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

Netgear Nighthawk AX8 (RAX80): Final Thoughts

Performance Summary: We pitted the Netgear AX6000 Nighthawk AX8 (RAX80) against a Linksys EA9500 Max-Stream AC5300, both of which are high-end routers with premium price tags. Despite the lack of proper Wi-Fi 6 hardware to test with, the Nighthawk AX8 was the overall faster router, sometimes by a little bit and sometimes by a lot. We were especially impressed that it maintained a relatively strong and stable signal at 50 feet away, with nearly double the speeds compared to the EA9500 on the 2.4GHz band. On the 5GHz band, the Nighthawk AX8 was particularly impressive during our inside tests, with speeds of nearly 950Mbps near the router and around 838Mbps when further away and separated by an obstruction (ceiling/floor).

netgear nighthawk ax8 front angled
Netgear AX6000 Nighthawk AX8 Wi-Fi 6 Router (RAX80)

By all accounts, Netgear's AX6000 Nighthawk AX8 Wi-Fi 6 router is a speed demon, with particularly strong performance in ideal or near ideal conditions. As is typically the case, performance drops when moving further away from the router and behind obstructions, like walls and doors, but overall it delivers transfer speeds that are in line with a premium router. This is especially impressive when considering it has 'only' four antennas, whereas some of the top models resemble head crabs with eight antennas.

Therein lies another high point -- the physical design. Netgear has cleverly hidden the antennas inside a pair of flaps, creating a unique looking router that appears as though it's ready to take flight. The comparisons to Star Wars are inevitable, but we prefer this type of design over seeing a mess of antennas protruding from the base. The ability to mount this router to a wall is a nice touch as well.

The real selling point, however, is Wi-Fi 6 support. Unfortunately, there just are not many devices that fully support Wi-Fi 6 yet. The newest wireless standard is primed for households that have lots of Internet-connected gadgets, with features that are better suited for whisking packets to multiple devices at the same time.

Of course, this will change over time. Intel and Rivet Networks have both started supplying Wi-Fi 6 adapters that will end up in laptops and desktops, and in due course, more devices will support the latest wireless standard (Samsung's Galaxy S10 series already does, for example). The question is, should you buy a Wi-Fi 6 router now so that you are prepared for tomorrow?

That depends on how often you upgrade, and what equipment you are currently using. If you are already rocking a high-end router, there is not going to be much benefit in upgrading to a Wi-Fi 6 model like the Nighthawk AX8 until you own devices that also support the standard. The exception is if you want to 'future proof' your home network, so far as that is possible.

The problem with that approach is you're paying a premium to be an early adopter. If you already own a premium router, it's probably wiser to wait until you also own Wi-Fi 6 devices, at which point there will be a wider selection of Wi-Fi 6 routers to choose from, at varying price levels.

Now here's where things get interesting. If you're in need of a new router and are planning to spend a premium on a high-end model anyway, then by all means, you should give the Nighthawk AX8 strong consideration. In fact, it wouldn't make sense to spend several hundred dollars on anything but a Wi-Fi 6 model. While you can't fully tap into its features yet, the Nighthawk AX8 is every bit as fast (or faster) than a top-tier Wi-Fi 5 model, as we saw in our benchmarks.

  • Geeky design (if you're into that) that can be mounted to a wall
  • Fast performance across the board
  • Supports Wi-Fi 6 features
  • Has link aggregation
  • Speedy file transfer performance via USB
  • Not fully compatible with some older Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) adapters
  • Limited QoS controls
  • Expensive
  • Not many devices fully support Wi-Fi 6 features (yet)

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