Netgear Nighthawk Ax1800 Review

Netgear Nighthawk Ax1800 Review

Netgear Nighthawk Model Mk83: The Things You Like

Netgear Nighthawk MK83 includes three nodes and a router. It also has two satellites. Every unit has tri-band Wi Fi 6 capability at AX3600 speeds. This translates to 600Mbps at the 2.4GHz frequency, 1201Mbps on 5GHz and 1800Mbps at 5.GHz. The faster 5GHz connection is dedicated to connecting the satellites with the remaining bands sharing device connection duty. This is one of best Wi-Fi mesh routers 6 you can buy.

This setup, like most of Netgear’s mesh solutions, is geared towards consistency over top speed. Devices will connect to the network at a max of 1201Mbps on Wi-Fi 6 and 867Mbps on Wi-Fi 5. The mesh will be able to handle many satellites with many connections by using the fastest band.

All this is possible in an extremely compact housing that measures just five inches each. Although it is not the most compact mesh network, dual Ethernet ports are included on satellites and three on router. This makes the system very adaptable for wired homes. The coverage is excellent with these nodes covering 2,250 sq. feet each satellite. This system covers 6,750 sq. feet.

While the raw square feet figure is huge, keep in mind that things like walls, HVAC units, and appliances can severely impact your coverage, so plan to overbuy on your mesh system a bit. You’ll be able to see your satellite’s connection quality in the Nighthawk app, and the WiFi Analytics option in the app can help you properly position your satellites.

This system was tested with one satellite connected, since my house is not large enough to use them both. The internet speed is 940Mbps. Although the mesh couldn’t keep up, it was close enough to pass my speed tests. Because settings are very limited, I was unable to separate bands and test them individually. To ensure that the system connects to its best node, I tested each wireless device at each site.

Nighthawk MK83 speed tests (80MHz at 5GHz):

This connection worked well for most of the time. Oddly I found that my speeds connected to the node were higher than when I was right next to the main router. I believe this is due to less congestion in that part of my apartment. Using an Ethernet cable on the satellite produced results from 600Mbps to 900Mbps.

One odd result was recorded by the Galaxy S20+ at 140Mbps. For this, the device was likely still connected to the 2.4GHz band before being moved over to 5GHz. Smart Connect is a Netgear mesh system that automatically selects the right band with just a Wi-Fi name or password. The device was properly assigned within a minute or two, so the system is working as intended.

The way Netgear builds its mesh systems is a bit different from its competitors in that each system has a single router with satellites. They can’t be swapped around, and you can’t use them as satellites.

Routers and satellites can’t be swapped around, and you can’t use routers as satellites.

In this package, the satellites have the same hardware specs as the main router save for one fewer Ethernet LAN port. Also, there are no USB ports anywhere on this kit. Satellites can connect through other satellites, so coverage works like most other mesh systems, but expansion isn’t quite as simple. Netgear also has an MK84 package with three satellites and the option to purchase more separately.

One of the stand-out features of this system is Netgear’s Smart Parental Controls. You can set broad controls for the entire network or set restrictions for specific family members.

Source: Samuel Contreras / Android Central

Netgear’s Smart Parental Controls are great. While the cost of $7.99 per month or $69.99 per year is a bit steep, this software has everything you expect with easy site blocking, scheduling with rewards, and great device controls. If this was up your alley, you might appreciate

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Source: Samuel Contreras / Android Central

Not only that, Netgear includes the My Time app for all compatible devices, allowing you to keep your parental controls active when your kid connects to another network or mobile data.

Netgear Nighthawk Ax1800 Review

Two-Minute Review

The Netgear Nighthawk MK63 is a three-piece mesh router system that supports Wi-Fi 6 and consists of a primary router and two secondary ‘satellites’. The MK63 is designed to cover homes up to 3500 square feet. However, a two-piece MK62 kit, which costs less, will work well for homes up to 2000 square feet.

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  • NetGear Nighthawk MK63 at Dell for $249.99 (opens in new tab)
  • NetGear Nighthawk MP63 Dell at $249.99

Netgear prefers black to be reserved for more advanced gaming routers. The MK63 is geared towards demanding applications like streaming 4K video and gaming.

It is easy to set the routers up on any shelf, or window ledge, thanks to their compact size. We were also pleased to discover that both the Ethernet and power cables provided by Netgear are 2m in length, making it possible to move them about while setting them up.

The differences between the Nighthawk and Orbi go deeper than just black and white though, as the Nighthawk MK63 uses the new Wi-Fi 6 standard – also known as 802.11ax – providing dual-band Wi-Fi on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, with a total speed of 1800 megabits per second (Mbps).

Netgear claims that the MK63 is capable of streaming to up to 25 devices at once – but you will need to use computers or mobile devices with Wi-Fi 6 support to get the best out of OFDMA features.

The primary router has two Gigabit Ethernet ports – although one of these will be required to connect it to your existing broadband modem or router – while the two satellites both have a single Ethernet port, so you still have the option of a wired connection for devices such as a games console or smart-TV if required.

Netgear’s Nighthawk app makes it easy to set up the MK63 system, automatically detecting the primary router and satellites for you, and then simply allowing you to scan a QR code in order to connect to your new network. You only need to set up a password to log in to the app, as well as a few security questions for in emergencies.

The Nighthawk app has a few snags. To keep things simple it automatically creates a single network that combines the 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bands, but more advanced users – including many keen gamers – might prefer the option to create separate networks for each frequency band.

You have the option to create a guest network and run a speed test. There is also a network map which allows you to track all devices that are connected to your network. However, there’s little in the way of parental controls – simply an On/Off switch that controls Internet access for individual devices.

Even better was the fact that the Nighthawk maintained a steady download speed of 58.4Mbps even in our office at the back of the building where the wifi is normally so unreliable that we tend to use a wired Ethernet connection for our office computer. The performance of Steam was also impressive, reporting download speeds of 7.3MB/s for the office and lounge respectively.

Netgear Nighthawk Ax1800 Review

Speed Tests in the Real World Were Tough

With our lab tests finished, it was time to take the Nighthawk home and test it out in a real-world environment — specifically, my 1,300 sq. Louisville, KY. It’s a relatively small space for a mesh system, but it gives me a good chance to see how these systems actually perform in a home environment.

In this case, it’s where things sort of fell apart.

Speeds below 100 Mbps on a 300 Mbps connection? This is the router behind you, just a few feet away

At first, everything seemed fine. The Nighthawk app from Netgear guided me through setting up my network and I was up and running in no time. I was able to run speed tests from my couch, with my router just feet away. They were as quick as expected, and basically maxed out my 300 Mbps fibre internet plan.

Then I took out my laptop and made a move to the kitchen. It’s a bit further from the router, but it’s an open concept floorplan that connects with the living room, so there aren’t any walls in the way. All the same, my speeds plummeted to well below 100 Mbps.

Needless to say, this was weird. When I get a strangely slow result in my tests I will make a note in my spreadsheet and reset my connection. That did the trick — after disconnecting from the network and then reconnecting to it, my speeds were back up were they should be, just shy of 300 Mbps.

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But then it happened again. And again. Again. My speeds would plummet if I moved to another spot in my speed tests. I alternate rounds of speed tests from the front of the house to the back, and then from the back of the house to the front — on one of the latter rounds, where that close-range living room test is the last test in the sequence, my speed came in at 93 Mbps. That was with the router only a couple of feet away.

In the end, the Nighthawk returned an overall average speed of 219 Mbps throughout my whole house, which is worse than all but two of the dozen or so systems I’ve tested in my home, Wi-Fi 6 or otherwise. And that was with me frequently re-connecting in order to give the system its best chance to succeed.

Slow speeds in my kitchen one minute, then back to normal as soon as I disconnect and reconnect.

So what was happening here? It wasn’t my network — I made sure to run some control tests with my existing router, and didn’t see anything like I was experiencing with the Nighthawk. The online speed testing software I used and the server that I connected to did not register any problems when tested with my router. In fact, I’ve run thousands of speed tests in my home over the past several months under the same controlled settings, and the Nighthawk is the only router that’s given me this much of a headache.

It really seems like the Nighthawk, for whatever reason, isn’t all that good at optimizing the signal for a client device that isn’t in a fixed location. The connection can get confused if the device is moving from one place to another. This causes problems and slows down. It could be poor beamforming, or an inept mesh algorithm that doesn’t know when the satellite will route the connection. However, whatever the reason, this is something I don’t like to have to worry about at home.

It’s not the first time I have had problems with Netgear mesh performance. Both the dual-band Orbi and the triband Orbi Voice Wi-Fi 5 systems dropped my connection on multiple occasions during my at-home tests. Only the high-end, Wi-Fi 6 version of the Netgear Orbi managed to impress me with the stability of its signal.

Although the Nighthawk had a signal strength that was slightly higher than comparable Wi-Fi 5 systems like the Nest Wifi and Netgear Orbi 6 systems, it wasn’t nearly as strong.

We also test for signal strength. We move to the 5,800 square feet. ft. CNET Smart Home, where we set each mesh system up with the router and one satellite on opposite ends of the home’s main floor. Then, we use NetSpot’s online software to track how strong the connection is across dozens of locations. This is a little stress test, as the Nighthawk two-piece system can be used in homes up to 3000 square feet.

The results were pretty close to what you might expect for an entry-level Wi-Fi 6 system like the Nighthawk. Both the signal strength at the base floor, where the satellite and router were situated, and on the basement floor below, was acceptable. It wasn’t as strong as the Wi-Fi 5 system, which sells for around $500, but it was still adequate. Credit the Nighthawk for hitting the middle ground between those two, especially given that it costs less than the Nest.

Still, at the farthest distances we test, the Nighthawk’s speeds dropped by about 40% in our lab and by a little less than 30% in my at-home tests. Those are both low-end results among the Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems I’ve tested.

Netgear Nighthawk Ax1800 Review

Netgear Orbi Rbk352 Review: Setup And Software Features

We used the Orbi Android app to set up the RBK352 system, and found the experience fairly foolproof. There’s a clunky moment when you have to jump into your phone’s Wi-Fi settings to manually connect to the Orbi network then find your way back into the Orbi app to continue the setup process, but there’s not much Netgear can do about that. At any rate, it’s a process you’ll probably only go through once.

From then on you can use either the smartphone app or the web portal to manage your mesh. If you’ve ever used an Orbi system before, you’ll be right at home here, as whichever route you choose, the RBK352 presents the exact same interface as every other Orbi model. It’s not bad, it’s very clear and responsive.

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You’ll also find a familiar array of features such as Netgear’s inbound VPN service. This makes it simple to connect to your clients and servers over the Internet. Integration with Alexa or the Google Assistant makes it easy to reboot your router and control its guest network. You can also enable Netgear’s Armor security module, which provides vulnerability scanning and blocked malicious sites. Although the $70 annual subscription seems a little steep considering TP-Link HomeCare is completely free, Netgear offers Bitdefender Security software to all clients.

It is missing a few essential elements. No USB sockets means no file or printer sharing and, as usual with Orbi systems, there’s no band-splitting option, so your 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks appear under a single combined SSID.

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For some reason, Netgear also doesn’t currently offer its Circle parental controls on Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems. These could be added in a future firmware update, but for now, you’ll have to make do with the quite sophisticated website filtering feature, which lets you block specific keywords and domain names for specific clients according to a custom schedule. However, you cannot filter websites by category like the TP Link Deco X20.

Still, while there are a few boxes left unticked, you get exactly the same feature set as on the premium RBK852, so it’s hard to feel too hard done by.

Netgear Nighthawk Ax1800 Review

Netgear Nighthawk Mk83: Competition

The TP-Link Deco X68 is very close to the mk83 in terms of hardware. It has a tri-band AX3600 connection with a dedicated mesh link. With only two nodes in the package, it covers up to 5,500 square feet. The Deco mesh can be expanded with any other Deco node making it easy to expand your network coverage. TP-Link’s free parental controls aren’t as advanced as Netgear’s but will be more than enough for most people. The Deco X68 is also cheap, coming in at just $280.

The Netgear Orbi RBK752 has been one of the best Wi-Fi 6 routers since it was released with a nice design and quick AX4200 speeds. The system has a single satellite that covers up to 5,000 feet. The Orbi app is nearly identical to the Nighthawk app and will perform very close to the MK83 in most situations. The Orbi has a faster mesh link speed at 2400Mbps allowing for greater expansion support. If you were a fan of this, you might also be into

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The Asus ZenWiFi XT8 is quite a bit faster than the Nighthawk with an AX6600 connection at a similar price. Asus suggests a price of $450 for this two-pack covering up to 5,500 square feet. Asus allows expansion with any AiMesh-compatible router and additional ZenWiFi nodes. Asus includes a solid parental control and security package for free for the product’s life, making it a great value for families.

Netgear Nighthawk Ax1800 Review

Netgear Nighthawk Ax4 Features

As most gaming routers should the Netgear Nighthawk AX4 supports MU-MIMO and Beamforming technology to allow its 2X2 radio configuration to allow simultaneous connections to multiple devices. It also uses DFS (Dynamic Frequency Selection) channels to reduce interference from other Wi-Fi devices. This feature can be enabled or disabled depending on your situation. If you found this entertaining, you might enjoy

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While the AX4 does provide QoS the controls are not as granular as you’ll find on more high-end wireless routers. The controls are simple with just a switch that turns gaming on and off.

You won’t find Multi-GB Ethernet or link aggregation on this router. It does have an AP (Access point) mode which allows you to configure it as an extender. The Netgear AX4 is not quite bare-bones but it’s not exactly the multi-tool or wireless router either.

One USB port is located in the rear. It’s USB 3.2. These USB ports can be used to share storage space with Netgear’s popular ReadySHARE feature. It is unlikely that you will have any luck using cellular printers and dongles.