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Netgear Nighthawk AX12 router: a monster for data speeds and network security

Netgear Nighthawk AX12 (RAX200) Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6 router   | Photo Credit: Netgear

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas once again proved that Netgear is one of the big guys with their Nighthawk and Orbi series. The San Jose tech company has released quite a line-up of spaceship-esque network appliances since around 2016. This market is a competitive one, with demands for a safer network at home or at work on the continuous rise.

Reviewing the latest from the Nighthawk (Marvel fans would love the name for the species of supervillains-turned-superheroes) AX12 series, the RAX200, would familiarise me with the industry’s quick progress.

Specifications
  • Physical: 11.63 x 8.92 x 2.14 in; just over 1 kg
  • Wi-Fi Tech: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) Tri-Band WiFi (AX11000); 2.4GHz AX: 4x4 (Tx/Rx) 1024 QAM 20/40MHz, up to 1.2GB/s; 5GHz AX: 4x4 (Tx/Rx) 1024 QAM 20/40/80/160MHz, up to 4.8GB/s; 5GHz AX: 4x4 (Tx/Rx) 1024 QAM 20/40/80/160MHz, up to 4.8GB/s; Backwards compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi
  • Processor: 64-bit Quad-core 1.8GHz processor
  • Performance: AX11000 WiFi
  • Range: Large to very large homes
  • Security: Standards-based WiFi Security (802.11i, 128-bit AES encryption with PSK); Automatic firmware update delivers latest security patches to the router; Guest network access; VPN Support

While I have not interacted much with Orbi or Nighthawk, the Netgear family is no stranger to my home. My daily router is the Netgear R6120 AC1200 Dual Band, which is paired with a TP-Link TL-WA850RE extender. The extender — while certainly furthering coverage — has compromised my existing bandwidth to less than half of my paid-for speed.

So, I would not just be testing the AX12 RAX200, but I would also gauge its ability to work with an extender.

Pretty on the outside

Unboxing the AX12 RAX200 was not a cumbersome experience; minimal packaging (high-five to the environment) still lent support to the fragile yet mammoth router that would be unveiled. The router itself is not too heavy at just over a kilogram. The glossy finish and wing-like antennae offer a futuristic finish to the industrial design. According to Netgear, the antennae are positioned at slight angles to offer optimal Wi-Fi delivery. Yes, this is a good-looking gadget for the modern home.

Since last spring, my home has converged with smart tech, the entire ecosystem requiring a stronger bandwidth with no dropouts. Naturally, bringing the AX12 RAX200 into this equation was exciting. And considering it is priced at just under ₹75k, I almost wanted to power up my entire building.

Setting up the AX12 RAX200 was no small feat. First, one has to download the Nighthawk app (available on iOS and Android) which is not only a setup wizard but also helps you monitor and manage your network, both remotely and on-site. The app itself works pretty seamlessly, but I would suggest setting it up on a tablet or an Android rather than an iPhone.

Representative image of the Nighthawk app on several devices

Representative image of the Nighthawk app on several devices   | Photo Credit: Netgear

The configuration documentation, available online as a standard, was helpful with the initial stages, but when it came to final configurations, I started feeling palpitations from the sheer stress. Much to my shame, I had to bring in a third party to help with the final configuration, but I was deeply comforted by the fact that my helper was also scratching his head in confusion and that there was a problem with the lines in my area.

Just silly fast

The security protocols on the Nighthawk series are layered and complex, and should be satisfactory to most users. In the six days of testing the device, there were two firmware updates; do not ignore these — for any router system you are using.

Probably one of the most aggravating experiences had to be the continual logout from the Wi-Fi. While my daily step count was upped from the back-and-forth between my nest in my room and the router placed upstairs, this should not have been an issue. I tried to put it down to the lines being down in the area, but my neighbours did not have any such issues. Additionally, the device claims to cater to large homes, but no such luck (I reside in a duplex apartment). People living in villas or independent homes could invest in an extender, but at the moment, the AX12 RAX200 does not have any official client devices, so fork cash over for a separate name.

Netgear Nighthawk AX12 (RAX200) Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6 router

Netgear Nighthawk AX12 (RAX200) Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6 router   | Photo Credit: Netgear

But when the Nighthawk AX12 RAX200 is connected, it feels like a bullet train. Random speed tests across the six days through the Nighthawk app showed consistent speeds of 99.5 megabytes for download and uploads, and it reflected consistently in activities as simple as web browsing to using IoT devices which were more ‘on the ball’ with the data playground they were freely given. Responses came faster and smoother. Mobile phones can enjoy gigabit speeds too.

While using Netflix in Ultra HDR, paired with the streaming platform’s Adaptive Streaming technology, there were no glitches and experimental rapid switching between shows presented no issues. Apple TV+, which used to really grind my gums with its forever buffering, was the ultimate test, and the AX12 RAX200 passed.

The battle royale of speed and capacity was surely running every IoT device, mobile phone, smart television, laptop and tablet at the same time.

A speed test via Ookla showed a drop of nine megabytes a second. Not bad for Wi-Fi 6.

Would I pay around ₹75k for this? Not really, as I am sure there would be equally good router systems for a fraction of the cost which would actually have the sufficient coverage power.

The Netgear Nighthawk AX12 (RAX200) Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6 is available through authorised online and offline Netgear partners at a price of ₹74,999.

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 6:45:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/gadgets/review-netgear-nighthawk-ax12-rax200-wifi-6-triband-router-2020/article30969652.ece

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