Netgear Nighthawk AX8 Router Review: Next-Gen Wi-Fi 6 Networking

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Netgear Nighthawk AX8 (RAX80): Hardware And Features

Netgear's AX6000 Nighthawk AX8 Wi-Fi 6 router (RAX80) sits in the middle of the pack of the four Wi-Fi 6 models the company has introduced, but it's not a mid-range solution -- this is very much a high-end router, with speeds and features that surpass most Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) models. It also has a unique design that might appeal to Star Wars fans.
Netgear Nighthawk AX8 Front Angled

While this was probably not intentional, the flapped design of the AX8 looks like something that Luke Skywalker would either pilot or go up against in space. While not a carbon copy of any of the ships found in the Star Wars universe, we could totally see this thing zipping around alongside Tie fighters, X-Wings, and Imperial Shuttles. It perhaps most closely resembles a shorter version of Kylo Ren's Command Shuttle.

Netgear Nighthawk AX8 Flaps Closed

The flaps fold down so that it can fit neatly inside the retail box, and for storage if needed. However, they are meant to stand up and open during use. Each "wing," as Netgear calls them, conceals two antennas for a total of four. These are not easily removable; you'd need a torx screwdriver just to remove the cover, and even then we're not sure what would be involved in actually ripping the antennas out.

While the antennas are not meant to be removed, or even adjusted, Netgear says they are "optimally positioned for best Wi-Fi performance." Interestingly, the RX8 is also wall-mountable, which can save space and makes for a unique decoration (right next to that signed lightsaber you have hanging on your wall).

Netgear Nighthawk AX8 Ports

There are no ports on the front or top of the AX8. All of them sit on the rear, as is usually the case. There are two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, five gigabit LAN ports, and a WAN port. There is also an on/off button, an LED switch to turn the lights on or off, and a reset button tucked inside a pinhole.

The ability to flip the LEDs on or off is a nice touch, especially if you plan on mounting the router to your wall. It can also be useful to turn off LEDs in a dark room, where the constantly lit and/or sometimes blinking lights can be distracting, like in a bedroom.

Regarding the built-in switch, the vast majority of routers either have four LAN ports, and sometimes eight LAN ports on some premium models. This one has five. Two of those support port aggregation, also known as link aggregation. This allows you to improve file transfer speeds and, as it applies to consumer routers, is sort of a stopgap solution between traditional 1Gbps Ethernet and 10Gbps Ethernet. What it does is combine the two ports into a single link. Where this is perhaps most useful is when plugging a supported network attached storage (NAS) appliance into your router.

Netgear Nighthawk AX8 LEDs and Buttons

There are a couple of buttons and a series of LED symbols along the top of the router, towards the back.  From left to right, the LED indicators are for power, Internet, Ethernet ports 1-5, USB 3.0 (x2), Wi-Fi radios, and WPS.

Those last two coincide with the Wi-Fi and WPS buttons that sit just underneath. Pressing the Wi-Fi button for two seconds turns both the Wi-Fi LED and Wi-Fi radios on and off, in case you want to disable Wi-Fi temporarily (without actually turning the router off). And of course the WPS button makes it easy to add a device to the network, if it supports WPS.

Now let's have a look at the setup routine and user interface...

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