They might be as fast as they look. Netgear is very clearly determined to maintain its reputation for outlandishly styled, high-performance WiFi routers. The company has unveiled its first routers using the WiFi 6 (aka 802.11ax) standard, and... well, just look at them. Both the Nighthawk AX8 and Nighthawk AX12 more closely resemble stealth fighters than networking equipment (to better position the antennas, Netgear said), and they appear to have the speed to match. Both can handle up to 6Gbps of wireless data traffic at any one time, tout "optimized" quad-core processors to juggle all that traffic and promise 25 percent higher data efficiency thanks to 1024 QAM. They're ready for your eventual multi-gigabit cable or fiber connection, then, and could be helpful if you're regularly transferring massive files between devices. There's more than just WiFi performance to brag about. Each has multiple gigabit Ethernet ports (five on the AX12, six on the AX8) and a 5Gbps Ethernet port for your internet link. You can also control your network through your voice using Alexa or Google Assistant, or plug in two USB 3.0 devices. The main difference boils down to the number of simultaneous data streams. The AX8 can handle eight at a time, while the AX12 unsurprisingly boosts that number to 12 for people with many active WiFi devices. If they sound like they'll be expensive... you've guessed correctly. The AX8 will cost $400 and, according to Amazon, should be released on December 21st. The AX12 doesn't have pricing yet, but should arrive in the first quarter of 2019 and will be part of a beta "Wi-Fi as a Service" program that lets you pay for the device 90 days after you get it. Either way, this isn't a trivial purchase. You're buying it because you either have a serious need for bandwidth (say, multiple 4K streams) or insist on a router that will be virtually futureproof.
The next generation of Wi-Fi is starting to arrive, and Netgear is jumping in with its first two routers: the Nighthawk AX8 and Nighthawk AX12. These are two very high-end routers, capable of theoretical speeds well beyond what most home internet connections can deliver. But their real standout feature is support for the next major Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ax — or whats being newly branded as Wi-Fi 6.Wi-Fi 6 doesnt bring with it many incredible speed leaps or fancy consumer-facing features. But its speeds should be somewhat faster, and more importantly, its supposed to be better at dealing with a multitude of devices on a network at once, something thats increasingly important as our homes fill with smart gadgets. Also, the two routers look like sci-fi stealth fighter jets. In a world of evil-spider routers, this is a promising development. Netgear developed this new design style as a way to make sure its routers antennas remain upright. Antennas are hidden inside of the devices wings, a position that Netgear says optimizes them for the best performance. The AX8 is the lower end of the two Wi-Fi 6 routers. It has two 4 x 4 antenna arrays (one for 5GHz Wi-Fi, one for 2.4GHz), five gigabit Ethernet ports, and supports a total of 6GHz of wireless throughput. The AX12 is very similar, but it includes an 8 x 8 antenna array for its 5GHz network, which Netgear says offers better long-range stability, along with a faster processor and a 5Gb Ethernet port. For now, few (if any) people will actually be able to take advantage of all that power. In fact, youre likely better off waiting to buy into the Wi-Fi 6 ecosystem: your phone, computer, game console, and everything else in your home almost certainly dont support the new Wi-Fi standard, so many of these gains wont help you. Youll have to buy all new products in the coming years before support for some of these newer technologies arrives. But if youre eager to jump in, or just love the idea of wiring up a very capable local network, Netgear is one of the first to start offering this class of router. The AX8 goes on sale this month for $399. The AX12 will arrive in late Q1 / early Q2 of 2019, with pricing still undetermined. And while this is the first major Wi-Fi 6 router to be unveiled after the Wi-Fi 6 branding was announced, this router doesnt actually state that it supports Wi-Fi 6 on the box. It still says 802.11ax (perhaps because Netgear initially planned to announce this product months ago, but held off until today). A representative for Netgear said that the company will be using the generational language from the Wi-Fi Alliance, but that it would take time to implement.