We have a 1Gbps symmetric internet connection at our office, so my interest in routers has increased over the past couple of years. At CES 2021, Netgear launches the $599.99 Nighthawk RAXE500, its first WiFi 6E tri-band router.

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If you’re not familiar with WiFi 6E, it opens many new radio bands over 6GHz, where there are a lot fewer interferences. Only 6E devices will run at these frequencies, and it’s going to take a while before that band becomes busy too.

Legacy 2.4GHz and 5GHz are still supported, and all existing devices will have the best possible support with their current bands.

We haven’t benchmarked this yet, but Netgear typically provides excellent performance to mobile devices. For example, on the Nighthawk AX12 we could easily get real-world speeds of ~320Mbps (down) / 780Mbps (up) with a device like the Galaxy S20 Ultra. We suspect that the rate is limited by the handset’s radio, not the router.

Desktop computers can connect to the Nighthawk RAXE500 via one of the five Gigabit Ethernet ports. Like its predecessors, there’s a way to aggregate two Gigabit ports to increase the transfer speed to 2GBps. It helps if you perform intra-network large file transfers between a NAS and your computers.

Cable users can connect a DOCSIS 3.1 modem to achieve high performance on this kind of connection, which has a theoretical speed of 10 Gbps. However, the reality will depend on your provider and subscription. The 1Gbps Gigabit ports aggregation could also help this use case, but it would be better to have a 2.5Gbps modem connected directly to the 2.5Gbps port.

The Nighthawk RAXE500’s security is managed by Netgear Armor, a security platform that is easy to operate and works pro-actively to secure your network and provide recommendations. I think that’s great because I don’t know anyone who’s going to dig into network security even though many are fully capable of doing so. It’s just too much of a hassle.

Routers are a class of consumer electronics that we keep around for a long time (know someone still on WiFi-G? Me too!), so what you install today might still be operating many years from now. It could be worth getting the latest tech if you can afford it. WiFi 6E mobiles and laptops are coming.

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