There are two things about the Netgear WAX204 Wi-Fi 6 AX1800 Dual-Band Business Wireless Access Point (WAP). First, it’s not a standard access point — it’s a router. And second, it’s a phenomenal deal.
Indeed, at well less than 100 bucks, it’s one of the most valuable Wi-Fi 6 routers you can find. No, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles available in more expensive options, but it does include a lot more than you might expect from its price point.
If you live in a small home with a sub-Gigabit internet connection and a modest number of concurrent active wireless devices, the Netgear WAX204 will work out well. Get it!
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Netgear WAX204: Simple and effective router (that can work as an access point, too)
When Netgear first pitched me the WAX204, I was surprised the company called an access point. The device has a WAN (Internet) port, which generally means it’s a router.
But Netgear was adamant on the naming, telling me:
“[…] the WAX204 can also save you money due to its ability to act as a router as well as an access point. This functionality allows you to forgo the cost and complexity of a separate router and simply have one device to perform both tasks.”
Well, hello! I got that. The point here is most Wi-Fi routers can work as an access point — they are all routers with built-in Wi-Fi access points. But a standard Wi-Fi access point can not work as a router — it has no routing function.
Of course, as the maker, Netgear can call its product however it wants. My mom used to call me a “good for nothing,” and I turned out to be OK, I guess. But in my view, the company has decided to present the WAX204 as a lesser product than it can be.
This naming sure makes things confusing. The only positive outcome I can think of is the benefit of low expectations. And if so, that worked — the WAX204 proved to be very much of a pleasant surprise.
But, again, to sum up: The WAX204 is a Wi-Fi router that can also work as an access point. And like many other routers, it also supports the bridge mode, where it works as a Wi-Fi adapter for a few wired clients.
Netgear WAX204: Hardware specifications
|Full Name||Wi-Fi 6 AX1800 Dual-Band Wireless|
Business Access Point
|9.27 x 7.26 x 2.25in|
(236 x 184 x 57mm)
|Wi-Fi Technology||Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 |
AX1800 (600Mbps + 1200Mbps)
|5GHz Wi-Fi Specs||2×2 AX: Up to 1200Mbps|
Channel Width: 20/40/80MHz
|2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs||2×2 Wi-Fi 6: Up to 600Mbps|
Channel Width: 20/40 MHz
|Wireless Security||WPA / WPA2 / WPA3|
|Web User Interface||Yes|
|Gigabit Port||4x LAN, 1x WAN|
Simple design, standard in the face and setup process
The Netgear WAX204 is a typical Wi-Fi broadcaster with four antennas sticking up from its back. It’s so small that I wish it supported getting power via a network connection, namely the Power over Ethernet (PoE).
You can treat the WAX204 as a standard router out of the box. Connect its WAN (orange) port to an Internet source (like a modem), and it’s ready.
You then hook a device to one of its LAN ports or the default Wi-Fi network (printed on its underside), and you can start the initial setup process, which is similar to that of any standard router.
Specifically, navigate a connected computer’s browser to the router’s default IP address which is 192.168.1.1, and you’ll be greeted by a wizard that walks you through making a password for the interface, creating a Wi-Fi network, and a password. You’ll also get the chance to update the router to the latest firmware.
The interface is similar to Netgear’s Nighthawk routers, such as the RAX120 or RAX200, and comes with a matching set of settings. These include the support for Dynamic DNS, port-forwarding, IP reservations, and so on.
The WAX204 doesn’t have a built-in VPN server, but it can work as a VPN client, turning your local network into part of a remote one when applicable.
Also, the router doesn’t have remote web-based management, making its support for Dynamic DNS a bit incomplete. Netgear might add this via firmware updates, however.
Update: No, it won’t. The company has decided to move in a different direction on remote management.
Database-based Quality of Control (QoS)
The WAX204 doesn’t have a lot of features. There’s only Quality of Services or QoS, but it’s subdued compared to other routers’ QoS features.
There’s no way to customize the prioritization after punching in your download and upload numbers. You’ll need to leave that to the router to handle it automatically based on a database.
It’s unclear what that database entails and what the router will do precisely. However, it seems that QoS, in this case, is based on application and automatically prioritizes the Internet for real-time communication, such as Voice over IP or video conferencing.
I did try this feature out, and it didn’t show much of a difference. But likely, that was because my broadband connection was already good enough for any application, and the fact I generally didn’t do anything crazy within my network must have helped, too.
Netgear WAX204: Detail photos
Business-flavored Wi-Fi settings
The WAX204 doesn’t come with the Guest network feature. Instead, you can create up to three Wi-Fi SSIDs (network names) with it.
What’s interesting is the fact you can manage each network’s bands individually. Specifically, you can make each work in either 2.4GHz, 5GHz, or both. On top of that, you can also make each network’s clients isolated from one another, effectively turning it into a Guest network.
On top of that, you can also allow or disallowed Wi-Fi client access to the WAX204’s network ports, which is another level of isolation — Wi-Fi clients can talk to one another but not to wired devices.
Remember that the isolation settings are turned on by default for the 2nd and 3rd networks. That said, you’ll need to turn them off if you want connected clients to have normal access to the network’s local resources such as file-sharing or printers.
In terms of Wi-Fi settings, there’s not much. In fact, you can only pick the network name, password, and security method (WPA, WPA2, or WPA3), and that’s it.
Considering this is a low-tier AX1800 broadcaster, which has no meaningful options in terms of speed, the lack of Wi-Fi customizability is not a huge deal.
Netgear WAX204: Excellent performance
What is a huge deal is always the performance, and the Netgear WAX204 did well in my testing for an entry-level budget broadcaster.
On the 5GHz band, my 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients consistently connected at 1.2Gbps of negotiated speed and sustained at some 800Mbps at a close range of 10 feet (3m). At 40 feet (12m) away, it now registered close to 630Mbps. These numbers were excellent for the hardware specs.
The WAX204 did well with Wi-Fi 5 clients, too, registering 730Mbps at the close and 630Mbps farther away. These were the number of 2×2 Wi-Fi 5 specs.
And on the 2.4GHz band, the router did about the same as other Wi-Fi 6 broadcasters, averaging between almost 100Mbps and 160Mbps up to 40 feet away. This band has been notoriously slow with Wi-Fi 6.
I tested the WAX204 both as a router and an access point, and it passed my 5-day stress test with no issue.
Generally, if you live in a home of some 1800 ft² (170 m²) or smaller, place the WAX204 in the middle, and chances are it can deliver Wi-Fi throughout. Of course, this is just a ballpark figure. The actual coverage will vary depending on the environment.
Netgear WAX204 Access Point's Rating
Strong and reliable Wi-Fi coverage
Can work as a router or access point
Straightforward local web user interface
Useful Wi-Fi settings
Compact design, wall-mountable
Entry-level Wi-Fi specs
No Multi-Gig port
Limited Wi-Fi settings and features
No remote web-based management
No PoE support
The unusual access-point/router notion aside, the Netgear WAX204 is an excellent Wi-Fi 6 broadcaster, no matter how you look at it.
Use it as a router if your home doesn’t yet have one or as an AP if there’s already a router (or gateway) in place. In either case, you can expect reliable Wi-Fi signals and decent speed throughput.
In fact, it is safe to say it’s one of the best sub-$100 Wi-Fi machines you can find. Want Wi-Fi 6 and on a budget? Get it!