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Netgear MK93S: Nighthawk Mesh Gets Wi-Fi 6E and 1st-Year-Free Protection

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Netgear announced a major new mesh system today, and it's not another Orbi, nor does it support Wi-Fi 7. Instead, it's the company's latest Nighthawk, the MK93S Tri-Band Mesh WiFi 6E system.

This is the third in the networking vendor's low-cost product line, as the successor of the MK83 and MK63.

Netgear Nighthawk MK93S
The Netgear Nighthawk MK93S includes three identical-looking units, of which one is a router, and the others are satellites.

Netgear MK93S: The MK83 with some twists

In more ways than one, the MK93s reminds me of the MK83. The two share the same physical size and hardware composition, including a router and two mesh satellite units.

The MK93S is differentiated by the support for Wi-Fi 6E and Multi-Gig. Neither is a novelty since they have been available in other hardware for over a year, including Netgear's first Wi-Fi 6E mesh, the Orbi RBKE960 series.

But better late than never. Among other things, the MK93S means the MK83 is not the last in the product line. And it's always a good thing for consumers to have more options.

The table below shows the differences and similarities between the two.

Netgear Nighthawk MK93S vs MK83: Hardware specifications

Full NameNetgear MK93S
Nighthawk
Tri-band Mesh
WiFi 6E System
Netgear MK83 Nighthawk
Tri-band Mesh
WiFi 6 System
Mesh CompositionOne Router and two SatellitesOne Router and two Satellites
ModelMK93SMK83
Hardware UnitsRouter: MR90
Satellite: MS90
Router: MR80
Satellite: MS80
Dimensions 
(each unit)
5.51 x 5.51 x 3.62 in
(14 x14 x 9.2 cm)
5.51 x 5.51 x 3.62 in
(14 x14 x 9.2 cm)
WeightRouter: 1.4 lbs (635 g)
Satellite: 1.38 lbs (626 g)
Router: 1.4 lbs (635 g)
Satellite: 1.38 lbs (626 g)
Wi-Fi DesignationTri-band AXE5700Tri-band AX3600
First Band
(channel with)
2.4GHz 3x3 AXE:
up to 900Mbps
(20/40MHz)
2.4GHz 2 x 2 AX: 
up to 600Mbps
(20/40MHz)
Second Band
(channel width)
5GHz 2x2 AX: up to 2400Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
5GHz-1 2x2 AX: up to 1200Mbps
(20 / 40 / 80MHz)
Third Band
(channel width)
6GHZ
2x2 AXE: up to 2400Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
5GHz-2 3x3 AX: up to 1800Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
Dedicated Backhaul Band
(optional)
None5GHz-2
Wired BackhaulYesYes
Wi-Fi SecurityWPA3 / WPA2 / WPA WPA3 / WPA2 / WPA 
Backward Compatibility802.11b/a/g/n/ac/ax802.11b/a/g/n/ac
Web User InterfaceYesYes 
Mobile App
(optional)
Netgear NighthawkNetgear Nighthawk
AP ModeYes 
(as a single unit or a mesh)
Yes 
(as a single unit or a mesh)
USB PortNoneNone
Multi-Gig Port1x 2.5GBASE-T WAN
(on the router)
None
Gigabit PortRouter: 3x LAN
Satellite: 2x LAN
Router: 1x WAN, 3x LAN
Satellite: 2x LAN
Link AggregationYes
(WAN and LAN)
No
Dual-WANNoNo
Processing PowerQuad-Core 1.7GHz processor
256MB flash, 512MB RAM
Quad-Core 1.5GHz CPU, 
256MB flash, 512MB RAM
Warranty1-Year1-Year
Release DateSeptember 13, 2023March 16, 2021
Price (at launch)$550 (3-pack)$400 (3-pack)
Hardware specifications: Netgear Nighthawk MK93S vs MK83

You won't be able to tell these two apart unless you look at their port side, where the MK93S's router (the MR90) has a 2.5Gbps WAN port.

While it's good to have a fast WAN port, that doesn't amount to much in this case since it's the only Multi-Gig port -- there's no similar port on the LAN side.

Consequently, you won't get a multi-Gigabit wired or wireless connection out of the MK93S no matter how you use it -- per the specs, its Wi-Fi will sustain at Gig+ at best.

What is Gig+

Gig+, or Gig Plus, conveys a speed grade faster than 1Gbps but slower than 2Gbps. So, it's 1.5Gbps, give or take, and it's not fast enough to be qualified as Multi-Gig or multi-Gigabit.

Gig+ generally applies to the sustained speeds of Wi-Fi 6 or 6E -- via a 2x2 at 160MHz connection which has the 2400Mbps theoretical ceiling speed -- or Internet speed and is not used to describe wired network connections.

On the inside, the new MK930S has better hardware supporting the 6GHz band. In return, it doesn't have an additional 5GHz band to work as the dedicated backhaul link in a wireless setup.

But if you have a wired home, that's a good trade-off, which is the general case of all Wi-Fi 6E mesh systems.

MK93S: A year of Netgear Armor included

As the "S" in the name suggests, the MK93S comes with security. Specifically, it's the first among the Nighthawk mesh family that follows the Orbi line -- starting with the RBKE960 series -- to have a one-year Netgear Armor protection add-on for free instead of a short trial. After that, the protection feature costs around $100/year.

The Armor protection add-on requires the optional Nighthawk app, which operates via a login account with Netgear.

Netgear and your privacy

Having a login account with the vendor is generally an inherent privacy risk. On this matter, Netgear offers this assurance:

"NETGEAR does not view or collect any data on browsing history or content of the customer."

Here's the company's privacy policy.

Besides this app, like the previous Nighthawk mesh sets, the MK93S has a full web user interface. Over the years, this interface has slowly become less robust as Netgear coerces folks into using the mobile app. But it's still an important part of the hardware.

MK93S the ports of the router and satellite units
The network ports of the router (MR90) and the satellite (MS90). Note the 2.5Gbps WAN of the former.

A familiar Nighthawk mesh

You can expect the MK93S to be very similar to previous Nighthawk releases.

The hardware units are pre-synced. As a result, all you have to do is set up the router unit like any standard router and plug the satellites in at a good distance (or connect them via wired backhauling), and you're set.

After that, the customization will be limited since that's been the case with most Nighthawk routers. However, considering the improved specs, the MK93S likely will perform better than its older cousins, though not as well as Netgear's Orbi Wi-Fi 6E counterpart, the RBKE960 series.

Originally, the idea of Nighthawk mesh was based on the Wi-Fi Alliance's Wi-Fi EasyMesh certification program. Netgear doesn't mention the program with the release of the MK93S and hasn't answered my question on the matter. But it's unlikely that this mesh set uses a totally new technology.

Wi-Fi EasyMesh in Brief

Wi-Fi EasyMesh is Wi-Fi Alliance's certification program, first announced in early 2020, that aims to simplify the building of mesh systems.

The idea is that any Wi-Fi EasyMesh-certified hardware from any vendor will work together to form a seamless Wi-Fi system.

The program hasn't caught on since first announced. By mid-2023, only Netgear has supposedly Wi-Fi EasyMesh-compliant mesh systems -- part of its Nighthawk product line. In August 2022, TP-Link said it would join the cause by transitioning its OneMesh over.

Generally, we need the supported hardware of at least two vendors to know the idea of Wi-Fi EasyMesh as a universal mesh approach is real. But even then, things can get complicated in terms of liability or tech support.

Specifically, if a mixed hardware Wi-Fi EasyMesh system is not working as expected, it's hard to know which hardware vendor is at fault, and consumers might be stuck between two networking companies pointing fingers at each other.

For more reasons than one, users tend to use mesh hardware from the same vendor, and Wi-Fi EasyMesh has so far been a nice idea with little impact. But the concept has no downside -- it doesn't prevent users from keeping hardware of the same vendor -- and its adoption might increase over time.

As for Wi-Fi coverage, Netgear says a 3-pack MK93S "provides exceptional Wi-Fi range of up to 7,500 ft2 (696 m2)".

But the number is arbitrary -- Wi-Fi ranges depend on many factors -- and should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, the added 6GHz band is noticeably short in range, so there's nothing to make the new MK93S outdo the MK83 in terms of coverage.

Availability and pricing

Netgear says the new MK93S Nighthawk Tri-Band Mesh WiFi 6E System is available as pre-order today with the suggested retail price of $549.99 for a 3-pack. It'll start shipping before the month is out.

Considering the high cost of the Orbi line, this new system seems a good deal, especially for a wired home with Gigabit broadband.

I'm in the process of acquiring a set for hands-on testing. Check back soon to see how its performance turns out. In the meantime, below is the rating of the previous MK83 set for reference.

Netgear MK83 Nighthawk's Rating

6.6 out of 10
Netgear MK83 Nighthawk Tri Band Whole Home Mesh Wi Fi System
Performance
6.5 out of 10
Features
7 out of 10
Design and Setup
7.5 out of 10
Value
5.5 out of 10

Pros

Extensive Wi-Fi coverage with reliable signals

Full web interface with optional mobile app

Dedicated backhaul band with optional wired backhaul

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 requires a mobile app and is not free

Dirt magnet, not wall-mountable hardware

One satellite unit fails the extended anecdotal hardware reliability test

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