News NETGEAR Stealthily Goes Public With Its Draft 11ax Routers

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thiggins

Mr. Easy
Staff member
netgear_nighthawk_ax.png
NETGEAR today decided to let some of us write about its draft 11ax routers.

Companies usually introduce new products--especially first-in-category / next-generation / top-of-line routers--with as much fanfare as they can muster. But NETGEAR is taking a different approach with its first two draft 11ax routers.

The company isn't issuing a press release to spread the news. Instead, they briefed me yesterday and provided the briefing deck to write coverage from. They also are taking a similar approach to ASUS with availability, letting product initially trickle out to retailers.

The Nighthawk RAX80 AX8 8-stream AX6000 WiFi Router and Nighthawk RAX120 AX12 12-stream AX6000 WiFi Router are worst-kept secrets anyway, at least to SNB readers. Both were outed from FCC filings back in August and September. But now, instead of pulling information from commented-out website source code, you can now see the official story from product pages.

The RAX80 was the first draft 802.11ax (now aka Wi-Fi 6) router NETGEAR was going to reveal back in September. But they decided to hold off to let its firmware bake some more. The RAX80 is based on the same Broadcom platform, which features a 1.8 GHz 64 bit quad-core processor, as ASUS' RT-AX88U that was first announced about a year ago at IFA 2017.

At an MSRP of $399.99, the RAX80 sells for 50 bucks more than the ASUS, which Wi-Fi eager beavers have been able to buy for a few weeks now. It looks like NETGEAR has given Best Buy a 30 day (or so) exclusive on the RAX80. An SNBForum member yesterday shared he saw them in his local Best Buy and I also confirmed mine also has a few at full list price. You can also pre-order from Amazon if you want to wait until it is released there on December 21. You can buy the RT-AX88U from Amazon, NewEgg and many other sites now.

The RAX120 is the "newer" of the two routers and is based on Qualcomm's IPQ8078 "Hawkeye" chipset. This one isn't as far along as the RAX80 and, for now, will be available only through a NETGEAR Premier Membership Beta program.

The bullet points of the program are shown below, with no pricing given. It looks like the 90-day free trial means that, this time, you won't have to pay to be a beta tester, instead of the usual drill of paying full MSRP and being stuck if you end up with a buggy product.

netgear_premier_program.png

It also means that NETGEAR has until February 2019 or so to reveal MSRP, which you can expect to be higher than the RAX80. Hit the program page link above if you want to be a guinea pig. NETGEAR told me retail availability is expected "later in Q1 2019".

Both routers have a unique antenna design, with four antennas encased in two foldable gull wings. If the antenna positions shown in the cutaway view below are accurate, it looks like NETGEAR has angled the 5 GHz antennas to land somewhere between horizontal and vertical polarization.
netgear_rax_antennas.png
The wings have two fixed positions shown in the images above and below, although the folded position is not recommended. This design ensures optimum antenna positioning and eliminates the guesswork of how to position the router's eight antennas. The can be wall or ceiling mounted thanks to mounting screw slots built into its bottom.
netgear_rax_antennas_folded.png
So why would you want one vs. the other? A read through the comparison table below might help or just confuse you. The tldr; is that the RAX120 has a faster processor, "Multi-Gig" 1/2/5 Gbps LAN port and supports WPA3. It doesn't, however, currently support DFS channels. The lack of WPA3 support on the RAX80 and lack of DFS support on the RAX120 are both likely to be remedied in future firmware updates, however.
netgear_rax_compare_table.png
What you don't get for buying the higher-priced RAX120 is higher link rate. While NETGEAR has included the usual total-of-unachievable-by-most-devices-rates-in-both-bands "class" number of "AX6000" in both router names, that's not where the spin is being applied. Instead, they're trying to differentiate products by counting MIMO streams, i.e. number of transmit/receive pairs. Of course, they're adding 2.4 and 5 GHz sides together, so the RAX80's eight streams come from four from each radio.

The RAX120's twelve streams come from totaling four for 2.4 GHz and eight for 5 GHz. So if the RAX120 has more streams than the RAX80 and more streams means higher link rate, why isn't the RAX120's "class" number higher than AX6000?

The answer is that the 5 GHz maximum link rate of 4.8 GHz is achieved differently in the two routers. The RAX80 gets there by using four streams and 160 MHz bandwidth, while the RAX120 uses eight streams and 80 MHz bandwidth. When the Qualcomm 5 GHz radio switches to 160 MHz bandwidth, it uses one of its two 5 GHz radios tuned to one 80 MHz channel and the other to another 80 MHz channel. This creates a four-stream radio capable of creating both an 80+80 or contiguous 160 MHz channel.

In contrast, the RAX80's Broadcom-based radio can create a 160 MHz contiguous channel only. So it's more dependent on UNII-2 and -2e DFS channel availability.
Which is better? Time will tell. But NETGEAR's first whack at positioning the RAX120's eight streams is that it improves 5 GHz transmit beamforming gain "for mid-range performance improvement" and "helps long range stability and reliability due to diversity".
 
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CrystalLattice

Senior Member
Fanboys, pony up
 
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TheLostSwede

Regular Contributor
The RAX120 also supports WPA3 according to the table. There are also two entries for DFS, one that says no, one that says yes for the RAX120, which is quite confusing.
 
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Internet Man

Senior Member
The RAX120 also supports WPA3 according to the table. The are also two entries for DFS, one that says no, one that says yes for the RAX120, which is quite confusing.
The table does need some cleaning up.

The RAX120 will be the first Netgear router to support WPA3 although it may not right now. The RAX80 does not currently support WPA3 but may in the future. For DFS, it is the opposite. The RAX80 supports DFS now which is helpful because it relies on 160MHz channel bandwidth to reach the claimed 4.8 Gbps speed. The RAX120 does not support DFS or 160MHz channel bandwidths at 8x8:8 but it may in the future. What a mess.
 

TheLostSwede

Regular Contributor
The table does need some cleaning up.

The RAX120 will be the first Netgear router to support WPA3 although it may not right now. The RAX80 does not currently support WPA3 but may in the future. For DFS, it is the opposite. The RAX80 supports DFS now which is helpful because it relies on 160MHz channel bandwidth to reach the claimed 4.8 Gbps speed. The RAX120 does not support DFS or 160MHz channel bandwidths at 8x8:8 but it may in the future. What a mess.

Too many mights and maybes with regards to these products. This isn't going to help to build customer confidence in terms of jumping on the 802.11ax hype train, prices not being taken into account. Very shoddy product announcement by Netgear.
 

Flying Dutchman

Regular Contributor
Good to see that there is improvement coming and that more manufacturers are starting to sell AX-products.
I will try to buy one from a local store in The Netherlands and play with it :rolleyes:
 

thiggins

Mr. Easy
Staff member
Too many mights and maybes with regards to these products. This isn't going to help to build customer confidence in terms of jumping on the 802.11ax hype train, prices not being taken into account. Very shoddy product announcement by Netgear.
Companies would not push unfinished products to market if people didn’t buy them.
 

gpz1100

Regular Contributor
I bet many will buy this based on looks alone.

As there are no AX clients at this time, that function won't be tested for some time to come. By then return policy will have expired. Win win for the manufacturer.
 

thiggins

Mr. Easy
Staff member
The RAX120 also supports WPA3 according to the table. The are also two entries for DFS, one that says no, one that says yes for the RAX120, which is quite confusing.
Sorry for the sloppiness. Table and article text have been updated.
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
The RAX120 is the "newer" of the two routers and is based on Qualcomm's IPQ8078 "Hawkeye" chipset. This one isn't as far along as the RAX80 and, for now, will be available only through a NETGEAR Premier Membership Beta program.

The bullet points of the program are shown below, with no pricing given. It looks like the 90-day free trial means that, this time, you won't have to pay to be a beta tester, instead of the usual drill of paying full MSRP and being stuck if you end up with a buggy product.

Choose one or the other - AC1900 class is always good at the moment, and I would wait if possible until things sort out with 11ax - that being said...

Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 4.32.14 PM.png


The QCA solution (AX12) seems to be the better choice at the moment - WPA3, meh, it's really the N-Base-T support, as this will be needed with 11ax on the LAN side...

Broadcom seems to be running out of steam getting out the gate on 11ax here...

@thiggins - one can't have 160MHz channels w/o DFS, so that should be fixed, and we know that QCA does DFS just fine...
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
Anyways - the 11ac migration went fairly clean - 11aac, 11n, 11a in 5GHz - worked fine..

in 2.4 - turboQAM and non-standard implementation was a bit of a mess, and 11b legacy didn't help much there.

That being said - with 11ax, and early exposure... lessons might need to be learned again...

https://www.smallnetbuilder.com/wir...ying-the-draft-80211n-shell-game?limitstart=0
https://www.smallnetbuilder.com/wireless/wireless-reviews/28732-belkinn1draft11nwirelessrouterreview

Gut tells me that 11ax might be a bit disruptive...
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
Why is that?

The main item is the 11ax OFDMA scheduled MAC - once 11ax seizes the channel, it may be a challenge for legacy clients to get a word in edgewise...

When I was a member of 802.16 (Wimax) - we did studies on running Wimax in unlicensed spectrum - and it was pretty cool until one looked at the impact to 802.11, and there, the Wimax scheduled MAC would steal all the airtime, severely impacting the incumbent 802.11 b/g/n/a channels that it was running on...

802.11ax shares many of the common attributes of LTE-U/LTE-LAA/Wimax in this regard.
 

kevin forsythe

New Around Here
The bullet points of the program are shown below, with no pricing given. It looks like the 90-day free trial means that, this time, you won't have to pay to be a beta tester, instead of the usual drill of paying full MSRP and being stuck if you end up with a buggy product.

It also means that NETGEAR has until February 2019 or so to reveal MSRP, which you can expect to be higher than the RAX80. Hit the program page link above if you want to be a guinea pig. NETGEAR told me retail availability is expected "later in Q1 2019".

According to the post above.. you will NOT be allowed to "Buy" the AX12 - "the ONLY way to experience the AX12" - You will need to sign up for a monthly plan (for example: $19.99 a month - with a cancelation fee of $900 if canceled before your 18 month subscription) as part of the program you get "premium tech support" Accidental damage coverage - also they will upgrade you "for free" to the new AX15 that supports the "Official 802.11AX standard in 2019) by returning the AX12 Model ( it's similar to the Cisco Meraki business model - except you don't "buy hardware" + subscription licensing) - think of the I-Phone program from Apple.. at least Netgear Insight licensing is much cheaper then Meraki... hopefully I am wrong but I am just surprised nobody noticed this... - click the photo above read carefully..
 
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sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
According to the post above.. you will NOT be allowed to "Buy" the AX12 - "the ONLY way to experience the AX12" - You will need to sign up for a monthly plan (for example: $19.99 a month - with a cancelation fee of $900 if canceled before your 18 month subscription) as part of the program you get "premium tech support" Accidental damage coverage - also they will upgrade you "for free" to the new AX15 that supports the "Official 802.11AX standard in 2019) by returning the AX12 Model ( it's similar to the Cisco Meraki business model - except you don't "buy hardware" + subscription licensing) - think of the I-Phone program from Apple.. at least Netgear Insight licensing is much cheaper then Meraki... hopefully I am wrong but I am just surprised nobody noticed this... - click the photo above read carefully..

I was just looking at the technical aspects - but you raise a very good point...

Network as a Service - some vendors have danced with this - Plume with their current consumer offerings is another good example there...
 

RMerlin

Asuswrt-Merlin dev
the beta units ran hot

The AX8 or AX12? My current experience with the Asus RT-AX88U (same CPU as the Netgear AX8) is pretty good CPU temperatures (around 60C, while previous Broadcom generations would easily hit 80C).

If it's the AX8, do you have SSH or telnet access? If so, and if Netgear are including Broadcom's thermal kernel module, check the current temperature:

Code:
cat /sys/class/thermal/thermal_zone0/temp
 

RMerlin

Asuswrt-Merlin dev
Killhippie: RAX80 MSRP is $400. No price announced on RAX120.

Absolutely! You can crank it right up to 16 1/2 THz. At that point, the internal fan spins up fast enough that the router will hover.

Let's hope it also plays the Imperial March as it does.
 

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