes ones that price significantly less. We observed more quickly top speeds in our lab from the $269 TP-Url Archer AX6000 and also from the soon-to-be-produced Asus RT-AX89X, which expenses a very little a lot more at $450. Each of individuals outperformed the Nighthawk in my at-home tests, way too, and the similar goes for the $379 AmpliFi Alien — while as of composing this, that router is stated as out of stock on the Ubiquiti internet site. You can expect to also come across a number of new Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers this 12 months that could possibly be a significantly superior healthy for folks who’d prefer some thing basic that they really don’t need to have to assume about way too significantly.

In other phrases, I assume this router is in all probability overkill for most folks — and the shaky SmartConnect attribute, which only did a so-so task of steering me from band to band as I moved about in my home, offers me some pause before recommending it for the rest of you. But if it is velocity you might be after — and an finish to individuals pesky bottlenecks — then you will come across a great deal to like in the Nighthawk’s cockpit.

Killer seems

With its eight antennas concealed in just a sleek established of fold-up wings, the RAX120 seems significantly less like a router than like some thing Kylo Ren could possibly zip throughout the galaxy in. Or maybe it is the router Dark Helmet would use aboard Spaceball A person, if only simply because it could double as a prop for the duration of play-time with his Spaceballs motion figures. I’m dating myself, probably, but my position is that the factor seems futuristic (if not a bit intense, which looks to be the pattern in superior-finish router style these days).

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

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Turn the factor about and take a look at the aft, and you will uncover a fast established of Ethernet jacks, which includes the WAN port, a multigig port and four gigabit LAN ports. You can wire two of individuals LAN ports to the similar server and merge their speeds to help transfer fees of up to 2Gbps, or just use that multigig port to see speeds of up to 5Gbps. That multigig port and individuals combination-ready LAN ports can also run in WAN manner, which signifies that this router will be ready to keep up if your incoming net speeds ever increase past 1Gbps.

Which is a great deal of versatility, and it opens up a full new entire world of wired networking. Just know that individuals more quickly connections would not do everything to velocity up a sluggish incoming signal. They are a great piece of future-proofing, and marvelous if you program on wiring your router to a community server to transfer data files involving computers on your network — but if you might be just looking to join to the net, they would not make significantly of a variance anytime soon.

As for the internals, this is a brief 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/forty/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 one hundred ninety x forty five mm)
  • Fat: three lbs (one,364 grams)

Respectable speeds

The RAX120 is an AX6000 dual-band router (a tri-band model with a second 5GHz band, the RAX200, is accessible for about $one hundred a lot more). The “AX” in “AX6000” indicates that it supports Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), though the “6000” indicates the put together top theoretical speeds of each individual band. Netgear pegs individuals speeds at one,two hundred Mbps on the two.4GHz band and 4,800 Mbps on the 5GHz band — but remember individuals figures are dependent on optimized, lab-dependent tests that really don’t acquire things like array, interference and physical obstructions into account. Your genuine speeds will be significantly, significantly lower. And you will only be ready to join to a person band at a time, lest that “6000” mislead you.

In our personal lab, the place we wire each individual router to a community server and then obtain data files wirelessly on a 2×2, Wi-Fi 6-equipped notebook from many distances, we clocked the RAX120 with a top-sustained velocity of one,263 Mbps on the 5GHz band. Speeds fell to about 818 Mbps when we greater the distance from 5 toes to 75 toes.

These are fantastic figures — each individual of them a handful of hundred Mbps more quickly than you will see with fairly significantly any Wi-Fi 5 router — but they are not pretty as fast as the fastest Wi-Fi 6 router we have examined yet, the TP-Url Archer AX6000. That a person registered speeds of one,524 Mbps at 5 toes and 869 Mbps at 75 toes in the similar examination, and it also saved speeds earlier mentioned one,000 Mbps at a midrange distance of 37.5 toes. The RAX120 did not — that indicates that TP-Url could possibly present superior array, way too.

The RAX120 sent fast obtain speeds throughout my home, but the figures fell sharply in that back again rest room, the farthest room from the router.

Ry Crist/CNET

My at-home tests appeared to affirm this. Across numerous days of tests in the one,three hundred sq. ft., one tale home, the place I have an AT&T fiber net link of three hundred Mbps, the RAX120’s 5GHz band was ready to ordinary speeds properly earlier mentioned 250 Mbps in the vast majority of the area, but speeds fell to one hundred Mbps in my back again rest room. Which is the farthest room from the router and a prevalent lifeless spot when I’m screening a one-position router like this a person.

Mind you, one hundred Mbps is a strong result, primarily when you compare it with the abundance of routers I’ve examined that have plummeted to one digits or dropped the signal outright back again there. However, it wasn’t as strong as the TP-Url Archer AX6000, which returned an ordinary back again rest room obtain velocity just earlier mentioned a hundred and fifty Mbps. The yet-to-be-produced Asus RT-AX89X, which is a person of the upcoming routers I’ll overview, did even superior, with a back again rest room ordinary of 191 Mbps.

But the Nighthawk router has a trick that Asus design lacks, and that’s SmartConnect — it brings together the two bands into a one network, and then automatically steers your link involving the two as you go by your home. 

Which is an pleasing solution for many, but the attribute wasn’t flawless when I examined it out. At numerous factors for the duration of my velocity tests, the link would slide to two.4GHz speeds even when I was just a room away from the router and however properly in just 5GHz distance. The only way to get my speeds up the place I preferred was disconnect and reconnect. Detect how my SmartConnect velocity in the back again rest room splits the variance involving what I observed from the devoted two.4 and 5GHz connections. Which is simply because about 50 percent the time, the technique resolved to join me to the more quickly 5GHz band. The other 50 percent of the time, it selected the two.4GHz band’s more powerful signal.

Which is a lot more of an annoyance than everything, but it however factors to inconsistent band-steering. You can expect to have a significantly superior experience with a properly-formulated mesh technique that places band steering front and center,. Between the ones that help Wi-Fi 6, I like the $450 Asus ZenWiFi AX the finest, but you’ve got got a great deal of new solutions this 12 months that are truly worth a glimpse, way too.

You can expect to come across technique controls and sophisticated capabilities like a Excellent of Services motor and a VPN network in the Nighthawk’s world-wide-web portal.

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

Options and other concerns

Speaking of mesh, it is truly worth noting that the Nighthawk isn’t going to make it as quick to use satellite gadgets to increase the array of your set up as other routers. For occasion, many equivalent Asus routers help a attribute named AiMesh, which would make it quick to cobble numerous networking gadgets together into a multipoint mesh set up. With the Nighthawk, you might be fairly significantly minimal to Netgear’s lineup of plug-in array extenders.

The Nighthawk application presents brief, standard controls for your technique, and it does a great task of walking you by the set up course of action in brief style.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

The RAX120 supports denial of provider protection and the hottest WPA3 encryption. It also allows you block particular web pages or providers outright or on a plan. It isn’t going to include things like a targeted traffic-scanning threat detector, while. Which is a very little odd, as former-gen Nighthawk and Orbi routers ship with help for Netgear Armor, a established of cybersecurity resources run by BitDefender.

However, the RAX120 does include things like its personal Excellent of Services motor, which you can customise fairly simply from the Nighthawk world-wide-web portal to prioritize targeted traffic to specific gadgets and use circumstances. There is certainly also an alternative for connecting by PureVPN in purchase to mask your IP handle as you use the world-wide-web. Which is a person of our most loved VPN providers — its privacy policy suggests it isn’t going to log link details, and it was the very first VPN we famous to thoroughly carry out Europe’s privacy-minded GDPR regulations.

As for the Nighthawk application, it would make brief operate of set up and presents standard technique controls, which includes the alternative to operate a brief velocity examination. There aren’t a full great deal of sophisticated configurations to dig by, while — for that, you will want to join with the router via your browser.

The verdict

Netgear’s Wi-Fi 6 Nighthawk routers were being some of the very first 802.11ax routers to hit the current market very last 12 months. They are however an pleasing update alternative in 2020 — especially if you assume you will be ready to get great use out of individuals multigig link abilities.

Which is a rather slim subset of the router-getting populace, while. If you might be just looking for a fast, trustworthy update that supports Wi-Fi 6, you can probable get away with paying significantly less. For that purpose, the TP-Url Archer AX6000 is however my Wi-Fi 6 router of option — at significantly less than $three hundred, it is the superior stability involving value and general performance.