In late December 2021, I realized that Netgear had quietly and retrospectively removed 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 today, the rating and recommendation might no longer fully apply.
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, the Netgear RAX50 will do more than getting the job done for a small or medium home. 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.
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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 one 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 similar to the RAX80 since it has the same 5GHz ceiling bandwidth of 4800Mbps. It’s a matter of 80MHz vs. 160MHz channel width.
|Wi-Fi 6 Stream||Speed (80 MHz)||Speed (160 MHz)||Applicable Netgear Router Models|
|1×1 (single stream)||600 Mbps||1.2 Gbps||All|
|2×2||1.2 Gbps||2.4 Gbps||RAX40, RAX80, RAX120, RAX200|
|4×4||2.4 Gbps||4.8 Gbps||RAX50, RAX80, RAX120, RAX200|
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 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: Hardware specifications
|Full Name||Netgear Nighthawk AX6 6-Stream AX54000 WiFi 6 Router|
|Dimensions||11.65 x 8.11 x 2.25 inc (295.8 x 206 x 57.2 mm)|
|Weight||1.25 lb (566 g)|
|Processing Power||1.5 GHz triple-core processor, 256MB flash, and 512MB RAM|
|Wi-Fi Technology||Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) AX5400|
|5GHz Wi-Fi Specs||5GHz AX: 4×4 20/40/80/160 MHz, up to 4.8 Gbps|
|2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs||2.4GHz AX: 2×2 20/40 MHz up to 600 Mbps|
|Backward Compatibility||802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi|
|Wireless Security||WPA, WPA2, WPA3|
|Mobile App||Netgear Nighthawk|
|Web User Interface||Yes|
|USB Port||One USB 3.0 port|
|Regular Network Ports||Four Gigabit LAN port ports, one Gigabit WAN port|
|Suggested Retail Price||$300|
Negear RAX50’s detail photos
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 in previous Netgear Wi-Fi 5 routers. The point is you don’t want to mix up their positions.
Standard setup process
Like all previous Netgear routers, the RAX50 uses the familiar Netgear Genie firmware and a standard web interface. As a result, it has that of most routers.
Specifically, from a connected computer, point a browser to the router’s default IP address, 192.168.1.1 (or routerlogin.com friendly URL), and the rest is self-explanatory.
It’s worth noting, though, that the router will coerce 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 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 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 years, 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 into 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 a 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 bands 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.
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 is capped at 1 Gbps.
Fast Wi-Fi speeds
Although 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.
The router averaged some 880Mbps and 860Mbps for close and long ranges, respectively.
Out of curiosity, I tested 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.
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.
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.
I stress-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 ft2 (167 m2), 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.
That said, get a decent storage device and you’ll get a decent NAS server out of the RAX50.
Netgear Nighthawk RAX50's Rating
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
A good set of network features and settings
A bit pricey
No multi-gig port, Dual-WAN, or Link Aggregation
Limited Wi-Fi settings
Mobile app requires a login account with the vendor
The Netgear RAX50 Nighthawk AX6 6-Stream AX5400 Wi-Fi 6 Router is not a must-have but 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!