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Netgear A8000 AX3000 USB Adapter: A Plug-and-Play Upgrade to Wi-Fi 6/6E

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Netgear has some good news for those looking to upgrade a computer to the latest Wi-Fi standards.

The networking vendor today unveiled the Nighthawk AXE3000 Wi-Fi 6E USB 3.0 Adapter, model A8000 — you can call it Netgear A8000 for short. Plug it into a USB port, and you instantly add Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E capability to the host computer.

The new dongle is a perfect fit for those who have already had or are about to buy Netgear’s Orbi RBKE963 mesh system, as well as any of the company’s Wi-Fi 6E broadcasters or any other Wi-Fi 6E solution, for that matter. And it’ll work with legacy routers, too.

Netgear A8000 AX3000 USB Wi Fi 6E Adapter 1
The Netgear A8000 AX3000 USB Wi-Fi 6E Adapter has a large integrated antenna, making it relatively bulky.

Netgear A8000: One USB dongle to support them all

While there have been Wi-Fi 6 USB adapters on the market — such as the Asus USB-AX56, the D-Link DWA-X1850, or the TP-Link Archer TX20U Plus — for quite some time, the Netgear A8000 is the first that also supports Wi-Fi 6E.

Before this, the only way to get Wi-Fi 6E to a computer is via PCIe-based upgrade, which can be a lot of work. With the Netgear A8000, all you have to do is insert the adapter into the computer’s USB port. And you can even move it from one computer to another with ease.

To qualify as a Wi-Fi 6E adapter, the A8000 needs to be a selective Tri-band adapter. It has all three Wi-Fi bands and can connect to a broadcaster using one at a time.

Besides the novelty 6GHz band, the adapter must also support 5GHz and 2.4GHz for backward compatibility. Consequently, it’s the first USB Wi-Fi adapter designed to work with all existing Wi-Fi broadcasters (routers and access points) and future ones.

Regarding Wi-Fi specs, the A8000 is standard for a USB adapter. It’s a dual-stream (2×2) adapter totaling 3000Mbps in bandwidth — 600Mbps on its 2.4GHz band and 1200Mbps on each of the other two bands.

Keep in mind that, like all adapters, the A8000 can connect on only one band at a time, so theoretically, the fastest speed you can get from it is 1200Mbps.

Netgear told me that the A8000 is based on the popular Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E chip, which can deliver up to 2400Mbps per 5GHz or 6GHz band.

Update: On September 26, 2022, Netgear informed me of a correction that the A8000 actually uses a Wi-Fi 6E chip from MediaTek (likely the MT7921AU). As such, the adapter doesn’t support the 160MHz channel width and, therefore, can handle only half of the 5GHz and 6GHz bands’ bandwidth — 1200Mbps or 1.2Gbps.

While it’s disappointing that you can’t get the same performance grade as a PCIe add-on Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E card, the ease of use makes up for the reduced performance. Furthermore, 1.2Gbps is generally the speed of all other Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 USB AX1800 adapters (600Mbps + 1200Mbps).

In terms of security and features, according to Netgear, the A8000 supports WPA3 security, which is required for any Wi-Fi 6E device, and features “Explicit Beamforming that boosts the speed, reliability, and range”.

Appearance-wise, the new dongle shares a similar physical design as the previous A7000 Wi-Fi 5 USB adapter, which is relatively bulky. It’s about twice the size of a typical USB thumb drive.

And like its older cousin, the new adapter also features USB 3.2 Gen 1, a.k.a USB 3.0, that caps at 5Gbps. You might be able to connect it to a USB 2.0 port, but in this case, the speed will be significantly below 500Mbps.

Netgear A8000 USB AX3000 Wi Fi 6E Adapter 1
The Netgear A8000 USB AX3000 Wi-Fi 6E Adapter comes with a cradle to accommodate a desktop computer — you won’t need to fumble with those obscure USB ports on the back.

The adapter comes with a cradle to accommodate a desktop computer. On a laptop, you can insert it directly into a USB-A port. After that, open up its integrated antenna, and you’re all set.

Unfortunately, the A8000 doesn’t feature USB-C, likely because the connector would be too small to hold its weight. But you can probably fix this, albeit loosely, with a USB-C to USB-A adapter.

Availability and pricing

Netgear says the new Nighthawk AXE3000 Wi-Fi 6E USB 3.0 Adapter (A8000) will be available in the US starting sometime this month for the suggested retail price of $89.99. You’ll be able to find it on Netgear’s website or retailers.

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14 thoughts on “Netgear A8000 AX3000 USB Adapter: A Plug-and-Play Upgrade to Wi-Fi 6/6E”

  1. > Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E chipset

    Intel has never released a USB chipset. It is likely the Netgear rep does not know what he/she is talking about. My bet is that it is based on the Mediatek mt7921au chipset. The driver for this chipset is already in the Linux kernel.

    Reply
    • Is it possible that they ARE using the Intel AX210 chipset, but then doing a PCI-E to USB conversion via another intermediary chip. PCI-E and USB uses different protocols, so a conversion is necessary. Similar to SATA to USB adapters, which convert the SATA signaling to USB protocol.

      Hence the 80Mhz channel width (1.2Gbps) limitation, despite using the USB 3.0 (5Gbps) bus. I bet the conversion chip they’re using is not fast enough to convert at the full 160Mhz (2.4Gbps) that the Intel AX210 is capable of.

      But if they are using the Mediatek mt7921au chipset, then they’re charging a hefty markup. You can get USB 3.0 WiFi adapters that use the same chipset with tri-band (2.4/5/6) for $15 on Aliexpress.

      Reply
      • Kish,

        What you say is possible. Intel has never had anything to do with USB WiFi in the past so I am going to have to wait and see. It would be welcome.

        The price for this Netgear adapter is on the very high side. I am aware of the tri-band adapters on Aliexpress. I have a CF-951AX. The chipset is good. The Linux driver is good. The engineering of the adapter is questionable.

        Reply
  2. > However, due to the constraints of the USB application, the adapter doesn’t support the 160MHz channel width and, therefore, can handle only half of the 5GHz and 6GHz bands’ bandwidth β€” 1200Mbps or 1.2Gbps.

    That’s really disappointing. Finally a WiFi 6E USB adapter, but Netgear decided to release it neutered. USB 3.0 is 5Gbps, so it can easily support the 2.4Gbps that a 160Mhz channel width requires. Not to mention that WiFi is not duplex, so it will never be more than 2.4Gbps. Real-life transfer speeds will be half that, closer to 1.2Gbps. My guess is that they want to release a higher-priced model in the future for extra cash.

    I just want a WiFi 6E 160Mhz USB adapter to test my Wifi 6E AP, preferably with 4×4 and USB-C, while attached to a modern laptop. So far the only 6E client I have to test is my flagship Android phone which supports 160Mhz, 2×2 mimo and I get roughly 700Mbps up/down via iperf3 and a link rate of 1.9Gbps.

    Reply
      • Unfortunately upgrading internals is not possible in Macbooks. The internals are all soldered, so only the USB ports are available for network expansion. I would also like the USB portability of testing Wifi 6E on variety of devices, including desktops, linux laptops, and gaming consoles.

        There are WiFi 6 (not 6E) USB adapters that are 160Mhz wide from other manufacturers (such as Asus and TP-LINK), so it’s definitely possible on the USB 3.0 5Gbps bus.

        Reply
        • There’s a chance this adapter won’t work with a Mac, Kish, depending on the macOS version — there’s no driver — nor will it fit since it uses USB-A. Generally, it’s not a good idea to use a Mac to test anything that’s not made by Apple. Get a Windows computer.

          Reply
          • I use other Wifi 6 (not E) USB adapters and they work fine in MacOS, and those also use the new Intel chipsets. Even if there is no official Apple drivers, there are open source projects which provide a pre-compiled open source driver for MacOS for these newer chipsets.

            There are inexpensive USB-A to USB-C adapters which support the full USB 3.0 5Gbps bandwidth. My Macbook Pro is my primary laptop, and I’m sure that’s the case for many of your readers. So I don’t think telling your readers to “get a Windows computer” is the right approach.

          • My suggestion was based on your need which is to test your 6E AP, Kish. In that case, using a patch-up solution on the receiving end will keep you guessing if the result doesn’t turn out to be as expected. If you get a Windows laptop — many come with the Intel AX210, or you can upgrade it to one — then you know your client is fine.

            You do what you do; I don’t claim anything to be wrong or right, nor do I care, but there are better solutions than others.

            In this case, you already know that the A8000 won’t work for your need, even if you could make it work with your Mac, which is why you posted the first comment. So getting a Windows computer is still the only way to achieve your goal for now.

          • FWIW, Microsoft paywalled WiFi 6E (6Ghz) support behind Windows 11. Outside a (potentially paid) upgrade to Win11, A hacked (potentially unsigned) driver is needed to enable 6Ghz support on Windows 10. You even have a tutorial on how to do that here on your blog.

            So it’s no different on MacOS, if an alternative driver is required. On the other hand, the Linux kernel had support for the Intel AX210 chip since Dec 2020. Linux is the way to go!

            I pre-ordered the AXE3000 from the Netgear online store. Estimated ship is 2nd week of Oct. I will post my findings on MacOS and Linux shortly.

          • But this one is only 1.2Gbps. You want the full 2.4Gbps for testing… Keep us posted, tho.

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