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: 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 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.
|Name||Netgear Nighthawk AXE3000 Wi-Fi 6E USB 3.0 Adapter||Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210|
|Max Ceiling Speed||1200Mbps||2400Mbps|
|2x2 AX: Up to 600Mbps|
|2x2 AX: Up to 600Mbps|
|2x2 AX: Up to 1200Mbps|
|2x2 AX: Up to 2400Mbps|
|2x2 AXE: Up to 1200Mbps|
|2x2 AXE: Up to 2400Mbps|
|Security Support||WPA, WPA2, WPA3||WPA, WPA2, WPA3|
|Interface||USB 3.2. Gen 1 (5Gbps)|
USB 2.0 (reduced performance)
|PCIe adapter or NGFF 2230 M.2 slot|
|Hardware Required||USB-A port. Or USB-C to USB-A adapter|
|Platform Support||Win 11: 2.4GHz, 5Ghz, 6GHz|
Win 10: 2.4GHz, 5Ghz
|Win 11: 2.4GHz, 5Ghz, 6GHz|
Win 10: 2.4GHz, 5Ghz
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 (2x2) 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): 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.
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.
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 2x2 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.
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
Instantly adds Wi-Fi 6/6E to a Windows computer
Relatively compact design, software driver included
Fast (sub-Gig) and reliable performance
Expensive; 6GHz available only in Windows 11; no Mac support (for now)
No 160MHz channel support; no Mac support; No USB-C option
Could be even more compact
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!