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Netgear A8000 Review: A Simple and Effective USB Wi-Fi 6/6E Upgrade

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The Netgear A8000 Nighthawk AXE3000 Wi-Fi 6E USB 3.0 Adapter is a much-anticipated upgrade for many. It quickly adds Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 6 to any existing Windows computer.

Windows 11 gets both Wi-Fi 6 and 6E. Windows 10 only gets Wi-Fi 6 from it.

And in my testing, the new USB dongle proved to be a good fit for those having a Wi-Fi 6 (or later) router and a computer with no Wi-Fi or still uses a legacy standard. I’d even be generous to say it’s convenient, fast, and reliable enough to be worthy of its relatively stiff $100 price tag.

Here’s the bottom line: If you have a computer running Windows 11 — and you can upgrade any machine with Windows 10 to one — consider getting an A8000 today.

Dong’s note: I first published this post as a new piece on September 21, 2022, and upgraded it to a review on January 26, 2023.

Netgear A8000 Wi Fi 6E Adapter
The Netgear A8000 AX3000 USB Wi-Fi 6E Adapter and its retail box. Note the included USB drive that contains the software driver for Windows.

Netgear A8000: One USB dongle to support them all, as long as they run Windows 11

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, and still the only, that supports Wi-Fi 6E, as far as I know.

Before this, you can get Wi-Fi 6E on a computer via the PCIe-based upgrade, which can be a lot of work. With the Netgear A8000, you only need to 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, including 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz.

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.

Netgear A8000 Wi Fi 6E Adapter in ActionNetgear A8000 Wi Fi 6E Adapter with USB C Adapter
Here’s the Netgear A8000 Wi-Fi 6E adapter in action with a Windows 11 computer with a USB-A and USB-C port (via an adapter.)

Netgear A8000 vs Intel AX210: Hardware specifications

The A8000 uses a Wi-Fi 6E chip from MediaTek and doesn’t support the 160MHz channel width. Consequently, it has a top ceiling speed of 1200Mbps (1.2Gbps).

On the other hand. the Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E card support 160MHz and can deliver up to 2400Mbps on either 5GHz or 6GHz band.

That said, the Intel AX210 beats the Netgear A8000 in terms of speed and affordability. However, it trails behind in ease of use.

NameNetgear Nighthawk AXE3000 Wi-Fi 6E USB 3.0 AdapterIntel Wi-Fi 6E AX210
Gig+ Adapter
ModelA8000AX210
Pseudo
Wi-Fi Bandwidth
AXE3000AXE5400
Max Ceiling Speed1200Mbps2400Mbps
2.4GHz Band
(channel width)
2×2 AX: Up to 600Mbps
(20/40MHz)
2×2 AX: Up to 600Mbps
5GHz Band
(channel width)
2×2 AX: Up to 1200Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
2×2 AX: Up to 2400Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
6GHz Band
(channel width)
2×2 AXE: Up to 1200Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
2×2 AXE: Up to 2400Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
Security SupportWPA, WPA2, WPA3WPA, WPA2, WPA3
InterfaceUSB 3.2. Gen 1 (5Gbps)
USB 2.0 (reduced performance)
PCIe adapter or NGFF 2230 M.2 slot
Hardware RequiredUSB-A port. Or USB-C to USB-A adapter
(not included)
Installation required
Platform SupportWin 11: 2.4GHz, 5Ghz, 6GHz
Win 10: 2.4GHz, 5Ghz
Win 11: 2.4GHz, 5Ghz, 6GHz
Win 10: 2.4GHz, 5Ghz
(6GHz driver)
US Price
(at review)
$99.99β‰ˆ $20
Hardware specifications: Netgear A8000 vs Intel AX210

A standard USB Wi-Fi add-on device

Despite the Wi-Fi 6E novelty, the A8000 is standard for a USB Wi-Fi 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. Like all Wi-Fi adapters, the A8000 can connect to only one band at a time, so theoretically, the fastest speed you can get from it is 1200Mbps.

But 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. It features Netgear’s Explicit Beamforming that boosts the speed when used with a Netgear router.

Netgear A8000 vs A7000 USB Wi Fi AdaptersNetgear A8000 vs A7000
Netgear A8000 vs A7000: Though sharing a similar design and cradle, the Wi-Fi 6/6E A8000 adapter (right) is much more compact than its Wi-Fi 5 A7000 older cousin.

Netgear A8000 (vs A7000): A much more compact adapter

Appearance-wise, the new A8000 shares a similar physical design as the previous A7000 Wi-Fi 5 USB adapter but is now much more compact. It’s just about half the size of its legacy cousin.

Still, it’s relatively bulky, about twice the size of a typical USB thumb drive. Compared with the tiny accompanied driver USB, it’s much larger.

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. In my trial, it also worked with a USB 2.0 port but, expectedly, at significantly slower data rates.

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.

The A8000 doesn’t feature USB-C nor comes with a converter. However, if you have a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter, it also works with a USB-C port. That was the case in my experience.

Netgear A8000 Wi Fi 6E Adapter is a Typical USB AdapterNetgear A8000 Wi Fi 6E Adapter Label
While more compact than the previous Wi-Fi 5 model, the Netgear A8000 Wi-Fi 6E adapter is a relatively large USB device.

Almost a plug-and-play setup with no 6GHz love for Windows 10

Out of the box, the Netgear A8000 includes a tiny USB that contains the driver software. Run the installer and connect the adapter to the computer’s USB port, and you’re set.

The one-time initial setup process is the same whether you run Windows 10 or 11. However, you’ll be able to use the adapter’s 2.4GHz and 5GHz band with Windows 10.

While this is disappointing, it’s expected, considering Microsoft has given the Intel AX210 adapter the same treatment — the company uses the 6GHz support as an incentive to coerce users into upgrading the OS.

Netgear A8000 software driver installer
Once the driver is installed, the Netgear A8000 works as a plug-and-play device.

If you want to use the 6GHz of the Intel AX210 on a Windows 10 computer, this special driver will help. There’s currently no similar solution for the Netgear A8000.

Netgear A8000: Excellent sub-Gigabit performance

The Netgear A8000 performed well in my testing.

My test computer could easily connect to either the 6GHz or 5Ghz band at 1.2Gbps on negotiated speed and sustained at around 900Mbps, which is the norm.

Generally, a 2×2 Wi-Fi 6/6E card needs the 160MHz channel width to deliver Gig+ performance. At 80MHz, in the case of the A8000, the card can’t sustain at full Gigabit.

Netgear A8000 6GHz PerformanceNetgear A8000 2.4GHz Performance
The Netgear A8000’s real-world Internet speed via 10Gbps Fiber-optic broadband when connected using the 6GHz (left) or 2.4GHz band. (Its 5GHz band delivered similar rates as the 6GHz.)

The adapter has the same range as any other Wi-Fi adapter — the range is mainly determined by the broadcaster (router/access point.) And it performed the same when tested with a Netgear AXE500, AXE300, or any other Wi-Fi 6E or Wi-Fi 6 router.

And it also ran cool in my testing, even after a long period of heavy loads. Overall, it proved an excellent way to upgrade a computer to Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E.

Netgear A8000 Wi-Fi 6E Adapter's Rating

8 out of 10
Netgear A8000 Wi Fi 6E Adapter with Laptop
Performance
9 out of 10
Design and Ease of Use
8 out of 10
Value
7 out of 10

Pros

Instantly adds Wi-Fi 6/6E to a Windows computer

Relatively compact design, software driver included

Fast (sub-Gig) and reliable performance

Cons

Expensive; 6GHz available only in Windows 11

No 160MHz channel support; no Mac support; No USB-C option

Could be even more compact

Conclusion

The Netgear A8000 Nighthawk AXE3000 Wi-Fi 6E USB 3.0 Adapter is an easy way to add Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E to a Windows computer.

Its easy plug-and-play design makes it much more appealing than the Intel AX210 counterpart, enough to justify its hefty price tag and slower performance.

Looking to make your aging Windows computer a bit less dated? Get one today!

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31 thoughts on “Netgear A8000 Review: A Simple and Effective USB Wi-Fi 6/6E Upgrade”

  1. Okay, I was excited when I saw the ad for the USB adapter, and because it was Netgear, I decided to purchase it, as I need a test device to connect with my Nighthawk AXE500 AP/Router. Unfortunately, I discovered that, apparently, I can’t do the update driver trick to get this to work on Windows 10. Any hacks to make that happen, or because it is not an Intel Chip, that wont work? Do I need to buy a Windows 11 Laptop to make this work?

    Reply
    • That’s a good question, Carla. This one doesn’t use USB-C so it will not fit in many Mac, as mentioned. But on those it does, chances are you’ll have to tweak the software driver which depends on the macOS version you use. We’ll have to wait and see. Maybe it’ll include native software for Mac.

      Reply
  2. “the Netgear A8000 is the first that also supports Wi-Fi 6E.” is simply wrong. Myself and many others have been running the Comfcast CF-953AX Wi-Fi 6E USB adapter for a few months. It’s also available for a fraction of the price, approx 25$ including shipping..

    Reply
      • > Note the E, Leonard.

        Leonard is correct, the information you are getting Netgear is not correct. The Comfast CF-953AX and Comfast CF-951AX use the mt7921au chipset which is a 6E chipset. I own a 951AX and it is without a doubt a 6E adapter. Both Comfast adapters have been available since early July, 3 months ago.

        Regarding the 160 MHz channel width issue: The next usb chipset on Mediatek’s roadmap is the mt7922u. It is the same as the mt7921au with the exception that it can support 160 MHz channel width. The mt7922u is either currently available to makers or will be shortly.

        Regards

        Reply
        • That’s good to know but the Comfast CF-953AX is advertised as Wi-Fi 6 (not E) adapter. In any case, I wasn’t aware of it. This piece is also a news article and most of the info was given by Netgear.

          Reply
  3. > 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
  4. > 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.

          • FYI: Ubuntu 22.10 and the other official Buntus ship today. The kernel is 5.19 and contains the driver for the mt7921au. Other distros that have the 5.19 or later kernel should be in good shape with support as long as they get the firmware where it should. Hey, it happens but is easily fixable. What’s not to like? No paywall.

          • Now nearing the end of Oct, and Netgear store has not shipped my AXE3000. It was supposed to be in my hands the 1st week of Oct when I pre-ordered mid-Sept, and the CS agent told me too. But every week I call them, they tell me it’s at the US warehouse and will be shipped out shortly, but they don’t. I don’t understand how they’re prioritizing their pre-orders.

            I’m fed up and I cancelled my order. I’ll just wait until it’s widely available on Amazon and buy it there without the hassle.

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