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Early Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) routers have been out for months, but Wi-Fi 6 clients have been and still are few and far between. We finally got our hands on a laptop equipped with an 802.11ax network adapter and set about testing a couple of Wi-Fi 6 routers, including the Netgear Nighthawk AX12 12-Stream Wi-Fi 6 Router (RAX120), a rather pricey $499.99 device that conjures up images of a B-2 stealth bomber. This odd-looking router delivers stellar 5GHz throughput performance and its file-transfer performance is also very fast. It sports a multi-gig LAN port and supports WPA3 encryption, but it lacks malware protection and strong parental controls.

A Word About Wi-Fi 6

The next generation of wireless networking, known as Wi-Fi 6 or 802.11ax, builds upon the 802.11ac (or Wi-Fi 5) standard which has been around since late in 2013. The new version promises faster throughput performance, increased client capacity to accommodate the burgeoning smart home market, and increased battery life for connected mobile devices. Before you decide to buy a Wi-Fi 6 router, though, you’ll want to check out our explainer that dives into whether or not now is the time to upgrade.

Familiar Looks

The RAX120 looks identical to the Nighthawk RAX80 that we reviewed earlier this year. It has the same Star Wars-like double wing design, measures 6.5 by 13.5 by 8.5 inches (HWD) with the “wings” fully extended, and has a matte black finish. The top of the router contains small LED indicators for power, WAN, LAN (five), USB (two), Wi-Fi (two), and WPS, as well as Wi-Fi on/off and WPS buttons. Around back are four gigabit LAN ports (two of which can be configured for link aggregation), a WAN port, and a 5GbE port for high-speed Ethernet connectivity. Here you’ll also find power and reset buttons and a power jack.

Netgear Nighthawk RAX120 rear-view product shot

The RAX120 is powered by a 2.2GHz quad-core processor, 512MB of RAM, and 1GB of flash memory. It’s a 12-stream dual-band router (four streams on the 2.4GHz band and eight streams on the 5GHz band) that can reach maximum (theoretical) speeds of up to 1.2Gbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 4.8Gbps on the 5GHz band. Unlike the TP-Link AX6000 and the Asus RT-AX88U routers, the RAX120 supports the new WPA3 encryption standard. It also supports several other 802.11ax technologies including 8×8 MU-MIMO data streaming, direct-signal beamforming, 1024-QAM, and OFDMA data transmissions.

The RAX120 uses the same mobile app and web management console as the Nighthawk RAX80, and as is the case with the RAX80, you can use the mobile app to do things like configure basic Wi-Fi and internet settings, to pause and resume network access for any device with the touch of a button, and to run Speedtest, but you’ll have to use the web console to use advanced settings to enable things like link aggregation, Port Forwarding, Port Triggering, and VPN (Virtual Private Network) services.

Netgear Nighthawk RAX120 advanced wireless settings configuration page screen shot

The Basic screen includes settings for Wireless and Internet, Guest Network and Quality of Service, Attached Devices, and ReadySHARE USB devices. Use the Advanced tab to configure Media Server settings, view system logs, update firmware, and check network statistics. You can also create access schedules and block websites and services, but you don’t get the age-appropriate parental controls or anti-malware tools that come with the TP-Link AX6000.

Netgear Nighthawk RAX120 basic wireless network and internet settings screen shot

Powerful Performance

I had the RAX120 up and running in minutes. I started by connecting the router to my cable modem and my desktop PC and powered it up. I opened a browser on my PC and typed http://www.routerlogin.net, which launched the installation wizard. After creating an admin password and setting up two security questions, I waited about 15 seconds for the router to connect to the internet. I confirmed that my…

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