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.
Table of Contents
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|
|2×2 AX: Up to 600Mbps|
|2×2 AX: Up to 600Mbps|
|2×2 AX: Up to 1200Mbps|
|2×2 AX: Up to 2400Mbps|
|2×2 AXE: Up to 1200Mbps|
|2×2 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 (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): 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 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.
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 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!
Comments are subject to approval, redaction, or removal.
It's generally faster to get answers via site/page search. Your question/comment is one of many Dong Knows Tech receives daily.
(•) If you represent a company/product mentioned here, please use the contact page or a PR channel.
31 thoughts on “Netgear A8000 Review: A Simple and Effective USB Wi-Fi 6/6E Upgrade”
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?
I’ll look into this, Bill.
I have a personal desktop that I upgraded to Windows 11, and the 6E band works with it, but no luck on getting to work on Windows 10.
Yeap, generally, Microsoft only supports 6E in Windows 11, Bill.
Yeah, but I have Intel Dongles that I was able to get working on Windows 10 using your hack, was hoping there was something similar for the Netgear/Mediatek combination.
I’ll see if I can make a hack for it. It might not be possible. We’ll see.
Starting to see it in stock at places and users getting it.
Would this work with an iMac? Or is it Windows only?
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.
“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..
Note the E, Leonard. Make sure you read the post carefully.
> 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.
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.
The Netgear AXE8000 is confirmed indeed Mediatek MT7921au. I’ll wait for an adapter with Mediatek MT7922u, as it has the 160Mhz channel width (2.4Gbps link speed) and full Linux support.
For now, my flagship Android phone has 160Mhz width for testing. The new M2 iPad Pro released this week also has WiFi 6E, with 160Mhz support, so support will be on MacOS shortly.
> 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.
You’re probably right, Nick. I intend to find out when I get my hands on one.
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.
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.
> 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 — 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.
That’s the case with most USB adapters, Kish. For your need, you should get an Intel AX210 chip and place it inside your laptop. More here.
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.
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.
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.
Yeap. That happens a lot lately.
Excellent write up and info – as always. Thank you!
Sure, John. And thank you!