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.
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 6 System$399.99
- Large coverage with reliable signals
- Full web interface with optional mobile app
- Dedicated backhaul band with optional wired backhau
- Simple settings, pre-synced hardware
- 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 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 Name||Netgear MK83 Nighthawk |
Wi-Fi 6 System
|Netgear MK63 |
Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System
|Mesh Set||One Router + Two Satellites||One Router + Two Satellites|
|Hardware Model||Router: MR80|
| Router: MR60|
|Wi-Fi Designation||Tri-band AX3600|
(2x 5GHz and 1x 2.4GHz)
(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)
|Weight||Router (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 Specs||2×2 AX: Up to 1200Mbps|
(20 / 40 / 80MHz)
| 2×2 AX: Up to 1200Mbps|
Channel Width: 20 / 40 / 80MHz
|5GHz-2 Wi-Fi Specs||3×3 AX: Up to 1800Mbps|
(20 / 40 / 80MHz)
|2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs||2 x 2 Wi-Fi 6 |
up to 600Mbps
(20 / 40MHz)
| 2 x 2 Wi-Fi 6 |
Up to 600Mbps
(20 / 40MHz)
|Dedicated Backhaul Band||5GHz-2||None|
|Wi-Fi Security||WPA3 / WPA2 / WPA||WPA3 / WPA2 / WPA|
|Mobile App||Netgear Nighthawk||Netgear Nighthawk|
|Web User Interface||Yes||Yes|
|AP Mode||Yes |
(as a single unit or a mesh)
| Yes |
(as a single unit or a mesh)
|Gigabit Port||Router (MR80): 1x WAN, 3x LAN|
Satellite (MS80): 2x LAN
| Router (MR80): 1x WAN/LAN, 1x LAN |
Satellite (MS80): 1x LAN
|Processing Power||Quad-Code 1.5GHz CPU, |
256MB flash, 512MB RAM
| Quad-Code 1.5GHz CPU, |
128MB Flash and 256MB RAM
|Release Date||March 16, 2021||July 27, 2020|
|Price (at launch)||$499 (3-pack)||$280 (3-pack)|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.