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Netgear WAX204 Review: An Excellent Low-Cost Wi-Fi 6 Broadcaster

There are two things about the Netgear WAX204 Wi-Fi 6 AX1800 Dual-Band Business Wireless Access Point. 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 really well. Get it!

Netgear WAX204 Wi Fi 6 AX1800 Dual Band Wireless Access Point is out of the box
The Netgear WAX204 Wi-Fi 6 AX1800 Dual-Band Business Wireless Access Point looks more like a router and it indeed is one.

Netgear WAX204 Access Point's Rating

8.3 out of 10
Netgear WAX204 Wi Fi 6 AX1800 Dual Band Wireless Access Points right angle
Performance
8.5/10
Features
7/10
Ease of Use
8/10
Value
9.5/10

Pros

Affordable

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

Cons

Low-tier Wi-Fi specs

No Multi-Gig port

Limited Wi-Fi settings and features

No remote web-based management

No PoE support

Netgear WAX204: Simple and effective router (that can work as an access point, too)

When Netgear first pitched me the WAX204, I was surprised it was 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 — it’s a router with a built-in Wi-Fi access point. 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 all 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 clearly decided to present the WAX204 as a lesser product than it really is.

This 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 nice surprise.

Netgear WAX204 Wi Fi 6 AX1800 Dual Band Wireless Access Points ports
The Netgear WAX204 Wi-Fi 6 AX1800 Dual Band Wireless Access Point has a WAN port, making it a Wi-Fi router by definition.

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

Model WAX204
Full NameWiFi 6 AX1800 Dual-Band Wireless
Business Access Point
Dimensions
(Without Antennas)
9.27 x 7.26 x 2.25in
(236 x 184 x 57mm)
Weight1.08lb (490g)
Wi-Fi TechnologyDual-band Wi-Fi 6
AX1800 (600Mbps + 1200Mbps)
5GHz Wi-Fi Specs2×2 AX: Up to 1200Mbps
Channel Width: 20/40/80MHz
2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs2×2 Wi-Fi 6: Up to 600Mbps
Channel Width: 20/40 MHz
Backward Compatibility802.11a/b/g/n/ac 
Wireless SecurityWPA / WPA2 / WPA3
Mesh-ReadyNo
Web User InterfaceYes
Bridge ModeYes
AP ModeYes
USB PortNone
Processing PowerUndisclosed
Gigabit Port4x LAN, 1x WAN
Link AggregationNo
Dual-WANNo
Multi-Gig PortNone
Netgear WAX204’s hardware specifications

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 I wish it supported getting power via a network connection, namely the support for Power over Ethernet (PoE).

See also  Power over Ethernet (PoE) Explained: Why It's Your Wi-Fi's Best Friend

Out of the box, you can treat the WAX204 as a standard router. Connect its WAN (orange) port to an Internet source (like a modem), and it’s ready.

Now you need to 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.

Netgear WAX204 Roles
The Netgear WAX204 can work as different roles, including the default router mode. Note its familiar web user interface.

The interface is similar to Netgear’s Nighthawk routers, such as the RAX120 or RAX200, and comes with a similar 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 for now, which makes its support for Dynamic DNS a bit incomplete. This might change via firmware updates, however.

Database-based Quality of Control (QoS)

The WAX204 doesn’t have a lot of features. Its only notable one is the Quality of Services — the ability to prioritize the Internet. However, this one is very different from other routers’ QoS features.

After punching in your download and upload numbers, there’s no way to customize the prioritization. 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 exactly the router will do. It seems, though, 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.

Netgear WAX204 QoS
he Netgear WAX204’s QoS feature works based on a database instead of user’s inputs.

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. The fact I generally don’t do anything crazy within my network must have helped, too.

Netgear WAX204: Detail photos

Netgear WAX204 Wi Fi 6 AX1800 Dual Band Wireless Access Points retail box
Netgear WAX204 Wi Fi 6 AX1800 Dual-Band Wireless Access Point’s retail box.

Netgear WAX204 Wi Fi 6 AX1800 Dual Band Wireless Access Points box content
Out of the box, the Netgear WAX204 comes with a standard power adapter and a network cable.

Netgear WAX204 Wi Fi 6 AX1800 Dual Band Wireless Access Point is a compact broadcaster
Netgear WAX204 is quite compact.

Netgear WAX204 Wi Fi 6 AX1800 Dual Band Wireless Access Points left angle
Netgear WAX204 comes with an array of LED lights on top that show the statuses of its ports on the back.

Netgear WAX204 Wi Fi 6 AX1800 Dual Band Wireless Access Points underside
The underside of the Netgear WAX204. Note how the device is wall-mountable.

Netgear WAX204 Wi Fi 6 AX1800 Dual Band Wireless Access Point is a compact device
The Netgear WAX204 is a router that thinks it’s an access point.

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, or 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.

See also  Guest Wi-Fi Network Explained: Best Practices (with Your IoT Devices)
Netgear WAX204 Wi Fi Settings
The Netgear WAX204 comes with three Wi-Fi networks.

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.

Keep in mind 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 printer.

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. Keep in mind this is a budget entry-level broadcaster.

Netgear WAX204 Wi Fi 6 Performance

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.

Netgear WAX204 Wi Fi 5 Performance

The WAX204 did well with Wi-Fi 5 clients, too, registering 730Mbps at the close and 630Mbps father away. Basically, these were the number of 2×2 Wi-Fi 5 specs.

And on the 2.4GHz and, 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.

Netgear WAX204 2 4GHz Performance

I tested the WAX204 both as a router and an access point, and it passes my 5-day stress test with no issue.

The coverage was decent, too, similar to that of most 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 routers, like the Asus RT-AX58U or the TP-Link AX50.

Generally, if you live in a home of handles 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.

Conclusion

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 speeds throughput.

In fact, it 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!

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10 thoughts on “Netgear WAX204 Review: An Excellent Low-Cost Wi-Fi 6 Broadcaster”

  1. Thank you for the review. I was pleasantly surprised this also rated high on the Best Routers list. I purchased one to replace my mom’s old 802.11n router and the difference was transformational. Before we could stream something on TV, but as soon as someone tried to connect on their mobile device the wifi grinded to a crawl. Just changing the router made internet usage possible for everyone. Thank you for such an incredible economical solution. I was contemplating moving our Asus AC1900 to my mom’s house and replacing it with a Asus AX5700. The WAX2404 saved us $200 by not having to upgrade. Well we’ll probably upgrade our router anyways, but that is bridge we can cross later. Thanks again for the super work you do.

    Reply
  2. Thank you for this review, Dong. I followed the links on your page to the amazon listing for the wax204. I fair number of reviews claim that an online netgear account is required to setup this device. Other reviews replied that those people are crazy and should have their heads re-examined. But it is 2-to-1 for the former. I’ll ask you to settle this, can this access point/router be setup entirely using the local web interface, without ever registering any sort of online netgear account?

    Reply
  3. Great review. Was wondering what you thought of this: I’m retiring an old Nighthawk R7000, as it’s failing and there is no firmware upgrade. 5yrs old, and it’s time.
    I wanted to go up to Wifi6 but am not super excited about the mesh options. I had the thought that I could buy three of these (WAS204) and use one as a router, and string two others across the house as wireless endpoints ( OR routers themselves ) as the house has Ethernet to those parts distant.
    This gives me close physical proximity to every corner of the house upstairs and down, and I can put them on non-conflicting channels. And use a workhorse Ethernet switch like the NG GS108.
    This as an option to a massive (and expensive) AX12 Nighthawk (which would still need some wireless endpoints IMO), or the crappy Orbi that they seem to be pushing. Thoughts? Thank you. Keep up the great work.

    Reply
  4. If I get more than one of these set up in AP mode on opposite sides of the house, can my devices roam seamlessly between them without, for example, dropping an in-progress video call?

    In general, can I do the same with other consumer-grade routers (e.g. TP-Link Archer)?

    I have cat 6 ethernet in the necessary locations.

    Reply
    • No, Tom. No system can handle video calls when you move from one broadcaster to another. You need to stay at one spot for this kind of application. More here. The hand-off is a matter of degrees, and generally you can’t expect that from cheap hardware.

      Reply
  5. I found your site while researching a replacement router and this is right up my alley, as I have 100Mbps internet and only a handful of wi-fi devices. Seems like a great value at the current $80 price point.

    I just have one question: Is Netgear reliable? User reviews are peppered with horror stories of routers losing connections requiring daily reboots and firmware/UI issues, but it’s difficult to tell if that’s just a result of that particular person’s setup, an occasional faulty unit, or a larger pattern with the company.

    Maybe the broader topic of long-term reliability could make for a fun feature. Thanks!

    Reply
    • I do follow up or re-visit reviews sometimes, Dennis, but that requires time. For now, within reasonable expectations, it’s reliable enough. You either have to take some risk or don’t “live” at all. And by the way, living itself is risky and will cause you death. 🙂

      Reply

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