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.