Gigabit + Wi-Fi for the average home

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Classification:
9/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Trash
  • 2 – Sort warm garbage
  • 3 – Very flawed design
  • 4 – Some advantages, many disadvantages
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Excellent, but not best in class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with some footnotes
  • 9 – Shut up and take my money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $400

Jordan Gloor / Geek Instructors

The Netgear Nighthawk RAXE300 router joined the Nighthawk family as one of the first to introduce the Wi-Fi 6E standard. Its tri-band signal really packs a punch, though to really take advantage of the RAXE300, you’ll need state-of-the-art wireless devices and a hearty gigabit internet plan.

This is what we like

  • State-of-the-art, reliable connection
  • Impressive top speeds
  • Foolproof setup

And what we don’t do

  • Limited 6Ghz range
  • WAN ports could be better

I spent about three weeks using this router with a 1 gigabit connection streaming and moving files in addition to regular work from home activities. For the most part, it was a smooth and seamless experience, although I did find that the new 6Ghz band specifically couldn’t reach every corner of my relatively small home. The number of LAN ports may disappoint you if you plan to go online, and the maximum WAN connection, 2.5 Gbps, isn’t the highest on the market.

That said, as long as you don’t expect to get an internet plan that exceeds 2.5 gigabits for the life of the router, the RAXE300 certainly justifies its price. Let’s break down why Netgear went home with How-To Geek’s Best Router award at CES 2022.

Configuration: Usually on Cinch

Wall plug, Ethernet cable, and router are included in the box when you purchase a Netgear Nighthawk RAXE300.
What you get in the box. Jordan Gloor / Geek Instructors

Getting the RAXE300 up and running was virtually plug-and-play using the Nighthawk app (available on Android and iPhone). However, I found it annoying that it tries to get you to create a Netgear account before starting the setup. If you already have an account, obviously it won’t be a problem. If it doesn’t, here’s a quick tip: I found I could get around that requirement by disconnecting from Wi-Fi and mobile data before opening the app. (However, after completing the initial setup, you will need to register to continue using the app.)

After going through the setup, the router needed to be updated before I could use it. A couple of minutes later, however, that glorious set of three frequency options was on my network lists.

Also, the dual band mesh routers I was using before put the 2.5Ghz and 5Ghz channels under a single SSID, and I opted during the RAXE300 setup to use the same SSID and password. This conveniently allowed my devices to automatically connect to the new network, but ended up being less useful than I’d hoped. Since the RAXE300 by default differentiates the SSIDs of the top two bands by adding “-5G” and “-6G”, I was automatically connecting to the 2.5Ghz band and had to manually move devices that could reach up to the 5Ghz and 6Ghz. bands. However, it was a minor inconvenience, which wasn’t really the router’s fault.

Hardware: Sleek body, sparse ports

Ports on the back of the Nighthawk RAXE300 router.
Jordan Gloor / Geek Instructors
  • 1 x 2.5 gig Internet/Ethernet port
  • 1 1-gigabit Internet/Ethernet port
  • 4 x 1 gigabit Ethernet ports (2 LAN with capacity added)
  • 1 USB 3.0 Type-C port

The RAXE300 incorporates the Nighthawk name with its two distinctive fins that enclose its six optimized antennas. While the fins fold flat for storage, the user manual says to stand them upright when in use. Those fins could have been a problem getting in the way if I wanted to wall mount or hide my router. But let’s face it: A state-of-the-art router like this deserves to be showcased.

On the front of the router are LED-illuminated Wi-Fi and WPS power buttons, and the rear panel hides the power and reset buttons. There are also LED indicator lights on the top panel for power, Internet, USB, each wireless band, and each Ethernet port.

There are four dedicated 1 gigabit Ethernet ports, two of which can be added to create a 2 gig connection. There are also two Internet ports, one for plans 1 gigabit and below and the other for plans up to 2.5 gigabits, and each can function as a LAN port. So in total you have five available LAN ports, or four if you want to add them, which is on par for today’s Wi-Fi 6E router market. However, if you value wired connections over wireless, you might prefer to move to Wi-Fi 6 with the Asus RT-AX88U, our current pick for the best all-around Wi-Fi router, which gives you eight LAN ports while you’re on the go. at the time of writing $100 cheaper than the RAXE300.

Also, while the 2.5 gigabit WAN connection was plenty for me, and will almost certainly cover everything your current plan offers, it really isn’t the most impressive out there. Our budget pick among the best Wi-Fi 6E routers, the Linksys MR7500 still gives you four LAN ports and also supports a 5 gigabit internet connection, and for $50 less than the RAXE300. So, by spending less, you may be able to future-proof your network for larger Internet packets.

To take advantage of the router’s USB port, I wanted to set up a local network storage, and it was very easy with the RAXE300. However, the only storage devices I had on hand used traditional USB-A connections, and the only USB port on the RAXE300 is Type-C, forcing me to search for an adapter. So if you want to use the USB port on the back of your router for anything, make sure you’re ready with a USB-C cable or adapter.

Speed: Multi-Gigabit Goodness

  • Max wired speed: 2Gbps
  • 2.5 Ghz band maximum speed: 600 Mbps
  • 5Ghz Band Max Speed: 4.8Gbps
  • 6Ghz Band Max Speed: 2.4Gbps

The RAXE300 box advertises a top speed of 7.8 Gbps, but you have to remember that number is the sum of the (theoretical) top speeds of all your wireless bands added together. You will only use one band at a time with any device. That said, my current 1 gig plan is still much less than the upper ceiling of the 5Ghz and 6Ghz bands.

That 6Ghz band you get on top of the 2.4 and 5Ghz bands is one of the most exciting features of the RAXE300, thanks to the Wi-Fi 6E standard. Additional channels mean less congestion and therefore potentially more speed. However, you need a Wi-Fi 6E compatible device to connect to the 6 Ghz band, and relatively few of them exist on the market at the time of writing. The only 6E device I have is the Google Pixel 6.

When I used my Pixel in the best conditions I could create, standing in the same room as the router while other connected devices were few and far between and not in use, my tests showed upload and download speeds of around 900Mbps on the 6Ghz band. . (For context, streaming 4K video only uses about 15Mbps.)

The 5Ghz band was not far behind with around 850Mbps. In most other rooms, the 6Ghz band was still hovering between 500Mbps and 800Mbps. The 5Ghz band, on the other hand, hovered much closer to full speed at greater distances than 6Ghz.

In fact, the 5Ghz band was sufficient for my needs most of the time. I was able to transfer dozens of 12.2MP photos from my phone to my PC in seconds. I never had a problem gaming in the cloud or streaming my PC screen to my Quest 2 headset. I tried stress testing the RAXE300 by watching YouTube on two different phones, watching 4K content on a smart TV, and uploading large files at the same time. . I couldn’t create a negative experience on any of them, except that the file load time increased slightly.

Coverage: Plenty for the average home

  • Maximum range: 2500 square feet
  • Max connected devices: 40

Having put up with a router just a few years ago that struggled to maintain a connection even in the next room, the RAXE300 surprised me with its coverage. Netgear claims the RAXE300 can cover up to a 2,500-square-foot home, just over the average size of a single-family home in the US. The 1,400-square-foot house I live in has two neighboring houses just a couple of blocks away. meters away, so I do encounter a decent amount of interference on the network, but the RAXE300 seemed mostly phaseless.

While the 6Ghz band is the main attraction here, you should temper your expectations with it. As you may know from previous use of the 5 Ghz band, the higher bands use shorter radio waves, giving them more limited coverage.

I placed the RAXE300 in the office where I work and play, which is also conveniently in the center of the house. I could go out on my porch and stay connected to the 6 Ghz frequency, but no further. Every time I walked to the farthest corner of my basement, the 6 Ghz signal would drop completely, which was unfortunate since that’s the location of my treadmill.

In those cases, my Pixel would automatically fall back to the 5 Ghz band, which took over with its best coverage. Even walking to the end of my driveway, about 45 feet from my porch, I was still getting 92 Mbps download and 40 Mbps upload.

But keep in mind that my house is about half the size of the average US, and the RAXE300’s 6 Ghz band nearly covered it all. So any 6E devices you have will need to stay close to the router to get the most out of it.

The application

If you already have a Nighthawk router, you’re probably familiar with the app. As stated above, you need a Netgear account to use it. However, I felt that registration was worth it, because the app’s UI is significantly easier to navigate than the router’s login page. The app is ad-free (unless you count its promotions for Netgear’s Armor software).

While you’ll still need the router page for more advanced controls like QoS and port forwarding, the app can do other things that the router page can’t. In particular, I found it useful for testing signal strength while optimizing the placement of the RAXE300.

Should you buy the RAXE300?

If you have or plan to get a gigabit internet plan and your home is an average building or smaller, the RAXE300 should definitely be on your list. If your home is larger than that, you may have better luck upgrading to the RAXE500’s 3,500 square foot coverage. Or go big with a mesh router system that eliminates the dead zone like Netgear’s Orbi Wi-Fi 6E system.

With the WAN ports on some routers these days going up to 10 gigabits, the RAXE300’s 1 and 2.5 gigabit internet ports aren’t the most future-proof options. You can also look elsewhere if you have serious wired networking needs (or look for ways to add Ethernet ports). However, if you have an average-sized home and typical internet demands, the RAXE300 will treat you well. While taking full advantage of the Wi-Fi 6E standard is difficult right now with so few 6E-enabled devices on the market, that problem may only lessen over time.

This is what we like

  • State-of-the-art, reliable connection
  • Impressive top speeds
  • Foolproof setup

And what we don’t do

  • Limited 6Ghz range
  • WAN ports could be better