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Netgear MK83 Review (vs MK63): A Tawdry Tri-band Mesh Alternative

The Netgear MK83 Nighthawk Tri-band Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System, first announced on March 16, 2021, sure seems an upgrade to the previous Dual-band MK63 model. It has an additional 5GHz band and, therefore, more bandwidth.

But on the inside, it’s pretty much the same as its lesser cousin, from Wi-Fi settings, features to real-world speeds due to its equally modest hardware and the Orbi-like dedicated backhaul band. That said, consider part of this review the MK83 vs MK63 matchup.

The bottom line is this new MK83 has nothing exciting. But if you’re looking for a fairly easy mesh system that can handle around 300Mbps for a large home that’s not wired, it’s an OK buy at $400 for a 3-pack.

For a wired home, though, consider the MK63 or the Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini instead. You’ll get a much better bang for your bucks even after adding a switch or two.

Dong’s note: I first published this post as a new piece on March 16, 2021, when the MK83 was announced. On July 22nd, I upgraded it to a full review after hands-on testing and real-world experience.

Netgear MK83 Nighthawk Tri Band Whole Home Mesh Wi Fi System
Netgear MK83 Nighthawk System is available as a 3-pack.

Netgear MK83 Nighthawk Tri-Band Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System

$399.99
7

Performance

6.5/10

Features

7.0/10

Design and Setup

7.5/10

Value

7.0/10

Pros

  • Large coverage with reliable signals
  • Full web interface with optional mobile app
  • Dedicated backhaul band with optional wired backhau
  • Simple settings, pre-synced hardware

Cons

  • Modest Wi-Fi specs, slow performance
  • Lacks Wi-Fi settings, no 160 MHz channel width
  • Mobile app and Netgear account coercion, no remote web management
  • No multi-gig port, Dual-WAN or Link Aggregation
  • Online protection require mobile app and not free
  • Dirt magnet, not wall-mountable hardware

Netgear MK83 Nighthawk: A shiny yet muted tri-band mesh system

I was quite excited when I first learned about the MK83 a couple of months ago. After all, this is the second EasyMesh set on the market. And it’s a tri-band, so it gotta be better than the MK63 dual-band model, right?

Well, not really. The two are not that different after all.

Netgear MK83: Larger, shinier hardware that gets dirty fast

Similar to the MK63, the MK83 comes in three identical-looking hardware pieces, including a router (MR80) and two satellites (MS80). Each unit is about 35% larger than those of the MK63.

Thanks to the bigger physical size, though, the new mesh now has more ports. Specifically, you get one WAN and their LANs on the route and two LANs on the satellite. More ports are always nice.

However, what sure is not nice is the mirror-like shininess of each hardware piece, which easily attracts dirt and fingerprints. This is where larger means bigger problem.

Indeed, I opened the package in my backyard, and the moment I removed the plastic that wrapped around each unit, the hardware became dirty almost instantly with all sorts of little particles stuck to it.

The more I tried to clean it with a towel, the dirtier it became. It was maddening. You might note that in the photos below.

Netgear MK83 Nighthawk: Detail photos

Netgear MK83 Nighthawk Tri Band Whole Home Mesh Wi Fi System
The Netgear MK83 Nighthawk includes two hardware types, an MR80 router (bottom) and two MS80 satellites.

Netgear MK83 Nighthawk Tri Band Whole Home Mesh Wi Fi System
The top of each hardware unit is the same across the board.

Before Image After Image
The back of each unit is where they differentiate. Note the number of ports and the shiny surfaces that are dirt magnets.

Before Image After Image
The underside of the hardware units.

Netgear MK83 Nighthawk Tri Band Whole Home Mesh Wi Fi System
The Netgear MK83 Nighthawk comes with standard power adapters and a single network cable.

Netgear Nighthawk MK83 vs MK63: Similarly low-key Wi-Fi

Similar to the MK63, the new MK83 system has low Wi-Fi specs and modest processing power.

For one, its additional 5GHz-2 band (which is its only advantage) is an oddball 3×3 AX with a ceiling speed of 1800Mbps. And so far, there are no 3×3 Wi-Fi 6 clients (yet) but just 2×2 devices. So this band will still capt at 1200Mbps.

But that’s a bit irrelevant since this in my trial; this band worked as the dedicated backhaul at all times — it linked the routers and satellite units together.

(Netgear hasn’t confirmed this, but it seems that its EasyMesh shares the same dedicated backhaul approach as the Orbi brand, where the 5GHz-2 band is never available to clients, even when you use wired backhauls.)

What’s most disappointing is this band has a terrible real-world performance — more in the performance section below.

So, in most cases, the MK83 will deliver similar throughputs to the MK63. In a wireless setup, it might be able to handle a few more simultaneous 5Ghz clients, but that’s about it.

Finally, like the MK63, the MK83 also doesn’t support the venerable 160MHz channel width, nor does it have Multi-Gig ports or a USB port. There’s no dual-WAN or Link Aggregation, either.

In short, despite being a Tri-band, the MK83 is a very modest mesh system, no matter how you look at it.

Netgear Nighthawk MK83 vs MK63: Hardware specifications

Full NameNetgear MK83 Nighthawk
Tri-band Mesh
Wi-Fi 6 System
Netgear MK63
Nighthawk Dual-band
Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System
Mesh SetOne Router + Two Satellites One Router + Two Satellites
Hardware ModelRouter: MR80
Satellite: MS80
Router: MR60
Satellite: MS60
Wi-Fi DesignationTri-band AX3600
(2x 5GHz and 1x 2.4GHz)
Dual-band AX1800
(5GHz and 2.4GHz)
Dimensions (Each Unit)5.51 x 5.51 x 3.62 in
(14 x14 x 9.2 cm)
4.8 x 4.8 x 2.5 in 
(12.19 x 12.19 x 6.35 cm)
WeightRouter (MR80): 1.4 lbs (635 grams)
Satellite (MS80): 1.38 lbs (626 grams)
0.63 lb (286 grams)
(Router or Satellite)
5GHz-1 Wi-Fi Specs2×2 AX: Up to 1200Mbps
(20 / 40 / 80MHz)
2×2 AX: Up to 1200Mbps
Channel Width: 20 / 40 / 80MHz
5GHz-2 Wi-Fi Specs3×3 AX: Up to 1800Mbps
(20 / 40 / 80MHz)
None
2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs2 x 2 Wi-Fi 6 
up to 600Mbps
(20 / 40MHz)
2 x 2 Wi-Fi 6 
Up to 600Mbps
(20 / 40MHz)
Dedicated Backhaul Band5GHz-2None
Wired BackhaulYesYes
Wi-Fi SecurityWPA3 / WPA2 / WPA  WPA3 / WPA2 / WPA 
Backward Compatibility802.11b/a/g/n/ac 802.11b/a/g/n/ac
Mobile AppNetgear Nighthawk Netgear Nighthawk
Web User InterfaceYes Yes
AP ModeYes 
(as a single unit or a mesh)
Yes 
(as a single unit or a mesh)
USB PortNoneNone
Gigabit PortRouter (MR80): 1x WAN, 3x LAN
Satellite (MS80): 2x LAN
Router (MR80): 1x WAN/LAN, 1x LAN
Satellite (MS80): 1x LAN
Link AggregationNoNo
Dual-WANNoNo
Processing PowerQuad-Code 1.5GHz CPU, 
256MB flash, 512MB RAM
Quad-Code 1.5GHz CPU, 
128MB Flash and 256MB RAM
Warranty1-Year 1-Year
Release DateMarch 16, 2021July 27, 2020 
Price (at launch)$499 (3-pack)$280 (3-pack)
Hardware specifications: Netgear Nighthawk MK83 vs MK63

Neutered local web interface with mobile app coersion

With the MK83, it’s clear that Netgear has moved further in the mobile app coercion direction. The system has the familiar local web interface, but the networking vendor wants you to opt for the Nighthawk mobile app instead.

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Before Image After Image
Here's Netgear's effort to steer users away from the web interface and lure them into getting a login account.

Specifically, when accessing the router’s web interface, you’ll be prompt to download the Nighthawk app, which requires a login account with Netgear.

And if you choose to proceed with the interface, the setup process would take you to a web page where you can log in with a Netgear account. Basically, unless you pay attention, you’d think that you must do that for the mesh to work.

Also, I noted that the interface wasn’t accessible via the default IP address, 192.168.1.1, anymore. Instead, I must use the routerlogin.net domain, which will ping Netgear each time.

And finally, while the router supports Dynamic DNS and port forwarding, it no longer has remote web management. So, the only way you can manage your network remotely is via the Nighthawk mobile app, which is a privacy concern.

Other than the shenanigans above, the web interface still includes a fair set of features for you to configure a network to a great extent and proves to be a much better way to manage the MK83 than the mobile app.

Buggy mobile app, pre-synced hardware

Indeed, the Nighthawk mobile app is far from good enough to deserve your attention.

Netgear Nighthawk App

For one, I tried using it for the setup process and ran into a lot of hiccups. There’s a function where you can use the phone’s camera to scan a QR quote to add the router, but it never worked.

On the other hand, the app kept bugging me to activate the Netgear Armor protection suite, which costs $70/year. So, I’d recommend you skip the app entirely unless you want to check on your home network when you’re out and about.

By the way, when it comes to getting the MK83 up and running, there’s a silver lining. Like the MK63’s case, the MK83’s hardware is pre-synced. As a result, you’d only need to set up the router unit. After that, plug the satellite in and place them around the house, and your mesh is ready.

Netgear MK83 Wi Fi Settings
The Netgear MK83’s Wi-Fi setting page within its web interface.

Limited Wi-Fi settings

Like the MK63, the MK83 doesn’t have a lot of Wi-Fi settings. The only thing you can do is name the Wi-Fi network, pick a password/encryption method (WPA, WPA2, or WPA3), and the channel for each band. There’s nothing else.

As a result, I tested the mesh with a single SSID since there’s no way to separate the bands or force a device to connect to a particular band, be it the 2.4GHz or 5GHz.

In short, again, the MK83 is extremely similar to the MK63 in terms of network/Wi-Fi settings and features. In fact, the two are the same on this front.

Netgear MK83 Nighthawk Mesh: Reliable but subduced performance

Considering the MK83’s hardware specs, I didn’t expect much from its Wi-Fi throughputs. Yet, it still managed to disappoint me.

It was definitely the slowest among all tri-band Wi-Fi 6 mesh I’ve seen, as shown in the performance charts below. It was even slower than the MK63 in some tests.

And that’s because its dedicated wireless backhaul band (the 5GHz-2) was rather terrible.

I hook a computer to an MS80 satellite unit via a network cable to find out this backhaul speed. This satellite, by the way, was placed 40 feet (12m) from the router within the line of sight.

Now via a Gigabit connection, I got a sustained speed of around 400Mbps. And that was the max real-world bandwidth you could get out of an MS80 satellite in the intended wireless setup.

Netgear MK 3 Router MR 0 Performance

Even in a wired setup, the performance of the MK83’s satellite wasn’t better than that of the MK63, either. That’s because both capped at 1200Mbs of negotiated speed.

The MK83 did have slightly better coverage than the MK63. It’s hard to put this in number, but the mesh can handle some 5000 ft2 (465 m2) when strategically placed around the house. Obviously, your mileage will vary depending on the layout of your home.

Netgear MK 3 Satellite MS 0 Performance

As for signal reliability, the MK83 passed my 3-day stress test with no disconnection. So, it was reliable enough.

Note, though, that this mesh didn’t work well with legacy devices. Specifically, my 1st Gen (pre-Wave 2) Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 4 devices rarely connected to the 5GHz band, but only the 2.4GHz. As a result, they all had slow speeds.

And there was nothing I could do to improve the situation since the MK83 has close to zero Wi-Fi customizability.

Conclusion

The Netgear MK83 Nighthawk is not exactly a bad Tri-band mesh system, but it sure is a disappointment compared to the older MK63 model. I had a hard time finding something good about it to talk about.

In all, the little gain in the extra Wi-Fi band and shininess is far from enough to justify the more than $100 additional cost compared to the MK63, especially for a wired home.

On top of that, the lack of a Dynamic DNS-based remote management can be a deal-breaker for advanced users.

If you have a sub-500Mbps broadband connection, this system will likely still work out. But for $400, I don’t see why you shouldn’t check out these alternatives, instead.

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18 thoughts on “Netgear MK83 Review (vs MK63): A Tawdry Tri-band Mesh Alternative”

  1. Hey Dong,

    I have a 4500 sqft home. Looking to replace a Nighthawk R7800 router that has performed well in my wired home but lacks coverage. I currently have 60 clients at home (half are light switches, thermosats, google nest devices). I assign each one an IP and like Netgear’s web interface for doing that. I was leaning toward the MK83 but I’m starting to think the MK63 might make more sense at it’s current price $180ish at Costco. Which would you recommend? Because of the layout of my home, I prefer systems with three units. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Hi Dong
    I noticed that the MK8x data sheet mentions the ability to set up a separate 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi with unique network names that won’t interfere with main WiFi. This appears not to be available in the MK6x series (not sure about Orbi). For security cameras etc. that only work on 2.4GHz, this can be a deal breaker if not available. Would appreciate your thoughts on this.

    Reply
    • Chances are you won’t be able to separate the bands with this one, either, Rudi. It’s just the tri-band version of the MK63.

      Reply
      • Interesting. The Netgear data sheet, under key features states “ • Customize your WiFi — Create a separate 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi with unique network names that won’t interfere with main WiFi”. Am I missing something here?

        Reply
        • That’s the Guest networks, Rudi. You can do that with the MK63. I haven’t tested the MK83, so I don’t know for sure, but I doubt that you can separate the bands for the main networks.

          Reply
  3. Howdy!
    So how do you think this device compares to the Orbi RBK753? Ports are the same. Wi-Fi specs are similar (Orbi has slightly faster backhaul). Do their software features tend to differ? (I presume the MK83 features will be identical to the MK63.) I know it is hard to describe every feature in your reviews, so if you can give a feeling that they are really similar or one has more features than the other. I am just trying to decide if it makes sense to pick up the Orbi for $430 or to wait on this for $450. I prefer this from an aesthetic standpoint, but if the Orbi has features that I might use, then I would go for it instead.
    Thanks,
    Josh

    Reply
      • Thanks for the reply.
        I went ahead with the Orbi RBK753S to replace my XT8. I reviewed the Orbi settings vs my parent’s MK63 and the only thing it was missing was QoS. The Orbi is going back to Costco for sure though. My cell phone (Galaxy S21) keeps disconnecting from it. That is just an automatic return for me. No issues with any other items though.
        I am back to the XT8 (poor wired performance to the web, annoying to try and setup mesh, and my thermostat can’t see it since the latest fw update). I am frustrated with this whole thing. I can deal with the poor wired performance on the XT8 as I intend to add a RT-AX86U eventually as the main router (hopefully it can handle my internet speed). It is just frustrating that neither of them just functioned well out of the box.

        Reply
          • Yep, that is definitely the way I wanted to go. Your articles are very helpful. I do like a lot of the the extras that Asus includes. Makes me feel like I can do things.
            The problem is that I currently don’t have a wired network. I intend to do some remodeling in the next year, but until then I wanted to take the easy route with the dedicated wireless backhaul (I would have bought XD4 instead). The intention with the RT-AX86U was for after I get the wired in place. If I want fix the performance issue, I might get one and use MoCA adapters to one of the XT8s for the time being.
            For reference the Netgear had no problem giving me 900/900 to my PC wired into the router. The Asus gives me 600/350. I was able to get it to go up to around 800 by changing the MTU on my computer, but I didn’t want to run that way for compatibility reasons. So much for the 2.5Gbps WAN port (I am only using 1Gbps, but it is not what is holding me back). Hopefully, the RT-AX86U has the ability to handle the faster speeds.
            Thanks again,
            Josh

      • What exactly would make the MK83 better than the RBK753 in a wired set up? I read the article you linked in the response but I’m still not following, beginner here. My house has 1 cat5e connection downstairs and 1 upstairs. Which would be best? Thanks.

        Reply
  4. Hey Dong!

    Do you know what tri-band AX routers exist where the faster band CANNOT be used by normal wireless clients (ie. dedicated backhaul), versus those that do? Are there any hacks/alternate firmware/settings to change this on those that normally CANNOT?

    My Current List (03/17/2020):
    – Amazon Eero Pro 6
    – Arris SURFboard mAX (W21) (W121)
    – Arris SURFboard mAX Plus (W30) (W130)
    – Arris SURFboard mAX Pro (W31) (W133)
    – ASUS RT-AX92U
    – ASUS RT-AX95Q / RT-AX6600 / ZenWiFi AX (XT8)
    – ASUS RT-AX95U
    – ASUS GT-AX11000
    – ASUS GT-AXE11000
    – D-Link DIR-X9000 (unreleased)
    – Linksys Velop MX4000 (MX8000)
    – Linksys Velop MX5300 / MX5 (MX10600)
    – MIFON X1 (XR2142T)
    – Netgear Nighthawk MR80 (MK83)
    – Netgear Nighthawk RAX70
    – Netgear Nighthawk RAX78
    – Netgear Nighthawk RAX200
    – Netgear Orbi Pro SXK80
    – Netgear Orbi RBR750 (RBK752/3/3S/4)
    – Netgear Orbi RBR850 (RBK852)
    – TP-Link Archer AX3200
    – TP-Link Archer AX90 (AX6600)
    – TP-Link Archer AX11000
    – TP-Link Deco X5700
    – TP-Link Deco X90
    – Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien
    – Verizon G3100

    Reply

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