Sunday, January 24th, 2021

Netgear Nighthawk RAX50 Review: A Just-Right Wi-Fi 6 Router

Netgear RAX50 Router 11
The Netgear Nighthawk RAX50 share a similar design as that of the RAX40.

Of all Wi-Fi 6 routers from Netgear I’ve tested, the Nighthawk AX6 6-Stream AX5400 Wi-Fi 6 Router (model RAX50) is the easiest recommendation. It has the right balance of performance, features, and cost.

This eye candy Wi-Fi machine doesn’t include everything you can collectively find in a high-end router. That’s because Netgear doesn’t intend it to be an alternative to the RAX120. Instead, it’s more of a souped-up version of the mid-tier RAX40.

And within the decent amount of goodies the router has to offer, it delivered in my testing. I just had a couple of minor things to nitpick about it. So, for a small or medium home, the Netgear RAX50 will do more than getting the job done. And its ability to work as a viable mini network-attached storage (NAS) server is a bonus.

I do wish it were a bit more affordable than the suggested retail price of some $300. But in this case, you do pay for what you’ll get.

Netgear Nighthawk AX6 6-Stream WiFi 6 Router (RAX50)

8.5

Performance

8.5/10

Features

8.0/10

Design and Setup

8.5/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Fast, reliable Wi-Fi performance
  • 160 MHz channel width support
  • Excellent NAS performance when hosting a storage device
  • Responsive web user interface, useful mobile app with built-in online protection
  • Good set of network features and settings
  • Wall-mountable

Cons

  • A bit pricey
  • No multi-gig port, Dual-WAN, or Link Aggregation
  • Limited Wi-Fi settings
  • Mobile app require a login account with vendor

Netgear RAX50: Just the right stuff for a Gigabit home

The Netgear RAX50 is like the bridge between the RAX40 and RAX120 (or the RAX80 for that matter). It has just what you need for a fast Wi-Fi network without going overboard.

RAX50 vs. RAX40 v.s RAX120

This trio from Netgear is all dual-band routers, among which the RAX40 is the only that’s also a pure dual-stream (2×2) router — it has four spatial streams, two on each band.

The RAX120 is a 12-stream router (eight on the 5GHz and four on the 2.4GHz), but in reality, it’s very similar to the RAX80 since it has the same ceiling bandwidth on the 5GHz band of 4800Mbps. It’s a matter of 80MHz vs. 160MHz channel width.

The RAX50 is the middle of the road — it’s a 4×4 router on the 5GHz band and a 2×2 one on the 2.4GHz band. Since the latter is mostly for backup use, this router has the high Wi-Fi specs where it matters.

Indeed, it has the same 4800Mbps bandwidth on the 5GHz band as that of its much more expensive cousins, thanks to the support for the 160MHz channel width.

By the way, the RAX50 sports a triple-core processor which has plenty more power than the dual-core of the RAX40. Design-wise, however, it looks exactly like the lesser model with two additional antennas on the back.

Netgear RAX50’s hardware specifications

Negear RAX50’s detail photos

Netgear RAX50 Router 8
The Netgear RAX50 is a good-looking Wi-Fi 6 router.

Netgear RAX50 Router 14
The router looks as good from the right side…

Netgear RAX50 Router 15
… as does it from the left side.

Netgear RAX50 Router 12
Netgear RAX50 comes with the usual for Gigabit LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN (Internet) port. It also comes with a USB 3.0 port.

Netgear RAX50 Router 7
Unlike the RAX40, the RAX50 comes with four removable antennas in two separate sets. One of the side and the other for its back.

Netgear RAX50 Router 9
Note the labels on the Netgear RAX50’s antennas that show where you should assemble them to the router.

Netgear RAX50 Router 17
The Netgear RAX50 has four little rubber feet for it to stay on a flat surface, but it’s also wall-mountable.

Netgear RAX50 Router 16
The Netgear RAX50 is relatively compact. It sure is smaller than the RAX120.

Netgear RAX50 Router 6
The router comes with a standard-size 110V – 240V power supply.

Four removable antennas, no multi-gig port

On the downside, the RAX50 doesn’t have any multi-gig network port, nor does it support dual-WAN or link aggregation. In short, you can’t expect faster-than-1 Gbps speed out of it in any single connection.

But if you think its 5 GHz bandwidth is a waste, you’re wrong, too. Since the Wi-Fi bandwidth is shared, the higher ceiling means you can connect more clients to it at high speeds. Netgear says the RAX50 can handle up to 25 concurrent wireless devices.

The RAX50 comes with four removable antennas devices into two sets. One for the back position and the other for the router’s side.

Each antenna has a label that corresponds to the same one on the router. It’s the first Wi-Fi 6 router with clearly designated antennas, but it’s relatively common practice in previous Netgear Wi-Fi 5 routers. The point is you don’t want to mix up their positions.

Netgear RAX50 Router 1
You can’t miss it but out of the box, the Netgear RAX50 has clear labels to make sure you install its antennas correctly.

Standard setup process

Like all previous Netgear router, the RAX50 uses the familiar Netgear Genie firmware and with a standard web interface. As a result, it has that of most routers. Especially, from a connected computer, just point a browser to the router’s default IP address, which is 192.168.1.1 (or routerlogin.com friendly URL) and the rest is self-explanatory.

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Netgear RAX50 Web Interface
The Netgear RAX50 comes with a familiar interface and set of feature.

It’s worth noting, though, that the router will course you into creating a login account with Netgear, which you can then use with the Netgear Nighthawk mobile app. To avoid the nags, you can just use its IP address (and not the friendly URL).

The mobile app is helpful and easy to use. It also allows for remote administration of the router. However, the fact it requires a login account to use makes it a no-no to me personally. You can always use the web interface, including via a mobile browser, and use Dynamic DNS for remote access instead.

In all, it took me less than 15 minutes to get the RAX50 up and running, about the same time I needed with previous Netgear Wi-Fi 6 routers. And that included the time to update it to the latest firmware as promoted by the step-by-step initial setup wizard.

Familiar features, now with Armor right out of the box

The RAX50 shares the same feature set as that of the RAX120, or almost any Netgear router released in the past five or so year, for that matter.

You’ll find all the common goodies including Dynamic DNS, port forwarding, IP reservation, and VPN, and so on. You generally can customize your network to your liking.

On top of that, you can plug an external drive to the router and turn it into a mini NAS server, using ReadySHARE-based applications, which are part of Netgear’s NAS ecosystem. By the way, you can only use the USB port to host a storage device, and nothing else. There’s no support for printer or USB cellular dongle.

By the way, the RAX50 is the first Wi-Fi 6 router that comes with the Netgear Armor online protection suite. The suite comes with a short trial period and will cost some $70/year. You do need to use the mobile app to activate and manage this feature, however.

Limited Wi-Fi settings

Like the case of all previous Netgear Wi-Fi 6 routers, the RAX50 doesn’t offer much in terms of Wi-Fi settings.

Specifically, you can only make each of its band work at an “up to” certain speed rate — up to 4800Mbps and 600Mbps on the 5GHz and 2.4GHz, respectively. I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to use the highest number in this case, making the setting borderline useless.

Netgear RAX50 Wi Fi Settigs
There’s not much to customize in Netgear RAX50’s Wi-Fi settings.

So, generally, other than changing the Wi-Fi name and password, or using the two bands combined in a single network, as two separate one, there’s not much else to customize in the router’s Wi-Fi settings. And that can be a good thing for those who don’t want to complicate things.

Netgear Nighthawk RAX50: Excellent performance all around

The RAX50 did well in my testing. Keep in mind, again, that since there’s no multi-gig port, in my testing method, the router’s speed capped at 1 Gbps.

Fast Wi-Fi speeds

Despite the fact there wasn’t much I could configure the RAX50’s Wi-Fi settings, my 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients could connect to it at 2.4 Gbps quite consistently within 20 feet (6 m). Farther out, they started to fluctuate between 1.2 Gbps and up. And the real-world speeds reflected that.

Netgear RAX50 Wi Fi 6 Performance Chart
(W-W): Tests using two 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients.

The router averaged some 880Mbps and 860Mbps for close and long ranges, respectively.

Out of curiosity, I did a test using two clients by copying data from one to another, forcing the router’s 5 GHz bandwidth to divide in half, it now registered the sustained speeds of some 600Mbps and 415Mbps, respectively. Multiply those numbers by two, and you’ll get the router’s actual bandwidth when working with a 2×2 client.

Netgear RAX50 Wi Fi 5 Performance Chart

The RAX50 did well, too, with Wi-Fi 5 clients. My 4×4 test device, at a close range, got a sustained speed of almost 860Mbps. And at 40 feet (12 m) away, my 3×3 client got some 560Mbps. Both were quite impressive.

Netgear RAX50 2 4GHz Performance Chart

On the 2.4GHz, the RAX50 did about the same as the most recent routers. It has enough speeds to deliver an average residential broadband connection in full.

Reliable performance

I tress-tested the RAX50 for a couple of days and didn’t run into any problem with it. The router had about the same range as the RAX40, or the Asus RT-AX3000, by the way. So if you live in a small home of around 1800 ft (m), or maybe a slightly larger one with not too many thick walls, the router can handle that when put in the middle.

For a larger home, you might want to think about a multi-hardware-unit solution, especially if you need fast local Wi-Fi speeds.

Excellent NAS performance

Considering how slow the RAX40 was in NAS performance, I had a pleasant surprise with the RAX50.

I tested the server using the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD and via a Gigabit connection, it delivered the sustained copy speed of around 100 MB/s and 112 MB/s for writing and reading, respectively, or three times those of its lesser cousin.

Netgear RAX50 NAS Performance Chart

That said, get a decent storage device and you’ll get a decent NAS server out of the RAX50.

Conclusion

The Netgear RAX50 Nighthawk AX6 6-Stream AX5400 Wi-Fi 6 Router is not a must-have, but among other Wi-Fi 6 routers from the same vendor, it’s an easy choice. If you need a fast, reliable router for a small home with a sub-Gigabit Internet, this one is an excellent buy. Get it!

39 thoughts on “Netgear Nighthawk RAX50 Review: A Just-Right Wi-Fi 6 Router”

  1. Hi, Dong. I just wanted to say thank you for the excellent review. I was looking to purchase a new router last September, and this information really helped me understand the performance of the RAX50. I did purchase the RAX50. I have a larger home, about 3000 sq ft. I have about 25 devices that span laptops, a desktop, iPhones, gaming consoles and IoT devices. It does give good WiFi throughout the home. Recently, I have been experimenting with adding an EAX20 Extender to the system, and it improves link stability for some hard to reach corners, and pushes more devices into the 5 GHz band. In general, the RAX50 has been fine except I have been having intermittent problems, smaller but annoying. Some IoT devices would lose connections; assigning static IPs seem to be working. My PS4 occasionally fails to get an IP address even with a DHCP reservation; flushing the DHCP table by unplugging the PS4 and waiting 20 mins helps. I had a one occasion where the 5 GHz WiFi stopped working, requiring a reboot to fix. Do you have any experience with the software and stability of the RAX50? I thought long and hard about this unit versus the Asus, originally.

    Reply
    • An Asus router mgith work out better, Anthony, but our issue is likely related to your extender. It uses a virtual MAC address for the connected client which doesn’t sit well with certain setup or IoT devices. More here.

      Reply
      • Ah, very interesting. Thank you. I have not noticed any specific problems as yet with any IoT devices. I use Nest DropCam, Hello and Protect units as well as Lyric Leak Detectors. I also use IP address reservations on a PS4 in an area of high signal with the extender. I will observe this more closely. Does the Asus NOT use virtual Mac addresses? Which Asus model do you think is best? I saw your review on the RT-AX92U, and I like the idea of a dedicated backhaul and giving up the WiFi6 in AiMesh mode doesn’t really bother me.

        Reply
      • Hey Dong, I tried asking a question on top but, you may discontinued additional questions for this section, so i will piggyback on this one.

        I am having a similar problem with my Netgear router, losing its connection with my Brother MFC printer. When i print out a “Configurations Report” on the printer, it always shows that the “IPv6” is disabled and I think this somehow leads to the printer being knocked off line, so to speak.

        I usually power off the router, then it usually starts working again.

        Another question unrelated to the one above. Why don’t wifi router companies hide the [ Serial number / MAC address ] of routers, instead of plastering it on the outside of the box?

        Couldn’t this lead to the potential hacking of said router?

        Thanks

        Your thoughts?

        Reply
        • I’d say that’s the issue with the Brother printer, Dave. That happens a lot. That has nothing to do with IPv6 (it’s just irrelevant), but you can enable the IPv6 support on the printer itself via the printer’s web interface — just enter its local IP address on a browser and you’ll get there, the default password is likely “initpass” (no quotes).

          But what you should do, though, is to update that printer’s firmware which you can download from Brother’s support website. Or better yet, use a cable to connect the printer to the router (if that’s an option.) And (optionally) from the router’s side, reserve an IP for the printer.

          About Mac Address, check out this post. Read it in its entirety!

          Reply
    • Sorry, another post here. I am using the V1.0.2.66_2.0.42 firmware for the RAX50. Do you have any experiences with the 0.72 firmware for the RAX50? I am always a bit leary of updating the firmware “just because”.

      Reply
  2. Hello Dong!

    Which would you choose, Asus RT-AX92U or RAX50? If the requirements are stable and can handle many wifi connections? Almost the same price, Asus is just a little more expensive.

    Reply
  3. Hi Dong Ngo. Love your reviews. I have 86u from Asus. Saw a Rax50 for 149 dollars. Ordered one. Is it worth the upgrade? My mom needed a router so gonna give her the 86u.

    Reply
      • Hello Dong thanks for fast reply. So the Asus is better then the rax50? Wow if so i might then even cancel the order of the rax50. Any good recommendations for my mom Mr Dong she has 300 mbit ish speed up and down. (She only streams stuff movies etc ) Thanks for reply

        Reply
    • I’m not sure but it sure is similar. This kind of retailer-exclusive product can be tricky though since the parties purposely try to make the details vague.

      Reply
      • I got the Best Buy deal on the RAX48 and I’ve been testing it with a AX200 based network card (Archer TX3000E) and was able to get 900 up/700 down from speedtest.net today after setting the channel to 128. It seems to perform similarly to the RAX50 and I think $150 is a great price considering that the Asus RT-AX88U are $300+ and almost never on sale.

        Reply
  4. Purchased this router based on this review. But went to install a VPN service for better security, and found out of all the routers I could have purchased, Netgear routers won’t connect to an external VPN server. What now? I’m past my return date. DD-WRT etc isn’t available for this router, probably won’t be for a long time, if ever. I saw a solution where I’d have to configure a free server on Amazon Web Services. Is there something easier?

    Reply
    • I’m sure what your issue exactly is, Cole. But first of all, a VPN has nothing to do with security. More here. Secondly, you can use a third-party VPN service just fine with it (just install the VPN client on your computer.) And finally, its VPN server feature should work.

      Reply
  5. Dong, Thanks for your review. I always love your reviews here as well as in CNET. Is this RAX50 model same as Costco’s “Model RAX45-100NAS NETGEAR Nighthawk AX6 6-Stream AX4300 WiFi 6 Router Item 1390215”? If not what are the differences?
    Thanks for your help in advance
    Ram

    Reply
    • No, RAM, the RAX45 (AX4300) is a severely stripped-down version of the RAX50 (AX5400). But the two are the same in settings and features as well as the setup process.

      Reply
      • I don’t work for Netgear or anything, but the routers seem identical. They both have the same 1.5ghz 3-core CPU, 4×4 5Ghz and 2×2 2.4Ghz radios, 512MB RAM and 256MB ROM.

        There is *one* feature stripped out of the RAX45, and it’s a software-controlled limitation — the RAX45 does not support 1024-QAM, only 256-QAM. RAX50 supports both.

        1024-QAM is 25% more efficient in perfect signal environments. When you don’t have to account for noise or interference, you can put 10 bits in a single WiFi “symbol” (2^10 = 1024, hence 1024 level quadrature modulation), instead of the regular 8, and your speed goes up by 25%.

        If you notice, RAX45 can do 3840 Mbps on the 5Ghz band, whereas the RAX50 (and most other 4×4 5Ghz WiFi6 routers) can do 4802. 3840 Mbps + 25% theoretical efficiency improvement of 1024-QAM = 4802 Mbps.

        Ditto on the 2.4Ghz band. Leaving the math as an exercise to the reader, the RAX45, or another 256-QAM-only router, will achieve 480Mbps. With 1024-QAM, the RAX50 gets 600.

        3840 + 480 ~= 4300 theoretical max Mbps total
        4802 + 600 ~= 5400 theoretical max Mbps total

        But…… there is no free lunch in nature. Or even lunch you pay Netgear extra for. The problem is that every extra bit you add to the WiFi symbol, every extra power of 2 the QAM goes up, you lose 3db (or half) of your receiving sensitivity. Literally, running at 1024-QAM, a WiFi signal will be 1/4th as “loud” as one at 256-QAM.

        Now, do you need gigabit speed to devices across the room? Do yourself a favor and run a cable to ’em.

        However, 802.11ax has some really neat range- and quality-of-life features. It can divide the airspace more efficiently across multiple devices (think… opposite of trying to use public WiFi, where their older-gen access point simply can’t address all the devices before it has to start over), it has a special long-range mode that doubles the range, and it allows for radios that support only 20Mhz bandwidth (802.11AC requires a compliant radio to support 20-, 40- and even dual-channel 80MHz modes). As a result, we’ll see rudimentary 802.11AX support (which will still have the long range, and the playing nice with others features) in tiny, super-low-power radios. Your next smart watch might have better battery life. Your next gadget you haven’t even thought of will actually *have* WiFi. 🙂

        That said, I have my issues with the RAX45/50. The antennae sticking out the sides are an awful design feature, and it’s far too easy to click the WPS button on top of the router, at which point it’s stuck in WPS mode for some undeterminate amount of time — holding the WPS button for 30 seconds, or simply waiting 2 minutes, both times posted on the Netgear site does nothing. My kingdom for rear-mounted antennae, and rear-mounted buttons that can potentially knock a working router off-air.

        THAT said, as far as you know, what’s “severely” cripped about the RAX45, besides the best-case-scenario WiFi mode? I’m just kind of weirdly bothered by the phrase “severely stripped-down”. Chipmakers lasering off parts of the dies to create lower-performance versions of their products seems like a much more severe stripping-down. 🙂

        -Alex

        Reply
        • Wow, that’s by far the most informative comment I’ve seen! Thanks for sharing, Alex. “Severely,” on the other hand, is somewhat subjective, and I’m not going to get into semantics. I just wanted to say that I’d instead get the RAX50 in the previous comment.

          Reply
          • Dong,

            Do you know what the difference is between the RAX50 back and side antennae? I bought the RAX45 when it was on promo at Costco for 160 + tax; roughly half the price of the RAX50 at Amazon. There was no difference in antennae for the RAX45; all four are apparently the same.

            Thanks.

          • I’d go with the RAX50, Jack. The RAX45 is a stripped-down version despite the similar physical look. Don’t try to find signs that they are the same (so the RAX45 sounds more like a good deal), they are not. And the RAX45 is cheap for a reason. But either will work.

  6. Dong,

    I purchased the Netgear RAX50 to replace an R7000 that a thunderstorm rendered obsolete. My issue is, the RAX50 doesn’t cover all of the devices (30+ and always adding more) in my house so I have devices dropping off of my WiFi connection. Can you recommend a WiFi extender? Keep in mind, I cannot run any cables for a wired backhaul. Would a tri-band extender work for me?

    Reply
  7. Hello Dong. Thanks for the review of the RAX50. I am very interested in upgrading my old airport extreme to this router. I did notice you left out if this router has the MU-MIMO feature. Can you please let me know if this was left out on purpose or is it missing it and why? Thank you, Charlie

    Reply
  8. Thank you for the response, but I’m talking about real-time interactive game streaming, where low latency is vital. Not simple video streaming like Netflix. Services like xCloud, Stadia, PSNow, Geforce Now, etc..

    Reply
    • Got it, Jason. In that case, you need to use wired connections as much as possible, especially in a mesh setup (wired backhaul). Another thing is QoS. Other than that, using a gaming router will help a bit. It’s impossible to test and compare pings between routers because broadband latency generally varies a great deal. You might get different values at different times using the same router.

      Reply
  9. Have you ever measured / have you seen any noticeable differentiation in ping times between routers? Shopping around for a router that would be a good match for xCloud / in-home streaming.

    Reply
    • Ping time doesn’t affect streaming much, if at all, Jason. Latency mostly affects real-time communication apps.

      Reply
  10. Too expensive.

    Still waiting for an affordable tri-band wifi6 router with 160Mhz and multi-gig ports (or at least a more affordable one).

    I like my Asus AC86U, but would like to upgrade to 160Mhz to use in my wireless bridge mode setup. Tempted to try the Zenwifi xt8 which supports 160MHz in bridge mode but they’re OOS everywhere and they raised the price by $50.

    Reply

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