Netgear Nighthawk AX12 Review

At a glance

The first time I saw the Netgear Nighthawk AX12, I thought Darth Vader would come out of it and start force choking me then and there.

It honestly looks like a souped-up version of the iconic TIE Fighter Advanced X1 that Darth Vader flew in Star Wars.

That said, I can honestly say that I love the look of the Netgear Nighthawk AX12. It does not look like your typical router.

Instead, it seems like something you would proudly put on display along with your other Star Wars or sci-fi collectibles.

But enough of drooling at its uber-cool design, that is not what we are here for. We are here to find out if the Nighthawk AX12 not only looks like it can blast through hyperspace but performs like it is in hyperspace.
Well, then – let's begin hyperdrive startup, shall we?

Main Features

1.

Features 12 Stream Wi-Fi with wireless speeds of up to 1200+4800Mbps

2.

Comes with 8 Stream MU-MIMO simultaneous connectivity.

3.

Utilizes Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) technology that optimizes data transmission for up to eight devices instantaneously.

4.

Built-in Netgear ARMOR which helps improve the overall protection of your network and all connected devices from online threats such as hacking, DoS attacks, and Malware.

5.

It is equipped with AX optimized 64-bit 2.2GHz Quad-core processor.

6.

Multi-Gig Ethernet Port 5G/2.5G/1G.

7.

Compatible with the Nighthawk App.

8.

Backward compatible with last-gen Wi-Fi devices.

9.

Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant apps.

As you can see, the Netgear Nighthawk AX12 is packed with features that will surely improve your overall experience and convenience when it comes to connecting to the internet.

Design - A Perfect Blend of Style and Functionality

The most notable aspect of the Nighthawk AX12 is its compatibility with the new Wi-Fi 6 technology. With the router's backward compatibility, the AX12 is not only future-proof, but it is also suitable for individuals with older Wi-Fi devices.

This makes the Nighthawk AX12 a safe option if you have a multitude of gadgets coming from different generations of wireless devices.

There is a reason why the Nighthawk router series is Netgear's flagship model; it is the model that gets preferential treatment when it comes to advanced wireless technologies.

In terms of size, the Nighthawk AX12 is quite similar to the Star Wars/sci-fi theme that the previous model, the Nighthawk RAX80 used beforehand.

This router comes in at a relatively large 6.5 x 13.5 x 8.5-inches (H x W x D). Of course, you can fold the "wings" to keep it a bit more compact. I prefer the folded wing look as it gives off that TIE Fighter look.

The matte black finish of the casing completes the overall aesthetic that the AX12 is aiming for. If Netgear's goal was to deliver a router that looks like a Sith Lord designed it, they nailed it right in the head.

The Netgear Nighthawk AX12 is all flash and pizzazz though as it comes with tons of features that help elevate it to the upper echelons of the router market.

Let's go through the myriad of components included in the Nighthawk AX12's design, shall we?

Here Comes the Sizzle and the Steak

First off, it comes with the standard multiple LED indicators that show the status of its WAN, 5 LAN, 2 USB ports, WPS, and power.

The ports are neatly located at the back where you will find the gigabit LAN ports (x4), a WAN port, and a 5GbE port that delivers impressive high-speed Ethernet connection.

The power and reset buttons are located at the back of the AX12 as well as the power jack port.

The Nighthawk AX12 router also makes full use of well-placed ventilation and an internal fan. The router itself is designed to naturally disperse heat effectively without the use of the internal fan.

However, if things do get too hot for comfort, the fan located at the topside will startup and help discharge heat build-up within the unit. The AX12 router can also be wall-mounted if you find your workspace having limited space.

Also, of note are the USB port placements. The AX12's USB ports are all located on the front of the unit, which makes connecting external storage quick and easy.

Remember to make sure that the external storage you will use is formatted in NTFS or FAT32. Connecting an external storage device to the AX12 allows other connected devices to access the storage device's content via network media streaming.

Setup – User-Friendly Interface

Setting up the Nighthawk AX12 is relatively simple and straightforward. If this is your first time setting up a Netgear router, you don't need to worry too much about the process, and you can let the setup wizard handle everything.

Most routers have a default setting that is optimized for standard internet network configurations.

If you want to customize your internet experience to its full potential, you can always opt for the Advanced Setup. I do reckon you only dip your toes into this route if you have an understanding of the router setup.

The Netgear Nighthawk AX12 is also compatible with Netgear's mobile app so you can quickly check the status of your network without having to prompt up Netgear's official web portal on your browser.

Again, setting up the Nighthawk AX12 is as easy as 1-2-3, just do not forget to update sign-in credentials and use a secure Wi-Fi password to avoid uninvited guests from accessing your network.

Overall, setting up the Nighthawk AX12 will only take around 15 minutes, unboxing and plugging in the router included.

Functionalities and Features – Power, Unlimited Power

Within the Netgear, Nighthawk AX12 is a 2.2GHz quad-core processor with 512MB RAM and an impressive 1GB of flash memory.

The Nighthawk AX12's main selling point is its 12-stream dual-band router technology which allows for four streaming devices on the 2.4GHz band and eight streams over on the 5GHz band simultaneously.

Expect high-speed internet connections when using the AX12, in an optimized environment, and setting the Nighthawk AX12 can hit 1.2Gbps on the 2.4GHz.

The router also scored a solid 4.8Gbps on the 5GHz band. Of course, the keyword there is "within an optimized environment and setting", but you can still expect blisteringly fast internet speeds nevertheless.

Another vital element that helps push the Nighthawk AX12 through the glass ceiling is its WPA3 encryption wireless standard.

This maximizes your ISP's speeds and future-proofs your router and guarantees it will be compatible with new wireless devices that will be released in the next couple of years.

The AX12 router is also designed to support 802.11ax wireless technologies and comes with MU-MIMO data streaming and beamforming.

To further pad out its resume, the AX12 also implemented 1024-QAM and OFDMA data transmission technology to boost performance over the moon.

Elevating the Game with Enhanced Features

The Nighthawk AX12, similar to all new Netgear routers, is designed to be compatible with Netgear's mobile app.

You can use the Netgear app to configure your Wi-Fi settings (basic features only though) to check the status and adjust basic parameters.

These basic configurations include allowing or restricting internet access to specific devices, Quality of Service (QoS) configuration, setting up a Guest Network, organizing ReadySHARE gadgets, and running a quick Speedtest.

However, any advanced setting tinkering VPN, link aggregation, etc.) will require you to head on directly to the router's main web portal via your browser.

Since the Nighthawk AX12 uses WPA3, the router will be able to support Wi-Fi 6 devices. WPA3 is also known to provide higher levels of online security compared to the WPA2.

However, WPA3 is still entirely new in the market, and only a handful of routers utilize WPA3 as of this writing. The one downside to WPA3 is that most clients are still not using WPA3 support.

Fortunately, Netgear designed the Nighthawk AX12 also to be backward compatible with WPA2 devices. This router can also run both WPA2 and WPA3 at the same time.

Since WPA3 is not widely used just yet, it was smart of Netgear to ensure that the Nighthawk AX12 is still compatible with the current standard, WPA2 encryption.

Performance – How Does it Stack Up?

From the get-go, I was already quite impressed with the premium look and feel that the AX12 exuded.

This positive first impression was further reinforced by the incredibly simple and easy setup, which took me a couple of minutes to accomplish after the router was hooked up. It took roughly 20 seconds for the router to complete the internet connection process.

In terms of wireless speed, at default setting configuration, and the average ISP client speed, the Nighthawk AX12 managed to hit around 120Mbps using the 2.4GHz band with the router placed in the same room.

This score is quite impressive but is relatively normal to find with other top-tier routers in the market. I did find that the AX12 managed to maintain a substantial speed once I moved the device over 30-feet away with an average of 65Mbps.

So, when it comes to internet connectivity, the Netgear Nighthawk AX12 is a worthy investment with its reliable speed performance.

I also tested the AX12's file transfer capability via an external storage device.

I already had an inkling as to what to expect, seeing that the AX12 uses USB 3.0—transferring a folder that contains 1.3GB of data, the AX12's transfer rate managed to scratch 70Mbps.

This score is a substantial number, but I have encountered routers from ASUS that can go faster than that.

An All-Around Impressive Wireless Router

Pushing the Wi-Fi test further with 80GHz, the Nighthawk AX12 effortlessly hit over 800Mbps, which is not that surprising seeing as the AX12 takes full advantage of its Wi-Fi 6 technology.

That's with 80GHz so you can only imagine the speeds that the AX12 will achieve with clients that provide higher frequencies.

Of course, an essential element to consider here is that not everyone has Wi-Fi 6 ready devices. So, I also tried testing the AX12's speeds using current and last-gen wireless standards (802.11a/n/ac).

If you were worried that you wouldn't be able to hit outstanding speeds with an older wireless standard, then rest easy as the AX12 delivers equally impressive numbers within this area as well.

When connecting to a 40MHz frequency using the 2.4GHz band, my internet speed managed to reach 550Mbps easily.

As you would have guessed with our first impression when testing the range, the Nighthawk AX12 is a top-class router as it managed to maintain stable internet connectivity throughout my residence.

As a general tip, always place your router at the center of your home. Preferably, away from any considerably large furniture or walls as these can significantly affect the overall range that your router can deliver.

Price – Threading a Fine Line Between Reasonable Cost and Features

The Netgear Nighthawk AX12 is undoubtedly a router that comes at a rather steep price.

However, if you take into consideration its features such as the multi-gigabit port and the fact that this is a Wi-Fi 6 router, you will see that it is one of the more affordable top-tier Wi-Fi 6 routers in the market today.

At the moment, the AX12 is one of the cheaper alternatives if you are looking for a feature-rich Wi-Fi 6 router.

Pros

  • Incredibly fast and easy to install with a user-friendly interface.
  • Impressive throughput and file transfer speed.
  • Comes with a 5GbE port.
  • Outstanding 8x8 MU-MIMO capability.
  • Compatible with both WPA2 and WPA3 encryption.
  • Reliable VPN options via Netgear's web portal interface.
  • It is equipped with dual 5GHz radios.


Cons

  • Wi-Fi 6 performance is considered to be equal to other mid-range Wi-Fi 6 routers.
  • Disappointingly limited parental control options.
  • Other Wi-Fi 6 routers offer slightly better all-around performance.
  • Quite expensive.


Conclusion

The Netgear Nighthawk AX12 is accompanied by some of the most advanced router technologies to date, that alone is worth the price of admission. From blisteringly fast throughput to file transfer speeds, the Nighthawk AX12 is a beast.

This router does have a slightly higher power consumption than other routers with similar features, but it's only a marginal difference. I also found the lack of mesh functionality as a shortcoming on Netgear's part.

Overall, the Nighthawk AX12 is arguably one of the best modern routers you can find today.
I did wish Netgear included some gamer specific features in this as well considering the price tag that comes with it.



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