We hold Netgear's Nighthawk Pro XR500 in high regard and consider it one of the best gaming routers, even though it's a bit expensive at $299.99 (current price). It's all relative though, right? Case in point, Netgear's new winged Nighthawk AX12 is available to preorder on Amazon for $599.99.
Let's not fuss over a penny and just call it $600, shall we? In theory, that's what a GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card should cost, based on Nvidia's reference pricing. For the most part, Nvidia's hardware partners have stuck with Founders Edition pricing, so the AX12 is still $100 cheaper.
Part of the reason why the AX12 commands such a hefty premium is because it's a Wi-Fi model, or 802.11ax if using the old nomenclature. That alone would not justify dropping six bills.
The AX12 is Netgear's first home router with a 5 gigabit Ethernet port. That is in addition to the standard four-port single gigabit array, which supports link aggregation (meaning you can combine two LAN ports for faster file transfers).
On the wireless side, this is a tri-band router serving speeds of up to 1.2Gbps on the 2.4GHz channel (4×4) and 4.8Gbps on the two 5GHz channels (8×8). So, it's incredibly fast. That kind of speed mostly comes into play when connecting to network attached storage (NAS) devices.
It's also built for crowded homes, though this is more of a future-proofing solution (as far as that is possible). The AX12 can serve wireless data to and from up to eight devices simultaneously, by leveraging a technology called Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA).
"With the previous and current WiFi standards (‘A’ to ‘AC’), Orthogonal Frequency-Division (OFDM) is used to deliver WiFi data packets. A router currently has to wait for the channel to be clear before the data transmission. Since the data is transmitted sequentially, a lot of time is wasted ‘waiting’ for the next transmission to go through," Netgear explains.
"With OFDMA, the router can simply deliver multiple data packets simultaneously, thereby reducing the amount of wait time to many more devices by splitting larger channels into smaller sub-channels. By intelligently stacking them together, OFDMA reduces the number of contention periods required to send the same amount of data packets, resulting in an efficient use of air-time, reduced latency, and increased bandwidth to add more devices to your network," Netgear adds.
This is a potential boon for homes that have multiple wireless devices, and we recently wrote about why gamers should care about Wi-Fi 6. In short, think less lag and lower pings. However, client devices need to support this feature as well, so until those 802.11ax adapters and chipsets arrive, this is a technology for another day.
In any event, you can preorder the AX12 right now, winged antennas and all. Netgear also recently announced the AX8, another Wi-Fi 6 model that is slightly slower and lacks the 5Gb port. That one is available for $399.99. Our top pick at the moment is Asus's RT-AX88U, which is available for $339.99.