Generally, I’m not a fan of Wi-Fi extenders due to signal loss. The Netgear EX8000 is an exception, however. This extender can quickly work with almost any router to turn an existing network into a robust and efficient Wi-Fi mesh-like system.
And if you have a high-end, feature-rich router, the mesh now can even beat Netgear’s top-tier Orbi RBK50 that came out two years ago, in performance and features.
And considering how expensive the Orbi is, at $180, the Netgear X8000 is a deal.
Netgear EX8000 WiFi Mesh Extender
A design that rings a lot of bells
The EX8000 Extender seems Netgear’s sneaky way to incorporate the best of its Orbi product line into an existing network.
In case you don’t know, Netgear’s Orbi is the first, and up to now still, the only Wi-Fi system on the market that has a fast 4×4 802.11ac back-haul band. For this reason, when set up correctly, it has no signal loss, something you can only get by using network cables.
The EX8000 is essentially an Orib satellite expansion unit. It has a similar curvy design and the same amount of buttons and ports, including four Gigabit network ports, one USB 2.0 port, a WPS button, and an on/off switch. Most importantly, on the inside, it also has three bands: One 2.4Ghz that caps at 400Mbps, one 2×2 5GHz band (867Mbps), and another 4×4 5GHz band (1733Mbps).
There’s one significant difference, however. As an extender, it works with all routers from any vendors. That said, if you use it with a dual-band 802.11ac router, you’ll have a similar setup as having an Orbi system. One of its 5GHz bands will work solely to connect itself to the router, leaving the other two for the job of serving clients. In this case, you can also use its network port to host wired clients.
The EX8000 can also work as an access point when you connect it to an existing network via a network cable using one of its network ports. Now, all of its three bands will be serving Wi-Fi clients.
But with which router should I use it?
The Netgear EX8000 will work with any router. However, to make it worth the investment, you should use it with a router of a similar Wi-Fi specification. (Read more about Wi-Fi here). That said, it’s best to use it with a 4×4 802.11ac router, but a 2×2 router will do, too.
Also, you don’t need to use a tri-band router — though that doesn’t hurt — since the dedicated back-haul band is only necessary on the extender unit. However, you don’t want to use it with a single band 2.4GHz router — in case somehow somebody still has one. In this case, you’ll likely have a slow Wi-Fi network with a severe signal loss on this band.
Netgear EX8000’s detail photos
OK, maybe two touches, but setting up the EX8000 is simple via WPS. You only need to press on the WPS button of the existing router, then on the same button of the extender itself, and after about a minute, the two will work together. The extender automatically uses the router’s Wi-Fi network (username and password) as its own. The result is, from a user’s perspective, the Wi-Fi network automatically gets larger.
The EX8000 follows the same rules as a mesh system in terms of where you should place it from the router. You can also use the NETGEAR Wi-Fi Analytics mobile app (for Android and iOS) to find out the best location.
In my testing with a few routers, the extender also automatically used its 4×4 5GHz to connect to the router at close range. Interestingly, when I moved it further away. It switched to the 2×2 band for this connection. As it turned out, the extender automatically picks whichever band that works best for the signal strength at a particular location and dedicates it as the back-haul.
Useful web interface
If for some reason, your router doesn’t support WPS, you can also set up the Netgear EX8000 using its web interface. In this case, connect a computer to one of its network ports or its default Wi-Fi network (NETGEAR-EXT). After that, point the browser to its default IP address, which is 192.168.1.250, and the rest is self-explanatory, similar to any device with a web interface.
Note that the EX8000’s IP address will change after the setup process. Going forward, when you want to customize its settings further, you can find the extender’s IP address on the client list of the existing router.
The EX8000′ other settings include firmware update, changing the operation mode from extender (default) to access point (when you use a cable to connect to the router), and others. Also, though not necessary, for best performance, I recommend using this interface to figure out what channel the EX8000 uses and change those on the router according to avoid interference.
Specifications: EX8000 vs. EX7500
The EX8000 has a lesser and more affordable version called EX7500 that shares the same concept, features, and setup process. The EX7500, however, has no ports and is designed to plug directly into a wall socket. It’s similar to the satellite unit of the low-end Orbi RBK30.
Netgear EX8000: Mesh-like performance
I was quite impressed with the Netgear EX8000’s performances. I stacked it up against the satellite units of other Wi-Fi systems I’ve tested, and it came out on top at close range. However, at long range, which is more important, it wasn’t as impressive but still fast enough to deliver most residential Internet connections in full.
I tested the extender with an Asus RT-AC86u, a Synology RT2600AC, and a Netgear XR500 and got similar results. The number reported in the charts below are those I got when I used the Asus. Specifically, the EX8000 was some 50ft (15m) away from the Asus router.
The hands-off worked, too, though not always. Generally, if your routers support 802.11r or 802.11k (and so does your client), you’ll find that you can move between the hardware units and still maintain the connectivity. But it will be hit or miss.
So yes, the EX8000 is an extender that gives you some benefits of a mesh system. Not all benefits, though. For example, if you change the existing Wi-Fi network’s name or password, you’ll need to set the extender up again.
You can use the USB port of the extender to host a portable drive. However, since it’s a USB 2.0 port, it’s not fast enough for network storage hosting.
In many ways, Netgear’s EX8000 is better than its Orbi system. It gives you the option of using any router, including those with a lot more features than the Orbi itself. For example, if you use it with the Asus RT-AC86U, you’ll have a mesh-like system that has a lot more features.
That said, if you already have a router and don’t want to replace it, the EX8000 is an excellent choice to extend your home Wi-Fi effortlessly.