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Netgear RAX200 Review: Nice, Super-Fast but Overpriced

The Netgear RAX200 is a large sleek looking Wi-Fi 6 router. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

The Netgear Nighthawk AX12 12-Stream AX11000 Tri-Band WiFi 6 Router (model RAX200), unveiled back in March, is easily one of the most, if not the most expensive, Wi-Fi router on the market. It’ll set you back at least $100 more than does the RAX120, which already costs an arm and a leg.

And here’s the problem: The RAX200 is not $100 better than the RAX120.

Indeed, this top-of-the-line home networking device has an extra 5GHz band but less raw power and slower wired connection. Also, you’ll only see its real benefits if most (or all) of your clients  — and you need to have many of them — support Wi-Fi 6. So, the RAX200 is ahead of its time, by a year or two.

That said, Netgear RAX200 is a dilemma. On the one hand, I love its excellent performance and cool look. On the other, I can’t find enough reasons to justify its cost.

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Netgear Nighthawk AX12 12-Stream AX11000 Tri-Band WiFi 6 Router (RAX200)

8

Performance

9.0/10

Features

7.5/10

Design and Setup

8.5/10

Value

7.0/10

Pros

  • Reliable and fast performance
  • Eye-catching design
  • Helpful mobile app, robust web UI
  • Multi-Gig support (2.5Gbps)

Cons

  • Comparatively super-expensive with nothing extra
  • Shallow Wi-Fi customization, spartan feature set
  • Comparatively low CPU clock speed
  • No 5Gbps or 10Gbps LAN port, not wall-mountable

Netgear RAX200: The RAX120 with a few twists

If you think the RAX120 is the RAX120 plus an additional 5GHz band, you’re wrong. Their relationship is a bit more complicated than that. But yes, they have a lot of things in common.

The only way to tell the Netgear RAX200 (front) and the RAX120 apart is to look at their ports. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

RAX200 vs. RAX120: The similarities

Both routers sport similar aesthetically-pleasing, futuristic designs, looking like pieces of hardware conjured by George Lucas. They are both massive with collapsible antennas. (The RAX200 is a tart smaller and lighter.) Both feature a Multi-Gig network port, which can work as a WAN or a LAN port, plus four Gigabit LAN ports, one Gigabit WAN port, and two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports.

Most importantly, the two have the same setup process, mobile app, feature set, and a similar web user interface. And they, too, suffer from a few common shortcomings, namely the lack of built-in mesh, gaming, and online protection features. Oh, both have an internal ventilation fan and are not wall-mountable.

I’m not going to repeat myself and describe all these similarities in detail. You can read about them in my take on the RAX120. This review is more about how the RAX200 is different from the RAX120. And there’s a lot to talk about, more than the fact one is a Dual-band router the other is a Tri-band.

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Specifications

Netgear RAX200 vs. RAX120: The differences

If you pay attention, you’ll notice that Netgear calls both routers A12, as an effort to show off their total of 12 Wi-Fi streams among the bands, for marketing purposes. The RAX120 is a dual-band router, and the RAX200 is a tri-band one, how come they have the same amount of streams? That brings us to the first difference between the two, their Wi-Fi specs.

The Netgear Nighthawk app has a lot of useful tools. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

160MHz vs. 160Mhz (80+80)

The RAX200 is more of a real Wi-Fi 6 router supporting the true 160MHz channel width. The RAX120 is somewhat a compatible Wi-Fi 6 router — its 160MHz channel is the combination of two 80MHz channels (80+80).

As a result, each Wi-Fi 6 stream of the RAX200 has double the bandwidth of the RAX120’s. Or, apples to apples, on the 5GHz band, the RAX120 is a quad-stream (4×4) router and not an 8×8 one as Netgear claims.

The bottom line is the RAX200 is to deliver fast Wi-Fi 6 speed when working in 160MHz channel width, but then it doesn’t support legacy clients well, if at all. (Most Wi-Fi 5, and older, clients can’t connect using the 160MHz channel width.)

On the other hand, the RAX120 works better with legacy clients, even when you set it to work in the 160Mhz (80+80) mode, but then it would deliver slower speeds to Wi-Fi 6 clients. In other words, the RAX120 doesn’t have a pure 160MHz-only mode.

At least, that’s the theory. In reality, for now, neither has a Wi-Fi 6-only mode, and you can’t even pick the channel width for any of the bands. That’s right. Despite having two 5GHz bands, the RAX200 can’t make either work exclusively for Wi-Fi 6 clients. 

That said, if you’re planning to use one 5GHz band for mixed clients and the other 5GHz band for Wi-Fi 6 clients exclusively, you’re out luck! There’s no way to make that happen. But you might not need to worry about that anyway. More on this below.

The Netgear RAX200’s web user interface is self-explanatory, but it doesn’t allow for deep Wi-Fi customization. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

2.5G vs. 5G network ports

Though more expensive, the RAX200’s Multi-Gig network port is much slower than that of the RAX120. 

Specifically, this port on the RAX200 caps at 2.5Gbps. While that’s super-fast, the 5Gbps port of the RAX120 doubles the speed. So, if you want to maximize your wired connection — for NAS performance when hosting an external storage device, for example — the RAX120 is better. []

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Slower CPU

And there’s more bad news. The RAX120 runs on a 2.2Ghz quad-core CPU, while the RAX200 uses a 1.8Ghz quad-core CPU. For a router that’s $100 more expensive, it’s rather disappointing to see it has less power, at least in terms of CPU clock speeds.

The Netgear RAX200’s Multi-Gig port caps at 2.5Gbps. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

So in all, the RAX200 seems to have almost nothing better than the RAX120 and a few things worse. But in real-world usage, it turns out to be a better router, for the most part, thanks to its excellent performance.

Netgear RAX200: Fast speeds, reliable signals, excellent range

I tested the RAX200 over a week, the same way I did other Wi-Fi 6 routers, and it blew me away when used with Wi-Fi 6 clients. Keep in mind that I tested the router using 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients. Since the RAX200 is a 4×4 router, when faster clients are available, you’ll get even speedier Wi-Fi speeds out of it.

Stellar 5GHz Wi-Fi speeds

I noted that during my testing, Wi-Fi 6 clients connected to the RAX200 quickly and almost always at the top 2.4Gbps speed at a close range — some 10 feet (3 m) away. At this distance, the router delivered an average sustained speed of more than 1400 megabits per second, the fastest I’ve seen.

When I moved the client to 40 feet (12 m) away, it now connected at 2.1Gbps and had a sustained speed of almost 1100 Mbps, also the fastest.

The RAX200 was also quite impressive when working with Wi-Fi 5 clients, averaging some 980 Mbps and 800 Mbps for close and long distances, respectively. But overall, it’s about the same as other Wi-Fi 6 routers.

Here’s the interesting part: When I used both legacy and Wi-Fi 6 clients together, the router was still able to deliver top Wi-Fi 6 speeds, like when I was using only Wi-Fi 6 clients. The legacy clients worked well, too. So the fact that you can’t set any of the router’s band to work exclusively for Wi-Fi 6 client doesn’t matter much. You don’t need to do that from the performance’s perspective.

So so 2.4GHz Wi-Fi performance

Like many routers I’ve worked with recently, the RAX200 had nothing to brag about on the 2.4GHz band. The throughput speeds, in this case, fluctuated a lot and averaged about 190 Mbps at a close range and approximately 100 Mbps at 40 feet away. I got the same result with both Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 clients.

Excellent range and reliability

The RAX200 had about the same range as that of the RAX120 or the Asus GT-AX11000 in my testing. It’s hard to determine a router’s Wi-Fi coverage precisely since this depends on where you are and the layout of your home. However, you can expect the router to cover some 2000 sf² (186 m²) of residential space with reliable Wi-Fi at every corner.

I used the RAX200 continuously for about a week and had no problem with it at all. There was no disconnection or any other issue. It seemed its firmware was a lot more stable and reliable than that of the Asus GT-AX11100. It’s likely because Netgear doesn’t pack as many features in the RAX200 as does Asus in its GT-AX1100.

Overall, I was happy with RAX200’s Wi-Fi performance. However, I also found the extra 5GHz band to be a bit redundant. Since you can’t customize its Wi-Fi much, and the router has no built-in mesh feature, having two 5GHz bands is only useful when you have a lot of 5GHz clients. Most of us don’t have enough for the benefits to kick in.

Fast NAS performance

I tested the RAX200’s network-attached storage feature by connecting a Samsung T5 to one of its USB 3.0 ports.

Via the router’s 2.5Gbps port, I was able to get the sustained copy speeds of about 150 megabytes per second for reading and more than 120 MB/s for writing. These were quite impressive but the write speed was slower than the Asus GT-AX11000’s, which has the same port. Compared with the RAX120 which has a 5Gbps, as expected, the RAX200’s NAS performance was significantly slower.

When I used a regular 1Gbps LAN port for this test, the RAX200 was now on par with the RAX120 averaging about 120 MB/s for both reading and writing.

Overall, RAX200’s NAS performance was excellent. If you’re thinking of getting into the world of network storage and don’t want to buy a dedicated NAS server yet, this router is among the best second-best choices.

Conclusion

If money is not an issue for you, I’d say go ahead, splurge, and get this Netgear RAX200 Netgear Nighthawk AX12 12-Stream AX11000 Tri-Band WiFi 6 Router. You’ll love it, especially if you have done Wi-Fi 6 upgrades on most or all of your computers. It’s an excellent router despite the fact it doesn’t deliver all you’d expect.

(By the way, if you’re wondering between it and the RAX120 which you should get, make sure you understand the difference between Dual-band and Tri-band routers.)

READ MORE:  Best Wi-Fi 6 Routers and Mesh Systems of 2020

For everyone else, the RAX200 is ridiculously over-priced. If you can’t wait and need a high-end Wi-Fi 6 right router now, consider the similarly-specced Aus GT-AX11000 that has more features and costs some $200 less. 

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About the Author: Dong Ngo

Before Dong Knows Tech, I spent some 18 years testing and reviewing gadgets at CNET.com. Technology is my passion and I do know it. | Follow me on Twitter, or Facebook!

22 Comments

  1. Is the eax80 in combination with the rax200 a real mesh extender?with handover when moving from downstairs to upstairs floor? Or actually merely a wireless repeater? Can eax80 work as wired extender as well?

  2. So what about the ASUS AX6100? Mesh isn’t really that important but future proof is I recently upgraded my speeds to gig so I wanna take advantage of multi gig I have the cbk 40 Orbi unhooked I have the cm1200 I heard good reviews about the rax 120 it’s faster then 200. But idk Asus has a good products are good I’m about feed up with netgear since they haven’t had my issue regarding the intel puma 7 defected chipset in the Orbi and tech support puts you thru hell. But yeah need something powerful future proof and great for gaming and multi devices I have over 25 devices connected

  3. So what consider the rax 200 or rax120 I really want to something with mesh as well or something I can integrate Orbi into I have the cbk40 and the rbk50 .. the rbk852 is too expensive but yeah I’m open for recommendations

    1. If you think of mesh then you need to forget about the RAX routers, Mike. Those are only good when you only need a single router. Yes, you can add more APs and extenders later with the but that won’t give you a real mesh. The best way to start with a single router and expand your network later is an AiMesh-ready Asus router.

  4. Hello Dong i am looking to purchase either the Asus GT-AX11000 or the Nighthawk Rax200, Am looking to use for gaming and just all around fast speeds, I already have the Netgear CM1200 and I have Xfinity 1G internet, Any recommendations pros over cons for both routers?

    1. They are both great routers, Andre. The Asus has more a lot more features but also requires more tweaking since it’s a tad buggy. The Netgear is way easier to use — just use the default settings and you’re game — but it has fewer options and is more expensive. The Netgear looks much cooler than the Asus by the way. As for the details in how they are different, you’ll have to read the reviews. 🙂

  5. One very important / major difference you neglected to mention, the RAX120 is built up on a superior and more preferred Qualcomm chipset while the RAX200 uses a Broadcom based one. The RAX200 is essentially an RAX80 with an extra 5GHz channel and a massively inflated price tag.

    1. Thanks for the input, Tyler. I thought that was a bit too technical to include chipset info. After all, it’s the actual performance that counts.

    1. This depends on your NAS server. The RAX120’s 5Gbps uses a regular RJ45 port (and supports CAT5e cable) so find a NAS server that supports a card of the same port standard. Alternatively, you can also use the router’s link aggregation feature which is more widely supported in NAS servers.

  6. What is the best router to support close to 80 phone devices at once. I have the ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 AX11000 Tri-Band and it’s pretty decent, but even it will drop connections on several. Is there a better router to have so many devices streaming at once and not drop? My internet is more than enough as I have over 1gb, that is not the issue FWIW. Also range is not an issue as all the phones are within 6ft of the router placement. If you know of a better router to suit my needs please let me know. Or if there are any settings I should explore? Thanks so much.

  7. I don’t know if it is true but I think the RAX200 can be a WiFi mesh system with the new Nighthawk 8-Stream WiFi 6 Mesh Extender (Model: EAX80) that is coming out but I am not sure.
    In your personal experience what is the best WiFi 6 router or mesh if you had to choose one because I am trying to buy one, but I don’t know which is the best one that give high speed for gaming (wired and wireless) and everything else. I don’t care about price since I look at it as a future investment. I just need to future proof and also high speed with my gigablast. Thank you

    1. No that’s not true. The EAX80 will NOT turn the RAX200 (or any RAX or non-RAX routers, for that matter) into a true mesh. It’s just an extender, compared to Wi-Fi 5 extenders it will be better but it’s an extender nonetheless. For more check out this post.

  8. Hello, thanks for the great review. So would you say this Rax200 is the fastest and best router if we don’t consider the price?. I currently have Arris Surfboard Pro Max wifi 6 mesh. Which the price is close to the Rax200. Thank you

    1. That depends on what you have (all Wi-Fi 6 clients or not) and what you want (the router has fewer features, it’s not a mesh). But overall, cost aside, the RAX200 is definitely one of the best routers.

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