Since Wi-Fi 6 was officially ratified in September, we’ve seen a number of Wi-Fi 6 routers hit the market from companies such as Netgear, Linksys, and Ubiquiti. But that first wave of routers was considerably expensive, especially if you were looking for a mesh system that supports Wi-Fi 6. Netgear’s latest model bucks that trend and puts Wi-Fi 6 compatibility in a mesh system that costs less than $250.
The new Nighthawk Mesh Wifi 6 System is a dual-band mesh system, and it’s Netgear’s first product to support the WiFi EasyMesh standard. It will initially be available in a two-pack for $229.99 starting this month, with a three-pack and additional satellite nodes available in March.
Compared to Netgear’s $700 Orbi Wi-Fi 6 mesh system, the Nighthawk version has lower bandwidth, fewer antennas (2x2 arrays for both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, as opposed to the 4x4 arrays the Orbi system has), and lacks the dedicated backhaul channel found in tri-band systems. It also won’t support wired backhaul at launch (Netgear says this is planned to be added in the future via a firmware update) and has a max capacity of four nodes in a single system.
Despite those limitations, Netgear says the Nighthawk system provides up to 1,500 square feet of coverage per node as well as up to 1.8 Gbps of throughput. The router node has two gigabit Ethernet ports, while each satellite has one port for plugging in wired devices. The device uses the same DynamicQoS as other Nighthawk-branded routers, and the company says it’s planning to add more controls and features from the Nighthawk line in the future. Netgear says this system is recommended for internet speeds of 300 to 400 Mbps; those that have gigabit fiber service in their homes will likely want to stick to the more expensive Orbi system.
EasyMesh compatibility brings a number of things to the table, but the most important one is that the Nighthawk system will be able to interoperate with other EasyMesh-certified products. The two nodes are also pre-paired out of the box for easy setup and installation. Netgear says it will continue to maintain its Orbi line of mesh systems, which is a proprietary mesh as opposed to the EasyMesh standard, until there’s enough adoption of EasyMesh in the industry.
In addition to the Nighthawk Mesh system, Netgear is also announcing a midrange Nighthawk AX6 Wi-Fi 6 router that should be priced between the current $199.99 AX4 and $399.99 AX8 options. It has a 2x2 MiMO array on the 2.4GHz band and a 4x4 array on the 5GHz. There’s also a new $149.99 Wi-Fi 6 network extender that can be used in conjunction with a service provider’s router to add Wi-Fi 6 to the network as well as more Ethernet ports.
Finally, the new Nighthawk WiFi6 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem Router is an all-in-one Wi-Fi 6 gateway designed to replace both a cable modem and router from an internet service provider. It supports up to 10 Gbps internet connections and offers 4x4 arrays on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks. A multigig LAN port supports up to 2.5 Gbps connections, with the option for link aggregation for even higher bandwidth services. Netgear says the new gateway will be available at the end of the first quarter for $429.99 and is certified to work with Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum, and Cox services.