In late December 2021, I realized that Netgear had been quietly and retrospectively removing major features from its existing Nighthawk and Orbi devices via firmware updates, effectively reducing the hardware’s capability.
I published this review before that time. Consequently, while the hands-on experience remains largely relevant, the rating or recommendation might no longer fully apply.
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 a 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.
Netgear Nighthawk RAX200: The RAX120 with a few twists
If you think the RAX200 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.
Netgear RAX200: Detail photos
RAX200 vs. RAX120: The similarities
Both routers sport similar aesthetically pleasing, futuristic designs, looking like 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.
Hardware specifications: RAX200 vs. RAX120
|Netgear Nighthawk AX12
12-stream AX6000 WiFi 6 Router
|Netgear Nighthawk AX12
12-stream AX11000 WiFi 6 Router
|12.2 x 7.48 x 1.77 in
(310 x 190 x 45 mm)
|11.63 x 8.92 x 2.14 in
(295 x 227 x 54 mm)
|3 lbs (1.4 kg)
|2.43 lbs (1.1 kg)
|Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) AX6000
|Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) AX11000
|5GHz Wi-Fi Specs
|5GHz AX: Up to 4.8Gbps
(8×8 at 20/40/80/80+80MHz)
|2x 5GHz AX: Up to 4.8Gbps
(4×4 at 20/40/80/160MHz)
|2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs
|2.4GHz AX: Up to 1.2Gbps
(4×4 at 20/40MHz)
|Netgear Nighthawk App
(formerly Up app)
|2x USB 3.0
|Gigabit Network Port
|4x LAN, 1x WAN
|Yes (LAN ports 1 and 2)
|Yes (LAN ports 3 and 4)
|1x 5Gbps LAN/WAN
|1x 2.5Gbps LAN/WAN
|64-bit quad-Core 2.2GHz CPU,
512MB Flash, 1GB RAM
|64-bit quad-core 1.8GHz CPU,
512MB Flash, 1GB RAM
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.
160MHz vs. 160Mhz (80+80)
The RAX200 is more of an actual Wi-Fi 6 router supporting the true 160MHz channel width. The RAX120 is somewhat a compatible Wi-Fi 6 router — its 160MHz channel combines 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.
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.
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.
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 for 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, you’ll get even speedier Wi-Fi speeds out of it when faster clients are available.
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 impressive when working with Wi-Fi 5 clients, averaging 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 could still 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 bands to work exclusively for Wi-Fi 6 clients 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 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 many 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 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 port, 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 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.
Netgear Nighthawk RAX200's Rating
Reliable and fast performance
Helpful mobile app, robust web UI
Multi-Gig support (2.5Gbps)
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
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.)
For everyone else, the RAX200 is ridiculously overpriced. If you can’t wait and need a high-end Wi-Fi 6 right router now, consider the similarly-specced Asus GT-AX11000 with more features and costs some $200 less.