A Netgear Nighthawk router with Wi-Fi 6E lands this month
On sale within weeks, the Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 can connect on the 6GHz band at wireless speeds of up to 4.8 Gbps.
Ry CristSenior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
ExpertiseSmart home technology and wireless connectivityCredentials
10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Netgear's Nighthawk line of Wi-Fi routers have long featured flashy designs and cutting edge features -- and within weeks, we'll have a new one that supports Wi-Fi 6E, a new designation for Wi-Fi 6 devices capable of sending signals on the ultra-wide 6GHz band, which the FCC opened for unlicensed use in a unanimous vote last year.
Making its debut at this year's all-virtual CES tech showcase, that router is the Netgear RAXE500, and it uses the same spaceship-like design from last year's Nighthawk models, including the Netgear RAX120. That build hides the antennas inside a pair of wing-like fins, making it look like the thing might take off and fly away from your router shelf when you aren't looking. Expected to ship by the end of January, Netgear's new router will cost $600 -- a steep premium for the 6GHz access that comes with Wi-Fi 6E.
Nifty design aside, the RAXE500 is a tri-band router capable of connecting on that newly-opened 6GHz band, as well as both the 2.4 and 5GHz bands that most Wi-Fi users are familiar with. Top speeds on both the 5 and 6GHz bands are listed at 4.8 Gbps, with the 2.4GHz band coming in at 1.2 Gbps. The router runs on a quad-core, 1.8GHz processor, includes two USB 3.0 jacks for connecting with printers and other peripherals, and also features a WAN/LAN port that supports incoming speeds of up to 2.5 Gbps. Additionally, you can aggregate the speeds from two of the spare Ethernet jacks at once for combined wired transfer rates of up to 2 Gbps.
Locating local internet providers
All of the new routers announced at CES 2021 -- including next-gen Wi-Fi 6E
We'll put all of that to the test soon enough and let you know how it goes. As one of the first Wi-Fi 6E routers we'll get our hands on, if not the first, I'll be especially curious to test the range of that 6GHz band. Just as the 5GHz band offers more bandwidth but less range than 2.4 GHz, the 6GHz band should represent another step in the same direction. A source at Netgear tells me to expect a range reduction of roughly 30% with those 6GHz connections as compared with 5GHz, with the obvious tradeoff being that the 6GHz band offers more than twice as much bandwidth as 5GHz.
Elsewhere in the lineup, you can expect to see a new Nighthawk-branded Wi-Fi 6, DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem gateway (CAX30), as well as a new AX1800 Nighthawk 4G LTE router (LAX20) capable of translating a cellular signal into a Wi-Fi 6 home internet connection. Both of those should be available by the end of this month, too, each of them at a suggested asking price of $300.