Wi-Fi Spec: AX6000
Number of Antennas/Removable: 4/No
Ports: 4 LAN gigabit per second, USB 3.0
Peak 802.11ax performance: 358.0Mbps (10-feet from extender)
Range: 85 feet
Size: 10 x 7.8 x 4.2 inches
Estimated Annual Electricity Cost: $11.00
As big and expensive as Netgear’s Nighthawk AX8 WiFi Mesh Extender (EAX80) is, it’s more than worth it for homes riddled with Wi-Fi dead zones. Not only was it the fastest extender we tested but it can use wide 160MHz data channels to satisfy members of a data hungry family. The Netgear Nighthawk AX8 WiFi Mesh Extender’s slew of ports make it easy to fit into a home network, although its included 90 days of support falls short of the years of help that others offer.
Is the Netgear Nighthawk AX8 WiFi Mesh Extender one of the best Wi-Fi extenders you can get today and more importantly, is it worth the high asking price?
Netgear Nighthawk AX8 WiFi Mesh Extender (EAX80) review: Pricing and availability
One of the largest and most expensive Wi-Fi extenders available, the Netgear Nighthawk AX8 WiFi Mesh Extender sells for $250 – enough to buy four or five of its competitors or even one of the best mesh Wi-Fi systems. Too much? Netgear’s similar AX1800 EAX20 model costs $130.
Netgear Nighthawk AX8 WiFi Mesh Extender (EAX80) review: Design
The Netgear Nighthawk AX8 WiFi Mesh Extender has the power to push a strong Wi-Fi signal into previously disconnected parts of a home but at 10.0 x 7.8 x 4.2 inches, it’s among the largest devices of its kind and makes the likes of the D-Link E15 look tiny. Its angular shape makes it look like an alien spaceship just landed on my desk.
Rather than plugging directly into an AC outlet, the black EAX80 tower uses a separate AC adapter with a two-prong plug. All four of its antennas are internal.
The front of the EAX80 has a long strip of 10 LEDs. They correspond to whether it’s turned on, the extender is online with the 2.4- and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands operating normally and if the router has a strong link. A white LED means it has the best connection, while amber is good and red is poor; no light means something is wrong. There are also lights for its USB port and the WPS system for quickly connecting it. Fortunately, the lighting can be controlled through the app.
Its Mesh middle name implies that the extender can be used as part of an Orbi mesh network. While it can connect with an Orbi network, the EAX80 will act as an extender and not as another mesh node.
Netgear Nighthawk AX8 WiFi Mesh Extender (EAX80) review: Performance
In my 100-year-old home, the Nighthawk EAX80 did a stellar job of extending my Wi-Fi network into previously unconnected areas. With the EAX80 40 feet from the Asus AXE-11000 host router and the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro another 10 feet away, the extender delivered 358.0Mbps. While that’s short of the TP-Link RE705X’s 528.0Mbps, it’s still a lot of data.
With the notebook set up 40 feet farther away, the extender came into its own. It was able to send 301.8Mbps to the test system, slightly more bandwidth than the RE705X’s 248.1Mbps and double the bandwidth the E15 made available. Finally, with the test system a floor above the EAX80 extender, the system put out 319.9Mbps, making it the best all-around performer of the extenders we looked at. It had a range of 85-feet.
The power hog of the extender world, the Netgear nighthawk EAX80 used 8.3 watts, twice what many other extenders consumed. That translates to an annual electricity bill of roughly $11 if it's left on 24/7 and you pay the national average of 15 cents per kilowatt hour. It kept its cool during two weeks of daily use though and topped out at just 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Netgear Nighthawk AX8 WiFi Mesh Extender (EAX80) review: Features
The upside of the Nighthawk EAX80’s bulk is its ability to incorporate more technology than plug-in extenders. In addition to running as an extender or access point, the EAX80 is built around MUMIMO, 1024 QAM modulation and beamforming. It picks the most open path for the data along the least used data channels and can be set to use a single 160MHz data channel; only the TP-Link RE705X matches this. It lacks the ability to extend a Wi-Fi 6E 6GHz signal, however.
The data travels over its 4X4 data streams and adds up to the ability to deliver 1.2Gbps over the 2.4 GHz band and up to 4.8Gbps over the 5GHz band. Its AX6000 rating is four-times what most extenders can muster.
Its back is chock full of ports, including four gigabit per second LAN connectors compared to a single one or none in the competition. There’s also a USB 3.0 port for connecting a storage drive or a printer, something most extenders neglect to include. In addition to the luxury of an On/Off button, the EAX80 also has a recessed reset key.
Netgear Nighthawk AX8 WiFi Mesh Extender (EAX80) review: Setup and software
It took the longest of the six extenders we tested to set up but the EAX80 was worth it. The first step is to get the Nighthawk app, create a Netgear account and tap “Get Started”.
The security conscious take note, the app allows the use of two-factor authentication and a phone’s fingerprint scanner to log in.
After picking the type of gear to install, I connected the phone to the extender’s network, followed by picking the networks I wanted to extend and typing the password. It took a minute or two to configure this and I added the names of the extended networks.
After I added the administrator password and answered two security questions for recovering the device in an emergency, I declined the extended warranty or paid support. It took nearly 13 minutes to complete the process.
The Nighthawk app is among the best with an uncomplicated dashboard that has boxes for Device Manager (what’s connected), WiFi Analytics (checking on signal strength and channel) and Internet Speed (using Ookla’s Speedtest.net benchmark). The WiFi Settings is where I was able to change the network names and passwords and create a QR code to share the log-in details.
The house logo in the upper left took me to a place that duplicates the Settings, offers to re-install the hardware and a direct link to the company’s Support group; it shows when the warranty and support expire.
At any time, I was able to reboot the device or log out of Netgear’s system. It lacks both a QoS prioritization system and a way to vary the transmission strength; the TP-Link 705EX has both.
Netgear Nighthawk AX8 WiFi Mesh Extender (EAX80) review: Warranty and support
Like other Netgear equipment, the Nighthawk EAX80 comes with a one-year warranty and a scant 90 days of support to get it connected. This is second best compared to the Tenda A27’s three years of warranty coverage and lifetime support.
With a link from the Nighthawk app, the EAX80 is ready for anything. The online support pages include help and videos to get started along with troubleshooting and tips for getting the most out of the gear.
Netgear Nighthawk AX8 WiFi Mesh Extender (EAX80) review: Verdict
Size really matters when it comes to Wi-Fi extenders with the big Netgear Nighthawk AX8 Mesh Extender taking the overall lead in performance, range and array of features. It not only offers the option of using a 160MHz data channel and a USB port for adding storage but has the luxury of four gigabit-per-second Ethernet ports.
That leaves two objections to the Nighthawk EAX80: its price which is equivalent to several lesser extenders and its 90-day support policy. If you can live with these limitations, the Nighthawk EAX80 is the most powerful Wi-Fi extender on the market.